28 May 2005

Polish Summer

We seem to have skipped spring entirely this year, something I have to admit to being a bit annoyed about - going directly from 50-degree weather to 90-degree weather is a bit abrupt. But I'm trying not to complain, it's still preferable to winter. I just have to adjust a bit - though I'm told I shouldn't bother, it'll be back down to 60-something by Tuesday. Weird.

Sadly, I don't really have much to write about other than the weather. I should mention the show some of the students at my school put on last weekend. It was all the kids' groups, so none of my students, but I really enjoyed watching them perform their songs & skits - without scripts, they had everything memorized! And the native speakers got to take a quiz about Poland and the Polish language - my team won, but we had a 1/2 Pole on our side so it was a bit unfair. I was very pround that I knew the name of one of the statues in Poznan all by myself - we talked about it in Polish class a while back & I actually remembered! Probably the only thing I've retained from that class, but at least there's something.

Only a few more weeks of teaching to go, thankfully. I really like teaching, but this has been kind of a tough year, so I'm ready for it to end. Plus, then I get to come home for 2 months! I'll be back just in time for the fireworks - literally, my plane lands around 8pm on July 4th.

My final thought for the day: when you're feeling less than deliriously happy, just think of a muppet kicking ass with a light saber - it's been making me giggle for 2 days now. :)

19 May 2005

The Joys of Teaching

I got to teach the word 'spelunking' during a lesson this evening. My students had a really good time repeating it throughout the rest of the lesson, long after we had switched topics. That's the kind of thing that makes me love my job. :)

17 May 2005

A (gasp!) Positive Experience in a Government Office

I got a letter from the tax office yesterday. Naturally I didn't understand it, so I called my friend Hanna, and she didn't understand it either, but that's probably my fault for trying to read Polish over the phone. So I took it to work & one of my fellow teachers said I had to go to the tax office and get a form to change my address, since my address is different than it was when I filed my taxes last year. This, of course, thrilled me to no end - I always enjoy trying to communicate with government officials.

Today I figured out where the office was, got on the right bus, found the building, found the office, and the woman was really nice to me! She spoke slowly, didn't get upset if I didn't understand her, and explained what I needed to do, which didn't make any sense but at least I understood the words. I had to write a letter stating that I don't have a permanent residency card but I don't know how long I'm staying in Poland. When I explained that writing in Polish is very difficult for me, the woman wrote the letter for me and gave me a blank sheet of paper to copy it, so it would be in my own handwriting. All this with a smile on her face! I really thought I was in some sort of alternate universe!

So nice public servants do exist, even in Poland - you just don't meet them very often.

10 May 2005

Another New Educational Experience

Last Saturday I took an exam in my Applied Linguistics lecture course, the one I kept complaining about because all we did was write down everything the prof said, word-for-word. The exam really wasn't bad, no surprises as far as content. The real eye-opener for me was the behavior of most of the other students during the exam.

Our prof couldn't be there, so she sent someone else to administer the test, i.e. to hand out the papers & sit at the front of the lecture hall, reading a book, while virtually everyone in the room proceeded to copy from their notebooks. Very few people even tried to hide their notes, to preserve the illusion that maybe they weren't cheating.

Now I know that cheating is fairly widely accepted in this country, and before any Poles get upset with me for saying that, I have both personal experience and the word of several Polish teachers and students to draw on. High school students are pretty much expected to cheat, because they have so much material to remember, and the teachers allow it because they all did it too. It's been perfected to a science, with the tiny little notes folded up & stashed in pencil cases, taped onto thighs (usually just girls, they wear short skirts), or just hidden in the palm of the hand. But I have never seen such a blatant display before, and a lot of my fellow students were also surprised.

I don't really know what to say about it, other than the cliches from the US system, you're only cheating yourself out of your education, etc. In the interests of full disclosure, I want to state for the record that I did not cheat, even though it would have been amazingly easy, and I could have done better on the exam if I had. I wasn't as prepared as I should have been, but I think I'll pass OK without any help from my notes.

Does my not cheating make me a better person/student? Probably not, it just means I grew up in a different environment with different norms of expected behavior. I don't blame any of my fellow students for cheating, especially in a situation where no one seemed to care if they did. Will it make me more accepting when my own students cheat? Not a chance, I'm not stupid enough to let someone else administer my tests & I watch those kids like a hawk! Just because I teach within a system where cheating is tolerated, that doesn't mean I have to tolerate it too!

03 May 2005

A Visit to Krakow

I spent the last 4 days in Krakow, a beautiful city and much nicer before all the tourists descend, so I don't recommend going between now & November! Unless you don't mind trying to wind your way around throngs of people, in which case, enjoy! I really do love to visit, but I could never live in a city that's so completely overrun with vacationers, I really don't know how the locals stand it!

I had a nice visit to the salt mines, and a good walking tour of the Jewish quarter, though it was a holiday so a lot of the buildings weren't open to visitors, and I couldn't find the bagel shop that I'm sure I saw when I was there last July. There was a neat festival going on just below the castle, with a group of monks who had formed a rock band. You really haven't lived until you've seen men in cassocks playing electric guitars. I'm not sure exactly what they were singing about, but they used a word that either means 'moon,' 'prince,' or 'priest.' I can never tell those 3 words apart.

And now I'm trying to finish up 2 papers, study for an exam, and plan lessons for the rest of the week. I'll be so glad when this school year is over!