Where did five months go…

So today was my last day and I realise that over the past 5 months’ worth of teaching I have learnt so much and shared so little on this blog! In fact this blog became much more of a travel blog than intended (but I guess this is a good thing as it means I did travel a fair bit!) so I have decided to do a post on what my working/volunteering life has been like. I started out with few responsibilities other than turn up to school and go to the classes I was scheduled to attend. After about a month I was asked to start preparing my own lessons. Here are some things that I really enjoyed, hated, worried about, remember etc about being a teacher (yes I’m putting them in dot points): 

  • Being told to teach a bunch of kids would have been scary enough for me when I was in Australia, especially considering my teaching experience is limited to a one week intensive TEFL course, so being in a country where I don’t speak the language or really understand their curriculum or know how to teach the language I’ve been speaking all my life, was actually terrifying.
  • The good news is that I got more confident as time went by, yesterday I even taught a bunch of energetic eight year olds about Kookuburras WITHOUT having a polish speaking teacher in the room!
  • I found that teaching by myself, without a supervising teacher, to be much easier than with a teacher in the room. When I was by myself I felt more confident in my abilities and authority over the class, and I think the kids also viewed me more like a teacher at these times too. All the teachers I worked with were amazing at engaging students and it was easy to feel intimidated by them!
  • Consequently, I tended to feel happier about the lessons I did on my own than while supervised.
  • Sometimes lessons would crash and burn, and essentially leave me wondering why I came to Poland in the first place. I remember have some classes where the students just wouldn’t listen to me, or I just wasn’t prepared enough to cope.
  • IMPROVISATION is your best friend as a teacher. The amount of times I turned up only to be told I was subbing, or to find out that the kids already knew about the topic I was teaching, has taught me how to come up with at least some form of game to pass the remaining ten minutes of class, or  with an entirely new lesson plan.
  • Teachers do have favourite students and classes. I often found myself dreading some classes while getting excited about others. I also had a 4-5 favourite students who always made sure the rest of the class behaved and would greet me in the halls.
  • Sometimes all it takes to make your day is when a 7 year old little Polish girl who barely understands English runs up to you and says ‘Hello Samantha, how are you?” and patiently waits for a response even though she doesn’t understand a word you say.
  • One of the scariest things I encounter was being headbutted by a 6 year old in 0 class as she launched at me screaming ‘I love you!’
  • I now am confident enough to manage a group of 6 year old girls who are dubbed the most troublesome class in the school.
  • 16 year old girls do not change from country to country, and still manage to be intimidating. The best course of action is to our sarcasm them, which in this case was harder than one might think.
  • I can officially navigate Microsoft word in Polish (mainly because I know all the shortcuts and they are the same in Polish as English).
  • Sometimes it’s best not to ask what you are eating until AFTER you finish it or not at all, especially when it comes to a school cafeteria.
  • Pasta and strawberry yoghurt, potato cakes covered in sugar, and crepes with sweet cheese are seen as acceptable lunch meals for children.
  • I refuse to ever eat cabbage or beetroot ever again (okay this may be more of a Poland lesson in general).
  • Most of all though, the thing about being a teacher was learning to both always and never be prepared for anything and everything.
  • And lastly, if in doubt, play hot seat (or have a music lesson where the kids show you all different versions of ‘Let it Go’ on youtube, I mean what I never did that…)

So there are some of my notes on what my life was like at school. I decided to end it there (though I could go on forever) because I think those are the most important things. I absolutely loved my time at this school, the students and staff where incredible. And I did learn that it is a good thing that I never intended on being a teacher, because while I love kids teaching really isn’t for me! 
I will miss these crazy people so much! Thank you so much to
students, to Jon my awesome placement partner, and to
Michelle, Melanie, Mirabelle, Zosia, and Lucja my
amazing host sisters. And of course to Izabel, Joanna and
Alek my host parents and the teachers at my school. 

Teaching in Poland!

What my 4’s know about Australia!

So considering it has been almost 2 months since I arrived in Poland I think it is fair time for me to actually write about what I have been doing: teaching! I think I have written a bit about my school adventures so far (locking students in classrooms etc) but I haven’t really written much about what I do. The school I am at is a Private Catholic School for Girls (it accepted its first class of boys this year), and is called the Cecylia Plater- Zyberk Schools, but students and teachers simply call it ‘Platerki’. The school itself is housed in an old building which has an extensive history, I’m told it was used as a hospital during the war! It is also very centrally located about a 20 minute walk to Centrum (central train station).

A gift from a student

The kids start school when they are 6 years old, until possibly this year they started at 7 years old. I teach mainly the younger children aged 6 to about 14 (I think). In the younger classes (0, 1, 2, 3) I tend to take on more of an assistive role, simply acting as a native speaker or extra set of hands. These kids are full of energy and often learning is the least of their priorities compared to running around like crazy! I really admire the teachers who take these classes as they are so patient and organised. The kids are really cute though and it is common for at least on of them to run up to me in the hallways and give me a big hug. Whenever I walk into the room I am greeted with a loud ‘Hello’, or ‘Good morning/afternoon’ which always brings a smile to my face.

Front of the school!

Jonathan (partner volunteer) and I have more recently begun to run classes with the older students (4, 5, 6). We are often called in to sub different classes when the English teachers are sick or on school trips. I have had to quickly get used to preparing lessons at a moment’s notice and learning how to adapt ideas to different classes. It has happened that I have come to school prepared for one class and found out that I would be teaching an entirely different one! Games are often a good option as the students work so hard that they appreciate a bit of fun! Hot seat, hangman, and 2 truths and 1 lie are all super popular.

So far the students seem to like me which is a huge plus! Just the other day I got given a bookmark by one of my 4’s saying ‘You are Hero’ accompanied by a floating cape, legs, and head. Not sure what happened to my body but it’s cute all the same! On student’s name days or birthdays they bring in sweets and always rush to give me one. Little things like this really make my day. So that’s an over view of my teaching life!

4 weeks of Polish adventures….

It has been 4 weeks since I arrived in Poland (it will have been a month on Wednesday!), and in this time I have done, seen, and learnt a lot more about Poland than I knew in the first place. So here is a list of not very abbreviated dot points about my adventures and misadventures over the past few weeks. Mainly focusing on learning Polish culture and teaching.

  1. I know that I have mentioned it before, but getting used todrinking bottled water rather than tap water has been a massive change to home. Furthermore, trying to explain to waiters that I would like still, cold water seems to always result in a problem.
  2. Having dinner at lunch and lunch at dinner. So in Poland the biggest meal of the day, called dinner, is eaten when us Aussies would generally eat our lunch. Consequently, they have a small meal called ‘super’ when we would usually eat our dinner. I am particularly fond on the Polish tradition of have soup first and then the main meal. I tend to have lunch at school so have been able to try a number of different Polish meals (while not really knowing what I am eating).
  3. The shopping centres are open until like 10pmevery night! This is awesome, just because I don’t have to feel rushed to get all my shopping done before 5 (not that I have actually been doing that much shopping but the thought still stands).
  4. People don’t stop at pedestrian crossings. It’s basically a massive game of chicken. Taxis are the worst. I feel like I may die every time I go near a road.
  5. The Poles are very self-conscious about their English and only the very confident will talk in English. With this said, the majority of Polish people can at least understand English. So don’t go slagging off at someone in English thinking they can’t understand you, it is more than likely that they can and that you will get your butt kicked.
  6. Alcohol is very cheap and very accessible. You rarely get asked for ID when going in to clubs, or when buying alcohol. Furthermore, there shopping centres have so much alcohol for sale, in some supermarkets I swear that there is more alcohol than other goods!
  7. Fat Thursday. A day when stuffing your face with Ponczki (Polish doughnuts) is a cultural experience. Need I say more?
School adventures so far:
1.      accidentally locked a student inside a classroom the other day. The entire class laughed hysterically, I will admit that while it was embarrassing it was much more hilarious.
2.      Walking into the wrong classrooms
3.      Some of the native English speaking students love nothing more than to have an English conversation. I had a great conversation with a 7 year old about her pet leprechaun and the general existence of faeries. Of course this was in between completing English tasks….
4.      Students are so excited to have us there, they always smile and say ‘Hello’. The younger students also love to give hugs.
5.      The students speak amazing English, they are super shy about it and many of the older students don’t say a word because they are scared that they will make a mistake.
6.      One of the scariest things is when one of the English teachers asks me about English grammar. Then I become shy because I don’t want to make a mistake because that would be just awkward…
7.      One of the cutest things is when I give a lesson on Australia and talk about ‘Gang Gangs’, ‘Bungendore’, and “Coolamon”. They think they are the most ridiculous words and laugh every time I say them.
8.      I have had to say “Hi my name is Sammy and I’m an 18 year old from Australia….” So many times that I sometimes I sound like a robot or simply forget facts about myself and stand there looking like an idiot.


Anyway, that’s a brief overview of my Polish experience this first month. Some of the points I have talked about before, but they are pretty important parts of my current life. Hope life is treating all you wonderful people back home well!