If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to be an English teacher in Greece for a day, you’re about to find out!
November 19, 2010
5.45 – Alarm goes off. Grumble grumble grumble.
5.47 – Oh, wait. I’m in Greece!
5.47.10 – Spring out of bed (taking care to scurry to the bathroom quickly as there are still no curtains on my large ground-floor glass doors leading out to the patio; no Balkan student would be waking up at this hour, but they very well could be just going to bed!) Hop in shower, still recalling my two weeks of cold showers and being thankful for piping hot water!
6.00 – Get dressed, make coffee, do daily NY Times crossword puzzle.
6.45 – Prep for classes.
7.20 – Breakfast with students and Carrie in the dining hall. This usually consists of bread & butter and a glass of fresh American Farm School milk, which is without a doubt the most delicious milk I’ve ever had!
7.50 – Morning assembly with students. Every morning, prayer is said (99% of the population in Greece is Greek Orthodox), a student makes a presentation on a topic of their choice, and announcements are made. Thanos, head of student life at AFS, translates for Carrie and I.
8.00 – First of four back-to-back classes. On this particular day, this was a class of second-year students that I have with a teacher named Mary, and I led them in an exercise on phrasal verbs (“fall out with,” “hang up on,” etc).
8.45 – Second class. Because of MUN, I was subbing for Maria, the teacher I normally have this class with. They’re first-year students, and typically quite rambunctious. It’s certainly safe to say that, in general, Greeks make more noise than Americans–whether they are laughing, singing, yelling, or simply talking, this is a fairly loud country! (I asked my friend who is a professor at Aristotle University about this, and she said, “I suppose it comes from our political history–it’s the idea of having a voice.”) Here, this manifests itself in the fact that this class is made up of good students who are well-behaved, but simply accustomed to making more noise. When they raise their hand, it’s with a “Kiria! Kiria! Kiria!” (“Missus! Missus! Missus!”). Since I was by myself on this particular day, I made them a fun exercise to do! It’s with prepositional phrases (as in “behind the times,” “below average,”), which are very hard for a nonnative speaker as you quite simply have to just memorize them.
9.30 – Third class. One of my very favorite classes! I was subbing for Maria here again, so I did another fun exercise. It’s great listening practice for them to have to fill in gaps in song lyrics as they hear them, so I did “Better Way” by Ben Harper and “The General” by Dispatch, in the interest of both improving their listening skills AND exposing them to contemporary American music that isn’t Miley Cyrus. It went very well–we had great discussions about the meanings of both songs, and a few of them even asked me to burn them the songs! The class is pictured with me below, and, in case you’re wondering what kids in Greece are named, they are Kiki, Nikos, Anastasia, Dimitri, Eleni, Vladimir, Yiorgos (George), Natasa, Alexandros, Thanos, Theodosis and Yiannis.
10.30 – Last class, a class of first-year students I teach with Mary. On this particular day, I led them in more phrasal verbs and gave them a vocabulary quiz.
11.10 – I headed over to the gym to see the opening ceremony of the Model United Nations conference, which I have been helping our students prepare for. I did speech & debate for eight years, so seeing all these teenagers in suits outside the gym made me feel like I should be doing vocal warm ups and practicing my speech to a tree outside! Our students did very well with their ambassadors’ speeches. I found myself sitting in the audience watching and feeling so proud of them, not only because they did an excellent job, but also because it simply takes guts to get up in front of hundreds of your peers and speak English!
13.30 – Lunch in cafeteria. On this particular day it was delicious fish, rice, broccoli salad and wheat bread–a very good lunch! Sometimes the cafeteria food is great, and sometimes it’s… er… interesting. But this time around, it was delicious, and I sat with a lovely student named Helen discussing her impressions of the school as a first-year student (many students coming to AFS are really impressed with it, having come from public schools that were less than ideal: Helen said, “At my last school, there wasn’t even a timetable!”) and her love for Elvis Presley.
14.30 – Free time! I came home and read for hours, taking a break in my research for some George R. R. Martin because one of my best friends just sent me the next book in the series for my birthday!
16.30 – Run around campus! The lap I do on weekdays goes past the greenhouses, up the hill past the cows, behind the school library and gym, down past the residential area of campus and finishes back at my dorm for 1.5 miles or continues back to the cows for 2 miles, depending on how much time I have.
17.30 – Research. I’m on my second Kazantzakis novel, The Fratricides, after finishing The Greek Passion last month.
20.00 – I read this week’s menu and saw something less than ideal for dinner, so I headed downtown for dinner! After the hour’s bus ride, I arrived in Ladadika, a very cute neighborhood with many nice, quiet restaurants, and chose one for dinner. I had a lovely glass of rosé, grilled mushrooms, grilled haloumi cheese and… octopus cooked in balsamic vinegar! I was caught without my camera, unfortunately, but everything was delicious. The octopus was surprisingly tender and very, very flavorful–and presentation-wise, it was great! It came with its little suction cups and everything. Delish!
23.00 – Bedtime! On weeknights I normally go to bed with earplugs in (if I ever have access to a hammer while here, I will take it to the sound system of the Albanian boys next door) at 10 because I get up so early.
There you have it; a pretty typical day in the life of Kate. As for today… it’s my birthday, and I am now a whopping twenty THREE! I’m spending the morning enjoying some time for myself, the afternoon helping at MUN, the evening grabbing drinks with friends and some teachers from AFS, and the night at a hookah bar in Thessaloniki, followed by more revelry with the college students back in my dorm. This birthday is particularly epic because Micah, one of the interns at AFS, has his birthday today too! It promises to be ridiculously fun and jam-packed. I’m particularly grateful for my friends here and my friends back home today, one of whom stayed up til midnight his time so we could chat on my birthday (thanks B!). Thanks to everyone and big Greek hugs all around!
Cheers! Here’s to another great year.