100 Zile | 100 Days Celebration

Two weeks ago, I was invited by one of my partner teachers to go to her daughter’s 1st grade class’s 100 Days Celebration.  Each year, the 1st grade classes celebrate the first 100 days of school with a big performance and party.  They dressed up and each girl wore a big yellow bow in her hair while each boy wore one at his neck.

The students recited long poems, sang, danced, and even put on a couple short skits.  Each child’s mother (or grandmother in a couple cases) attended.  Each child, with the help of his/her parents, made a craft with 100 items (100 butterflies, 100 bees, 100 candies, etc.), which they presented.

After the performances, each student presented his or her mom with a present and then the kids danced with their moms.  At the end, the students and parents gathered in their classroom and ate a delicious and beautiful cake, followed by a full masa (meal/party) with plenty of food and drink.

The kids did an amazing job and it was wonderful to see them proudly present what they’ve learned this year to their parents.  I don’t teach 1st grade, so I also got to know some more students at the school as well as their moms and grandmas.

Bright Moments

Class 8A earlier this semester during English Week (listening to poetry recitations by students in 2nd grade)

Lately I’ve been feeling like teaching in Moldova is draining me.  I love teaching and I love my students, but I’ve been frustrated by classes that don’t listen, students that are noisy, and the lack of motivation of many of my students.  The truth is, teaching is hard.  But then sometimes your students absolutely surprise you in the best of ways.

One of the frustrating things about teaching in Moldova is how few of the students actually do their homework.  On the best days, less than 3/4 of my students actually attempt even part of the homework, and it’s usually the same 6-7 students in each class that come prepared.  Then, because without having done the homework the other students aren’t prepared, those same 6-7 students are the only ones who participate actively in the lesson.  The older the students get, fewer of them do their homework.

Today, one of our 8th grade classes shocked us!  Every single student in attendance did homework, including two that have never done so in the two years I’ve been here.  Not only had each student attempted to do a small part of what had been assigned, they all completed at least 2 of the 3 tasks they had.  It was truly a special day!!  Best of all, it was clear that the students were proud that they had done the work.  One of the students received a 9 for a grade (the grades are out of 10 and 5 is passing), which is definitely a first for him in English.  He was so excited and eagerly asked us to put his grade in his student agenda.

I doubt this momentous event will happen again, but I’m thrilled that it even happened this one time.  It reminded me that my students are capable and of why I love teaching.  Bravo Class 8A!!!

Moldovan Wedding #2

The bride (in red, a bit nontraditional) and groom (in white) cut the cake with their nanasi.
As in America, there is a tradition for the bride and groom to feed each other cake.
The wedding cakes.

I was fortunate to attend my first Moldovan wedding just 3 weeks after I arrived in-country in 2016 (read about the wedding here).  That time, my host parents were the new couple’s nanași (wedding godparents), so I was able to be super involved in the entire event: I helped the bride get dressed and ready, saw the traditions that occur at the bride’s parents’ house before the actual wedding, went to the church ceremony (normally only the immediate family members, maid of honor/best man, and nanași attend that), helped set up for the wedding reception, and was even in the official wedding photos!  I’m pretty sure I may have been the equivalent of a bridesmaid, though I didn’t know I was going to be one.

Most of my host mom’s extended family (minus most of the nieces and nephews).
My host mom with her siblings and their spouses, plus some of the kids.

This past weekend, after a year and a half of living here, I went to my second Moldovan wedding.  This time, my host cousin (my host mom’s nephew) got married and we only went to the wedding reception.  It was a simple reception, with a fairly simple meal and some dancing.  I enjoyed spending time with my host mom’s extended family, who are all very nice and welcoming.  They often say I am “their American” even though I’ve only met some of them once or twice.  My host nieces were there as well and I don’t get to see them often, so I was happy they were able to make it.

Me with my host mom and her siblings and their spouses.
Me with my host mom and one of my host nieces.

I had a good time, and was so happy to be included in this special family moment.

English & Russian Weeks

In most schools in Moldova, each subject has a week or two when the teachers of those subjects plan a variety of special events and activities to celebrate the subject.  The last two weeks have been Foreign Languages Weeks in our school.  Our students learn English (starting in 2nd grade) and Russian (starting in 5th grade), so the past two weeks we’ve had special activities and events every single school day.

As exhausting as the past two weeks have been, it was really exciting to see students engage in fun and engaging activities.  We had the most involvement I’ve ever seen, with students making posters and “lapbooks”, reciting poetry, writing essays about the importance of the English language and their favorite Russian authors, completing worksheets, creating crossword puzzles, conversing during breaks in either Russian or English, and singing and dancing to English and Russian songs.  For just the English-related activities we had 117 students actively participate!

We had a program of activities for each day, and it was awesome to see students so excited about learning English.  We spent time during classes having trivia competitions and working with partners to complete worksheets.

This Thursday, we did an open English lesson.  The walls of our entrance hall were covered with posters from the ground to the ceiling on every wall, including the support columns.

We culminated our 2 weeks of activities with a serata (party/ celebration/ entertainment) with students from 7th-9th grade after school yesterday.  There were competitions for Best Poetry Recitation, Best Singing Performance, and Best Modern Dance with English or Russian Music.  The best students from each grade participated in a game called “The Best Student” where 2 or 3 students from each grade competed against one another to determine who was the best student.  They each presented a speech about themselves in English, and then were asked questions about selected texts that they’ve read in lessons this year.  The competitions were followed by a dance.

It was a fun, if very busy, two weeks and I’m so proud of my students and all they completed and all the time they spent working with English and Russian!

Open Lessons

Yesterday, my partner Ina and I taught an open lesson with one of our 5th grade classes.  What is an open lesson?  It’s essentially an observed lesson, but it is more important and more orchestrated than any observed lesson I’ve seen in the United States.  The lesson is expected to be perfect, with interesting and active activities, and both a school administrator and other teachers from the school observe.  Sometimes, if the school has a “control” or audit, people from other schools or from the ministry of education may also observe.

Our lesson’s topic was “I Love Nature”.  Our adjunct director, my other partner teacher, Liuba, and my site mate all attended.  I think it went well overall.  Most of the feedback was positive.  Thanks to my site mate, I finally also have some pictures of me in action here in Moldova!

I have to be honest- I’m not a fan of open lessons here.  The lessons don’t in any way reflect the way teachers usually teach, they take up a lot of time and energy, and they don’t seem to have any real value.  However, it is sometimes nice to observe a lesson and see how other teachers interact with the students or to learn some new methods.