Friday, 26 August 2011

Kazakhstan - The first school visit

Aug 22-26

Hello everyone!

I mentioned previously that this is an unusual place to visit. Requiring letters of invitation and a knowledge of Russian would undoubtedly put many people off coming here on vacation. The reason I am here is work. It's been nine months since I last worked for financial gain - that is long enough. There are many reasons why I chose Kazakhstan, but I won't bore you with those here.

Well, I will with one reason - the school that I am working for. The Russian word for school is skola школа, pronounced sko-lah. I will be working as a teacher in a private school. Unlike Korea, there don't seem to be many schools with foreign teachers out here. An affiliate school was set up in the old capital, Almaty, in 20008, and has been deemed enough of a success for a new, bigger school to be opened in the capital. We open for the very first time next week.

Fun fact: Almaty, previously known as Alma-Ata, was the capital of Kazakhstan until 1997, when the status was bestowed upon Astana.

The school has installed the latest technology and has created excellent sporting amenities. It possesses a swimming pool - the water currently has a green tint, but i assume that will change - a sports hall, tennis courts and astroturf for football. Each room is fitted with an electronic smartboard, and email is the common communicative language throughout.

The school uses the National Curriculum from the UK. I will be teaching Year 6 - 10-year-olds who will turn 11 as the year progresses. As the school has initially opened as a primary school, these will be the oldest students. Due to the fees involved and the pre-requisite assessments, the initial intake is quite small. There are two Year 6 teachers, and each of us has thirteen children. Makes a change from the forty per class method used in Korea - I may actually learn some names!

The other difference is what I'm teaching. I won't be limited to English this time. Oh, no. I will be teaching English, Maths, Science and Humanities. Well, that's what I was told when I arrived. Turns out I will also be teaching Drama. On a Friday afternoon. The kids' last lesson of the week. I had Drama on a Friday afternoon once in school. I remember how hyper kids of that age are at this point, and how little they listen. Especially in Drama. But I'm sure it will be immense fun, and also better than teaching English at that time. All I have to do is familiarise myself with the material that I will be teaching - no easy task. But I'm working with very experienced people who are helping me every step of the way.

There are issues - the main one being that it isn't finished. It took until the Wednesday for me to be able to get into my classroom, and Wednesday afternoon for chairs and the plug to turn on the smartboard to arrive. At the time of writing we had no white board or display boards, and no laminator - so I won't show you my room just yet. Yet in spite of all of this, we are making good progress. I've been told the school in Almaty was half-finished when it opened, so everybody has done an excellent job here in Astana.

The school is fantastic, and the spirit of everyone involved is shining through in how much we are helping each other. We will be working over the weekend to ensure that the school is ready for the children. The excitement is growing for the opening of our new school, and once we have planned our first lessons and completed our displays we will be ready to rock their worlds.

Love you all


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