Saturday, October 6, 2007

Dream Books and Musicals: The Fun Between the Spitwads and 5th Grade Crushes

While digging through the many cabinets in my classroom full of mostly junk I came across a cupboard full of stashed English books that appear to have been obtained by the PCV in Samokov six years ago. Good to know that initiatives like creating an English book library are appreciated and sustained by the Bulgarian teachers (cough). Regardless, I’ve decided to breathe some life back into this idea so my project for next week will be creating a little library system for these books as I was told not to let kids touch them. I am not sure how that makes sense, but I often do not question absurdity and just do what I want to do anyway. Between some Sweet Valley Twins books and the nostalgia they stirred up I found buried The Encyclopedia of Dreams (EOD). Clearly not a children’s book and no doubt containing usage of the English language that even I cannot understand, I was wondering how such a book got there, but was excited nonetheless. I was transported back to last summer cruising across the American countryside with Miss Meghan Priest discussing crazy new-agey things like quantum physics, astrology and of course, dream interpretation. I gave it a bit of a shot back then but fell off the bandwagon. Well, I am back on now that I have my own personal EOD, which has already made its new home right next to my bed. This morning when I woke up I instantly grabbed the book and got to interpreting. Knowing it would be the highlight of my day, I went back to sleep so I could do it again. Although finding the EOD brought a little excitement into my life, what it had to offer me certainly did not. The following are my unfortunate predictions:

Cats: Abominable small troubles and vexations will pursue you and work you loss; You will be influenced into some impropriety through the treachery of others.
Books: A warning to shun evil in any form.
Rain: A young woman will entertain some person indiscreetly and will suffer the
suspicions of friends for the unwise yielding to foolish enjoyments.
Wet: For a young woman to dream she is soaking wet portends she will be disgracefully implicated in some affair with a married man.
The travel which you held in contemplation will be made under different auspices than had been calculated upon

Needless to say, my future looks sketchy. And it is strange how all of these different elements suggest the same thing. If these predictions are to come true, they can only be exacerbated by the fact that I am in Bulgaria. And I certainly do not need impropriety in my life.

Now for a bit of daytime reality (and not the Day of Our Lives kind – which I do download every night), my life in Bulgaria has shifted 180 degrees from what it was three weeks ago. Once complaining of nothing to do, I now have far more on my plate than I believe I can handle at moments. School is school. One day I hate these kids and wonder why children exist in the world and what I can do to begin the extermination of them. Yet the next I love them, think they are hilarious and fabulous and enjoy every second of my day being around them. I do not think I should have my own because these aggressively polarizing feelings will not lend a hand to rearing a psychologically normal child. The cycle of life here is extremely up one day, and just as equally low the next. I become very excited when I can have a good time with the kids, which is usually when they behave and are excited to learn. Or when I feel like a lesson is well received and some benefit came of it. But then I become so so SO frustrated when I am dodging spit wads or rice (of all things) one minute and screaming at children for not shutting the hell up, paying attention or frankly doing anything right the next. Generally a very optimistic person, I wonder what going through this wash cycle of life is going to do to me at the end of the day. Discussing my school situation with my English friends over dinner this week I said, “You know, I am going to give this a shot. And a really long shot at that. But I think I already know this is not for me.” Now I hate that I came to such a conclusion already and I do hope that I will look back on this in months and years and find it changed. But at the end of the day, that is how I feel. I am loving what I am doing at the moment, can see its benefits (sometimes) and do believe that it is really important, but I am not sure God made me to do this forever.

To add to the rice throwing, spit wad loving, inattentive student situation, this week and unlike the first, I have come across an entirely new and different problem: the children have completely inappropriate crushes on me. Week One I think everyone was simply in awe of me, “Oooohh, curly haired young American girl who doesn’t speak Bulgarian…oohhhh.” Everywhere I went in the school I heard whispers of “uchitelka po angliiski (English teacher).” Week Two was relatively quiet as I believed everyone was beginning to become used to me. This turned out to be wrong however, for towards the end I began to notice that seemingly every student (who is not my own) would pace outside of my door between each class to catch a look or park themselves underneath my window giggling, pointing and whispering “Miss Amy!” I would be in the middle of teaching when my door would creak open a bit, a little class-ditching hand would pop in holding a camera phone hoping to aim right and snap a picture of me. I am sure what value this has to them, but it has happened far too frequently. After a while I was on to them – as I heard the voices of a no doubt large congregation of children outside my shut door whispering, “burzo, burzo (fast, fast!)” I decided to play a little trick. Flinging open my door, I sent thirty little children running furiously down the hall. This happens all day, every day and then my own students come in and tell me how their 5th grade counterparts like me. I also had the following conversation with one of my 8th grade boys:

8th grade boy: Miss Amy, do you know you are beautiful and all the boys love you?
Me: I do have a fan club of 5th grade boys. I believe its because I am new
8th grade boy: No, No. It is because you are beautiful
Me: (awkwardly) uh, well thank you.
8th grade boy: I think Vesko (another 8th grade boy – rice thrower) likes you.
Me: I am quite old for you boys. And I am your teacher
8th grade boy: I know but I don’t think Vesko cares

I mean its one thing being objectified by sketchy men, because you believe that’s what they are supposed to do, however agreeable it is or is not. But I think I am more uncomfortable with such attention when it comes from my students, because then my status of a teacher and my ability to be effective are in serious jeopardy. I am still trying to solve this problem. Please pass some ideas this way.

All strange, bad and somewhat unsettling things aside, I began a remedial class for the students who have somehow breezed through the years but still do not speak a word of English. In Bulgaria a kid is rarely failed because this means the Bulgarian teacher must teach them over the summer, which they don’t want to do. As such, they simply pass the kid, as undeserving he or she might be. This is a big problem when you have subjects like English or Math where if one thing is not understood one thing, the next is certainly not. The Bulgarian school system also does not have advanced or remedial classes, nor at-level placement. In the states if you have taken one year of Spanish, you will be placed in a class with students at your level, no matter which grade you are in (at least this was my experience). This is certainly not the case here, so if a parent decides to have their child begin to study English when the child is a 5th grader, they will be placed with their fellow 5th graders who have been learning English for three years and not with the 2nd graders, where English learning begins. As such, I have a number of kids in 5th and 6th grade who do not even know the alphabet, and I feel so bad for them because they really want to learn and understand, but never had a teacher care enough to take the time to help them. So I started twice a week a class before school to start from the beginning, which has been amazing. Most of the kids are Roma, who are generally overlooked to begin with, and they are so excited to learn and feel accomplished. During these moments, I feel like I am doing some good here. Even if they do not learn English, they at least know that someone is interested in them. The class has been growing in popularity too as they invite all of the Roma kids in school who have the same problem they do. On the other side of the coin, I have also formed an English club for the children who do speak English and want to use it in less of a classroom setting with more games and activities. This begins on Thursday before school and not just my students were invited so I fear I will have like over 60 kids, which will be nearly impossible to handle.

Outside of school I have pretty much been watching musicals. I love them. A few weeks ago Janel and I spent the evening watching High School Musical and admittedly, Zac Efron has ruled my life ever since. I was slow to jump on this bandwagon, actually kind of resenting HSM because of its and Disney’s overtake of the music industry. I also figured it was just for kids until not too long ago when Day told me she had thought it was cute. So one cold, dark Bulgarian evening, Janel and I were brought into the cult that is HSM. At 2:00am and with the conclusion of HSM1 we even tried to download HSM2, but to no avail (no worries kids, I watched it the next day). Anyhow, I have always imagined what my life would be like as a musical (as if it isn’t to begin with). Every once and a while I look at a situation and wonder what it would be like if everyone around me burst out in unison into choreographed song and dance. I often imagine this scene taking place as I sit on a bus. It is a strange fantasy. Regardless, HSM and any musical for that matter basically encapsulate this dream. Shortly after I watched Hairspray, which I am currently obsessed with. That and Zac Efron, because I clearly cannot resist anything that is blue eyed, sweepy and somewhat pretty.

That is pretty much it. Some of you have inquired about my site-mate Kevin so I uploaded a video so you can get to know him and his insanity for yourself. I also uploaded a video of the Boboshevo town holiday with the townspeople doing the horo (traditional dance) to traditional music. If you want some Bulgarian culture, click here.

Love and miss and want to hear from everyone! SKYPE ME!!!! 213.985.2877.


Janaina said...

hah I LOVE zac too! so sad... and i think his little gf is so beautiful =P I havent seen the 2nd one yet.

Elroy said...

I saw your on blog on dreams. Would you like to have a link to your site from Dreamcrowd?

Just include a blurb about the site in your blog and use this form or email me the link.

Tricia said...

Hi Amy,

I thought dream books were a high school thing! Your days at school should get get easier as the weeks go on. Reward the good behavior and tell those boys with the crushes that you have an American boyfriend! (Your dad will find one for you :)) Also, I saw that word h _ll again :(

That's wonderful you are taking the initiative to teach extra English classes and I can't wait to hear more about your adventures from dance class! Hot chocolate packages are on their way (yes, they have the mini fake marshmellows). Bundle up!

Love mom XOX

Emily said...

I LOVE ZAC EFRON!!! And yesterday was his 20th birthday so I feel just slightly less creepy about it since he's not a teenager anymore. HSM rocks!