Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Life has just gotten a lot crazier. I started my new teaching job on Monday. I wasn't really sure exactly how it was going to go because a Russian woman had been teaching there while they were looking for a native speaker. So I didn't know how the transition would be.

I finally got an email at about 10pm Sunday night with previous lesson plans and instructions about meeting Sveta (the other teacher) the next day. I still wasn't sure about what to do the first day. Should I continue a topic that Sveta had started? Should I just stick to get-to-know-you activities? Should I pick something completely new?

I started to panic that I wasn't prepared at all. I was also really tired. So on Monday I woke up and had to spend the morning making four different lesson plans. It was rather frenzied.

I needed to have not only a written lesson plan for each class, but handouts for each student since they don't use textbooks.

Finally I had the papers ready and had to organize them all. I used my roommate's bed for collating.

I arrived at the meeting spot right on time, but I didn't know what Sveta looked like. I didn't see anyone around except a young women dressed in a sporty outfit making a lot of calls on her cell-phone. As people came up the escalator, a lot of them were making calls in order to meet up with people. I was holding my own phone, waiting for it to ring when Sveta got there. But everyone just walked right by. Then I got a text message. "Hi Elizabeth, I'm waiting at the top of the escalator. Are you going to be here soon?" I looked around. Still no one of interest. Did I have the wrong place? I went outside and looked at the sign. No, everything was correct. I went back inside and the sporty woman looked at me. And it turned out that she was Sveta. For some reason she hadn't thought I could possibly be Elizabeth, and I hadn't thought she could possibly be Sveta.

I was still confused about what was going to happen if we were going together to the company. Was she going to introduce me? Was she going to teach part of the class and then let me teach? Was she going to watch me teach? I really did not want to be observed on the first day of teaching.

Then she said, "Of course this isn't how I normally dress for work. It's just my day off, you see!" Now it was all beginning to make sense.

Entering the building, I had flashbacks to the first time I visited a Russian orphanage to volunteer there. It felt a little the same, a new beginning. It didn't feel quite as terrifying. Maybe because Sveta was with me, or maybe because I'm used to being in Russia (I knew God was with me, but He was with me at the orphanage, too!) We went through the orientation and I met all the necessary people. Then Sveta introduced me to the first student and left. I was so relieved that she didn't stay.

My first class was just a tutorial with a 31 yr old woman. It was such a blessing that she was my first student. She was very pleasant to work with. Next I had a few rather ornery guys who claimed they didn't know anything and kept mumbling to each other (and to me) in Russian. When I asked them what they liked to do, they said "drink beer" (okay, maybe the question is childish, but with beginners you have to start somewhere). While I was trying to get them to have a basic conversation, one guy asked me (in Russian) "So your task is to determine our level of English?" As if he had everything figured out. "Today's theme is 'getting to know you,' " I said.

Then I had a guy and a girl, more advanced, but the guy had one of those earphone pieces, and it annoyed me. He kept saying "yesofcourse" to everything and not responding when I corrected his grammar.

My last class was a tutorial with a guy who was at intermediate level. He seemed bored. But I asked him (and the others) to make a list of the topics that they would like to study. That will help me personalize the lessons.

Here I am blogging and there is lesson-planning to do...


  1. Wow. Why are they taking these lessons if they are not interested?

    Some of my Korean students are given lessons by their companies, but they are all extremely courteous and diligent. Thank heaven! I did have one girl (on my schedule for a whole month!) who never answered her phone. That was her way of avoiding the lesson. But one night one of her friends "helpfully" grabbed her cell phone and gave it to her - and she was caught. I though it telling, though, that now that she was talking to me she was extremely polite and insisited that yes, she did want to study English - despite being very BUSY. We had a "getting to know you lesson" but she never answered her phone again - and just this morning she disappeared.

    I don't know how I'd handle disinterested students. That's a challenge!

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  3. I am praying that you will have strength, and that the Lord will watch over your health. They are fortunate students to have a loving and smart and creative teacher like you- who will probably PRAY for them too! :-)

  4. Annie,

    I think they were mainly nervous about having a new teacher. And maybe skeptical about being taught by a young American. I will be making lesson plans according to what they said they need to practice, so hopefully they will be more interested!

    Good point that sometimes students are just BUSY. It must be hard to take the time to study a new language, along with all the stresses of work.

  5. I am very impressed by the individualized teaching! Way to go! So, how many days do you do this a week?

  6. Hi Karen, I am teaching 3 days a week right now, but I might have to do more for the work visa, because there is a minimum number of hours. Right now it is a good amount.

  7. Wow, things are really progressing for you. That's good.

    On a completely different note. Have you had a chance to travel in Russia? If you want to have a change of pace sometime in the near future, go to Krasnodar. It's a nice, southern town. "Little Paris" as they call it. There's very little there that will remind you of Paris, but the people are good. They have some good churches there too. The town is clean and touristy.

    Just ask someone to come along and go!

  8. Ах, меня бы кто так пригласил. Я бы с конца света приехал!


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