The students are like chittering little birds when I walk past them in the dimly lit hallways.
For most of these students, “Hi,” is the only English word they know. It’s like there’s an ethereal golden light surrounding me as I walk the school hallways. Girls and boys from 5th grade to 12th grade gawk and then proudly say, “Hi!” or say the greeting to show bravery amongst their school friends, like “Yes, I spoke to the American.”
I am serving with Peace Corps Mongolia as a Secondary English Teacher.
For the next two-years, I will help my eight Mongolian counterparts (CPs) to improve their lesson planning, to improve their English speaking in the class room, and to co-teach alongside them. In addition, I will help lead my school’s speaking club. I look forward to the challenge.
School began on 1 September. My yellow school was decorated with balloons and banners in honor of the new school year. Chairs were placed outside and students and faculty members sat outside in the sun to listen to speeches made by the governor, the Director of my school, and student speeches; dances were performed; songs were sung; and achievements accomplished last year were proudly heralded. I wore my summer deel to the occasion.
I’m teaching a variety of grade levels. We sing songs in 5th grade classes. We are learning the ABCs in 6th grade classes. 7th graders excitedly wave their hands in the air so they can write answers on the board. 11th graders are improving their writing and listening skills and we are preparing the 12th graders for the end-of-the-year Concourse Exam. Students can be quiet and stoic. It’s hard to know if they like having me as a new addition to their classroom but my CPs tell me that whenever I’m not there, students ask where I am. I take that as a great sign! There are more girls than boys. There is a heavy dropout rate due to boys leaving to become herdsmen out in the steppes or simply no interest.
My school is only a three minute walk from my apartment building. A distance I will be grateful for during the blustering cold winter months, (rumor is it might snow soon). Despite the twisting road ahead as I navigate myself through a Mongolian school and the high expectations for having a native English speaker in their midst, my goal is to take it nice and slow.
Here are tips for myself:
- To take it easy.
- To let things go. If one class goes poorly that doesn’t mean the other classes will.
- Don’t teach hungry.
- To always have stickers. Great for bribing students when the room is awkwardly quiet.
- Maintain organized even if everything else is a jumbled mess.
- And if everything goes to pot, take action.