Tuesday, September 15, 2009

And so the semester begins

Figuring out my academic schedule for the semester has been another challenge I’ve been dealing with this past week. The English department wants me to teach Writing IV, Speaking IV and Cross Cultural Understanding. There are so many students that each class is further divided into subsections A, B, C, and sometimes D. And I’m supposed to be team teaching these classes as well. Originally, the department wanted me to teach three sections of Writing IV, three sections of Speaking IV and four of Cross Cultural Understanding. With each lesson being an hour and 40 minutes long, this added up to more than the 12 hours per week that the ELF Program says we are to devote to classroom teaching. (This is because we’re supposed to be working on conference presentations, teacher training workshops, community outreach programs and material development to name just a few “side” projects.) So, I was alarmed at the number of hours the school wanted me to teach in the classroom and I was confused about the whole team teaching thing. What did “team teaching” mean in this context? Would both of us co-teachers be in the classroom at the same time? Would we be lesson planning together? Would one teacher get classes A and B and the other C and D? Would we create the syllabi together?

After a few meetings with my co-teachers plus some emails back to Jonna, the Fellow from last year, things started to become clearer, but it still seems like a bizarre system to me. To illustrate, this semester I am teaching Writing A, B and C from September to December by myself. For Cross Cultural Understanding I will be teaching sections A,B,C and D but only until midterm. Then I stop teaching these classes and my co-teacher takes over until the final in December. As for the Speaking classes, I won’t be teaching these until AFTER midterm.

Another strange thing about the start of the semester is that the semester started last week and I am starting this week. On one hand, this was great for me because it gave me more time to settle into my house and figure out the town, which was DEFINITELY needed. On the other hand, there were a couple of days last week when students appeared at the door as I was puttering around in my new office and asked if there was class that day and which of the two teachers listed on the schedule would be teaching. I truthfully told them that the department hadn’t yet finalized the teaching schedule but that my classes would begin the following week. They seemed to accept this, but I felt awful. There were classrooms full of students waiting for teachers who did not appear. Why didn’t the department notify the students that these classes would begin at a later date?

Yesterday, wearing some of my new custom tailored Indonesian clothes, I stepped into my Writing C classroom for the first time. And right away I was confronted with another cultural quirk. Since the end of Ramadan is approaching, many students have already left Gorontalo to go visit their families for the Edul Fitri celebrations (in much the same way that Americans leave their homes in mass exodus to visit their families for Thanksgiving). So, out of a class of 31 registered students, I had only 14 on the first day!

Today I showed up for work only to find out that there was no electricity in the building. It was one of those sudden periods of mati lampu or dead light. I wondered how I was going to print my lesson plan for my Cross Cultural Understanding class. Maybe my laptop would have enough battery power for me to open the Word document and make a few notes. However, no sooner had I gotten to my office then the “chairman” for my Cross Cultural Understanding class appeared.

Each class here has a “chairman” who is a teacher’s go-to person for communication about the class, including getting the class list and negotiating class meeting times. The chairman was wondering if we would have class today because at least 75% of the students (in his estimation) had already left for the Edul Fitri holiday. He also added that he himself was “physically shocked” to find out that we were supposed to have class today. I hesitated as I considered my response. I was prepared and ready to teach. I had a whole lesson prepared with an icebreaker and discussions about the definition of culture and the culture iceberg, etc. I was ready to go and eager to teach my lesson. But I also didn’t want to teach to a virtually empty room and either have to ditch the carefully made lesson plan to wing it with some Q & A session about American culture or to have to re-teach the same lesson after the holiday. Neither option seemed very enticing. I told the chairman that I would let him know my decision after talking to the head of the department. So, to make a long story short, I ended up canceling class for today. And maybe tomorrow too. I’ll see if the chairmen for my Writing A class and CCU B appear in my office first thing tomorrow morning to negotiate a new start date! The head of the department said the decision was up to me.

1 comment:

  1. Wow Julianne! You have had so much adventure in the last two weeks that I'm overwhelmed just hearing about it. Du bist ein echt muetiges Maedl und ich bin mir ganz sicher, dass diese Erfahrung eine der besten deines Lebens wird (wenn nur auch nachdem du wieder in den Staaten bist!) LG aus NY - Kari