“The Future is Ours” Summer Day Camp

My site mate Amir and I decided to go all out for our summer work this year and planned two one-week day camps for June. The first camp wrapped up this past Friday, and we had so much fun! The camp was a half-day camp about leadership with students in 6th through 8th grade. We had 24 students sign up but only about 8-10 showed up daily. Although a little disappointing, I think the students that did come really enjoyed it, and it was a success!

Day 1: What are our values?
Day 1: What are some of our skills?
Day 1: What are some of our skills? Individually? As a team?

Because our students are younger and have little leadership experience, we stuck to the basics and also made sure to include lots of team-building and fun activities as well. The first day we talked about our values and our skills. The students made posters about the values they had in common, such as family, health, friends, and peace. They also wrote poems about the camp. We chose the one we liked best and said it throughout the week (translated to English):

“We have a beautiful camp, Here we feel at home, We discover many things, And learn about everything. It’s summer camp, It’s hot outside, We are joyful, That we are here. We meet our friends, And talk with them day by day, We’ll do our best, We won’t return home!”

Day 2: What are some leadership qualities?
Day 2: Some examples of famous leaders
Day 2: Playing Simon Says

The second day we talked about what a leader is and some examples of internationally recognized leaders. We discussed the qualities of leaders and also named some people in our community who demonstrated those qualities and who are leaders in the community. We played some games outside as well. I was surprised to find out that these middle-school-aged kids were perfectly happy playing classic American kid games such as relay races, Simon Says, Red Light Green Light, and even dancing the Hokey Pokey! I guess for them these were just fun games and they were mostly new games for them! The students’ favorite activity of the day, however, was “The Number Game” where they had to try to count to 20 as a group without any communication or gestures (every time two people say the next number at the same time, it starts over at 1- it sounds easy but is actually quite challenging!). and the “Chair Activity” in which the students sit in a circle with their chairs close together then lay their head on their neighbor’s legs. The chairs are then removed from beneath them, and they have to see how long they can support one another without anyone falling.

Day 3: The “Chair Activity”- learning to support one another
Day 3: Playing a Moldovan volleyball game
Day 3: Building marshmallow and spaghetti towers

On Wednesday we discussed team leadership and solving problems. We did some fun activities this day as well, like the Human Knot (where everyone links hands with two different people and then have to “unravel” the knot so that they all form a circle again) and building marshmallow and spaghetti towers in teams. Another volunteer, Alicia, from a nearby village joined us this day, and the students taught us three Americans how to play a volleyball-based game, which was a lot of fun! The students really loved the “Chair Activity” in which students sit in a circle with their chairs close together then lay their head on their neighbor’s legs. The chairs are then removed from beneath them, and they have to see how long they can support one another without anyone falling.

Day 4: “Poisonous” Spider Web game
Day 4: Visualizing our dreams for the future (Mrs. Maia, our school accountant, is on the left and was our primary partner for the camp. She helped us a lot on this day helping explain why goals are important!)
Day 4: Confidence building activity by writing anonymous compliments on each other’s backs

Thursday was another fun day and we talked about setting and working toward our goals. The idea of having a plan for our lives and then taking active steps to achieve it is not very common in Moldova, so the students struggled with this part of the day quite a bit. Our main goal was for the students to understand that although our goals may change throughout our life depending on circumstances and our wishes, it’s important to think about where we want to end up and then take some small steps now in order to reach that dream. By the end of the day, the students demonstrated that they now understood the importance of having a plan and knowing what some steps might be to achieve their goals. Since it was a difficult lesson for them, we planned some less serious activities for the afternoon. They made summer bucket lists and did a photo scavenger hunt, which they LOVED. We also talked a bit about Self Confidence and wrote compliments on one another’s backs.

Day 5: Receiving diplomas
Day 5: Water balloon toss
Day 5: Water balloon toss- good thing it was really hot outside!

Our last day, Friday, was a more laid-back day. We reviewed what we had learned throughout the week and handed out diplomas, then headed outside for some games. After our snack break, we recited our poem once more and did the chair activity again. This time, they were able to hold the circle up for over 3 minutes! We then finished the day with a water balloon toss followed by a water balloon fight and a couple of team “photo challenges”.

Day 5: Photo challenge with the prompt “people dancing”
Day 5: Water balloon fight

It was such a great week! The students are begging my site mate to have another day camp later in the summer (I’m wrapping up my service and leaving in two weeks). It was a great way to finish up my time with my older students, and I’m so glad they enjoyed it so much! I definitely enjoyed it as well!

Here’s a video with even more photos from the camp:

Ultimul Sunet (Last Bell) 2018

The beginning of the ceremony, which was moderated by two 8th grade students
The raising of the flag and national anthem
The primary students wait for the ceremony to begin

As I mentioned in my previous post, last week was the last week of school in Moldova. I’ve written about the last day ceremony, called Last Bell, before. This year’s Last Bell was similar, but the graduating 9th graders were different.

The 9th “A” class entering with their homeroom teacher
The 9th “B” class entering with their homeroom teacher

The ceremony started with all of the students and teachers gathering in a horseshoe shape in the courtyard in front of our school. Once everyone was was in place, the 9th grade students entered the courtyard from the school, accompanied by their homeroom teachers. The same homeroom teacher stays with a group of students from 5th to 9th grade, and the relationship is supposed to be very close between the students and their homeroom teacher (the students also stay together usually from 1st grade until they graduate in 9th grade).

The 1st grade students reciting a poem
The entire 9th grade class

There were the typical speeches, by a police officer from our raion (district), a representative from our raion’s department of youth and sport, and our school director. Certificates were handed out to many students for participation in various activities and for academic achievement. The 1st grade students recited a long poem.

Me being presented with a diploma and a speech by the director
My partner teacher thanking me for my time here and giving me notes from the students
An 8th grade student reciting a poem she had written for and about me

Since this was my very last official day at school, I was also honored during the ceremony. I was given a certificate and my partner teacher Liuba gave me a packet of notes and drawings from my students. One of my 8th grade students, Maria, wrote and recited a touching poem in English thanking me for coming here. Unfortunately, nobody got a full video, but it was very sweet. I did my best not to cry, but my eyes did tear up a bit.

The 9th graders performing a dance
The 9th graders performing a dance
The 9th graders performing a dance

The 9th grade students generally prepare dance/song performances and recite poems as part of the ceremony. A small number of them did a nice dance, one of the girls sang a song that is often used to thank teachers, and they recited a poem. There were two 9th grade classes this year, and one of the classes prepared a very touching (all of the women and girls in the crowd definitely teared up, as did several of the boys in the class) tribute to their homeroom teacher, Valentina.

9th grade students doing a touching tribute for their homeroom teacher
9th grade students doing a touching tribute for their homeroom teacher

They asked Doamna Valentina to stand in the middle of the courtyard, and then each student approached her, gave her a flower, hugged her, and gave her one end of a ribbon. This was accompanied with a short “the first candle is for…” thanking her for various things. This continued until she held one end of a ribbon attaching her to each of the students in her class. They then asked her to cut the ribbons, leaving part with her and the other part with each of the students. This was followed by a group hug and lots of tears.

The last bell being rung by a 1st grade student on the shoulders of a 9th grade student

The ceremony ended, as always, with the ringing of the final bell of the year. This is done by a 1st grade girl on the shoulder of a 9th grade boy. Then students went inside for their last homeroom class then went home. I spent some time in both of the 8th grade classrooms, then I also headed home to change for the teacher’s barbecue in the forest on the edge of our village.

The teachers celebrating the end of the school year with a barbecue in the woods

The teachers gathered together to eat, drink, and celebrate the end of another year. We went to the forest this year, and everything was very delicious and everyone was very relaxed. We had a lot of fun and stayed for over 6 hours! It’s a day I doubt I’ll ever forget.

Last Days as a Teacher in Moldova

The second graders: I actually only taught half of these kids, but we did a combined lesson on the last day.
Half of the second graders I taught this year.

This past week I wrapped up my time as an English teacher in this wonderful country of Moldova. For the past two years, I have taught English to 262 students in 2nd through 9th grade alongside my two amazing partner teachers, Ina and Liuba. I have spent at least 1,600 hours at school teaching and planning with my partners. I couldn’t have asked for a better placement: I have loved my school, my community, and my village.

One of the 3rd grade classes that I taught this year.
The other 3rd grade class that I taught this year.

My students weren’t always well-behaved, didn’t always do their homework, and sometimes wouldn’t stop chatting when they were supposed to be quiet, but every second was worth it, and I loved working with them.

The fourth grade class. I only worked with half of them this year, but worked with all of them last year.
One of my 5th grade classes. I worked with them both this year and last year.

When things got tough (and when you’re a Peace Corps volunteer, there are plenty of tough moments), they reminded me of why I am here and encouraged me, made me laugh, or just happened to say something I really needed to hear.

My other 5th grade class. I also worked with them both this year and last year.
My 7th graders. I worked with them both years.

When I think of leaving in just over a month, I tear up thinking of saying goodbye to this village, but especially to these kids. So many of them are motivated, talented, and hard-working, and I’m sad that I won’t get to see them grow up or how their lives unfold. I hope that each of their futures are full of happiness, success, and that they know how much I enjoyed working with them.

One of my 8th grade classes (about half the students escaped before I could get a picture- though it appears the whole class is girls, there are 3 boys as well). I worked with these students both years, and many of them came to English Club.
My other 8th grade class. I worked with them both years and several of them came to English Club as well.

On the last couple of days of lessons, we played some games, sang, and had fun. I took a picture with each of my classes, though apparently a lot of students just don’t show up the last week of school, so a lot of students are missing. I’ll miss them so much!

*Not pictured: the current 6th grade students that I taught last year as 5th graders (I didn’t teach them this year), the current 9th graders (I only taught them for 2 or 3 months last year when they were in 8th grade and didn’t teach them this year, but several of them came to my English Club), and both of the 9th grade classes I taught last year (they’ve since graduated from our school and moved on to high school, vocational school, or work). 

An American “Masa”

In Romanian, masă means a number of things. It can be used to say “table”, “meal” or even sometimes what we would consider a “party” (of the dinner party sense). It’s a word we hear every day as volunteers and it is a time of not just eating, but also of gathering with friends and family.

One of the highlights of my service in Moldova has been working with a group of my 7th, 8th, and 9th grade students at English Club for the past two years. Today was our last English Club meeting. To thank them for 2 wonderful years, my site mate Amir and I decided to surprise them with an “American masă”.

We made some of our favorite foods and also served iced tea and fruit punch. It was a lot of work (several days of baking and cooking), but in the end it was a huge success! Our menu consisted of deviled eggs, cornbread, banana bread, cinnamon rolls, mac and cheese, tacos, and chocolate chip cookie bars. After everyone had eaten and tried all of the foods, we asked them which of the foods were their favorites.  The overwhelming majority voted the tacos as their number one favorite, closely followed by the chocolate chip cookie bars!

Since this was also our last meeting, I said a short speech thanking them for coming to English Club, for being interested in learning English, and for helping make my two years here in Moldova so wonderful. They, in turn, thanked me for coming here and teaching and working with them both during lessons and at English Club. I somehow managed to keep back the tears- but was also very touched by their words. I will miss these kids so much when I leave, but I’m very glad for the time we’ve spent learning, working, and spending time together!

Photo credit: Amir Feinberg

Cleaning Day

Each spring, a week or so before Easter, the students at my school are responsible for cleaning up outside around the school and around the village.  Each grade level is assigned one part of town (for example, the soccer field, around the school, the cemetery, the location of a monument, etc.) and spend the afternoon getting things ready for the holiday.

Our Cleaning Day was this past Monday.  Thankfully, it was a beautiful warm day and the work was completed in a couple of hours.  I was assigned to be photographer and walked all around the village with our adjunct director and my site mate.  It was the perfect afternoon to be outside (and I even got my first minor sunburn of the year!).  While some of the older students waited for the tractor to come to pick up the brush that had been cleared, some of the students played volleyball with one of our older teachers (formerly the French teacher, she’s retired but still teaches Religion at the school).