return to NetCorps exchange, Phase 2 (Poland), and other stuff

PS20 - Work

My Polish-phase work placement was a primary school and gymnasium (junior high school) in Lisewo, near Pluznica. Czarek and I were there to assist the English teachers, so along the way I had a pretty good (and totally inadvertent, given the IT nature of the program) introduction to teaching English. Eventually Czarek left to work in the information centre, where he was happier, and Miranda came to join me in the schools, where she was happier. It worked out really well.

The first day Czarek and I were there, they were kind enough to give us some soup in the primary school cafeteria. I still get a kick out of the Pokémon placemats.

And this was an early attempt to give the kids some sense of Canadian geography.

The Lisewo skyline, as seen from a third-floor window at the gymnasium. I didn't know if we were supposed to open them or not, so what I did was I'd go find one on a free period and wait until nobody was near me. That's me: Mr. Conflict Resolution.

So that's the gymnasium on the left and the primary school on the right.

Can you remain listless and unenthused when faced with kids like these? No, you can't. They were great.

Over at the junior high, we'd often host conversation "lessons" in an empty room on the third floor. I think we did more than our share of joking around, and if anyone learned anything, it was me. But I'd like to think we have priceless memories.

I drew this, ostensibly to educate a few primary school kids about the English words for various body parts.

Then, after I wrote the names and everybody got a good look at them, Miranda wisely erased the names and asked a little girl to come up and try to write the names back in. I can't say my Polish spelling is any better, and I admire her courage.

One of Czarek's many responsibilities at the information centre was to paint the "Municipal Information Centre" sign on the wall.

Centre: Agata, English teacher extrordinaire.

Me and my peeps, yo.

I'm... speechless.

And, one day in March (March 1, actually), it was time to go. My last day crept up on me, and before I knew it I was backstepping down the corridor, waving and taking pictures and video as I went. "Goodbye! Goodbye! Goodbye!" It went on for many minutes. The funny thing is, this is only really impacting me now, as I'm typing this caption.

Ah, now I remember what we were being whisked away to. On our last day, we had a meeting with the mayor of Lisewo (far left) and some of his associates. They were so kind to us! They gave us hardcover photobooks of Torun (in our respective first tongues, thankfully) and they also took the time to make sure Miranda and I were involved in the conversations beyond what we could naturally pick up. Gee, I remember how many chocolates I kept eating from the dishes, and how adapted I was to the area. Again, I'm speechless.

During debriefing, we were asked to draw what we thought work would be like before we began, and what it actually turned out to be. Well, I pictured myself enjoying the teaching component immensely, while dreading the IT component. The school said they wanted a database, and I wasn't familiar with MS Access, and I really wasn't familiar with Access po Polsku. I also pictured myself having time to eat between classes.

As it turned out, they seemed happy to wipe the IT component off the slate, so I only had to help teach. This was an infinitely rewarding activity that I'd reccomend to anyone. I hadn't counted on the ups and downs of teaching, though - you're always at the mercy of the attitudes of your students, and while you can be on fire somedays, other days the lectures will be like getting a root canal done, only more uncomfortable, and you and your students will resort to clock-watching. Oh, we didn't really have much time to eat or anything between classes (you learn to eat quickly) and I always found it amusing how the kids tended to say good morning in the afternoon (probably because you'd say "gin dobre!" to people in the morning or afternoon).

Working at those schools in Lisewo was one of my most profound life experiences. I wouldn't trade it for all the tea in China.

return to NetCorps exchange, Phase 2 (Poland), and other stuff