This week marks my first week ~officially~ teaching full time, and it has already been an adventure in itself and an important time of growth as a future educator. People have asked me what teaching is like here, so here’s a story that I think pretty much sums it up:
If you weren’t already aware, last week Groundhog Day was celebrated in the states. A day of pure whimsy, when we use a rodent to tell us about the weather rather then science. (Maybe if we had a groundhog that predicted global warming people would take it more seriously? Ha ha ha, fun). I have always been a fan of Groundhog Day, not a die-hard-Punxsutawney-Pennsylvania fan by any means, but a watch-“Groundhog Day”-and-at-least-take-note-of-Phil’s-decision kind. (Side note: I watched that movie again this year and it’s actually pretty dark for a little bit is it not!?!! Kind of crazy how much stuff goes over your head when you’re little because I’m pretty sure I’ve been more-or-less watching this movie my entire life.) ((Tom and Kim can correct me if I’m wrong)). Also people write actual real life news articles about Groundhog Day, can you imagine being that person? Cause I’m about to be that person on a blog. Anyways, the only thing I ever really considered all that weird about Groundhog Day was the whole shadow=more winter idea. If the sun is out and Phil can see his shadow, it seems MORE REALISTIC to have spring come sooner because SUN. Whereas if Phil didn’t see his shadow then it would mean more winter because CLOUDS. Does that not bother anyone else? Just me? Okay great let’s move on.
So I offhandedly mention in the morning to my class, “Happy Groundhog Day” mostly out of the habit of finding as many things to celebrate as possible and they all just stared at me. Then I realized…. THEY HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT AT ALL. Then, of course, they asked, “What is that?” and thus began one of the most bizarre days of my teaching career so far.
So I had to start with explaining what animal a groundhog was exactly. We also looked at a lot of pictures of groundhogs to get a grasp on this concept of them being not a pig, which the name kind of suggests. When I say we looked at pictures I really mean a lot, more than you can imagine existing. Finally, we knew what this animal was, what they looked like, what their babies look like, where they live, what they eat, what they look like all wet, ALL KINDS OF THINGS.
Next I tried to explain the holiday itself, which was, if you can possibly imagine, weird. Essentially it went something like this: “So there’s this town in Pennsylvania called ‘Punxsutawney’, and in that town lives a groundhog named Phil who lives in a fake tree (anyone who knows where he lives the rest of the year help a sister out). Can you say Punxsutawney?” -Me *children try to say it with their adorable accents, and it’s really hard* **Shows on world map where Pennsylvania is**. “Is Pennsylvania a country?” -Student A. “Pennsylvania is kind of like a country, but we call it a state, and it helps make up the United States.” -Me. “Is the United States a big country?” -Student B. “Well, yes, it is a pretty large country, it would take me a long time to drive all the way across it.” -Me. “But it’s not as big as Hungary right?” -Student C.”…”-Me. “…”-Student C (This is where I had to pause for a minute. Hungarians have a huge amount of national pride which I absolutely respect. Not wanting to crush her six year old perception I just kind of said…) “Well on this map the US looks larger to me, but I have never really measured it, and I have never been all the way across Hungary so I don’t know how long it would take me to drive.” -Me (deflection is an art, people) ((teachers have to make about a thousand and a half decisions a day, idk if I made the wrong or right one there but I stand by it)). “So in this town, on this day, these guys who are all dressed out pull Phil and ask him whether or not he sees his shadow.” -Me *every single hand in my class shoots up* “Does the groundhog always live in the fake tree?” “Does this groundhog talk?” “Why is he named Phil?” “Why did you take the groundhog away from it’s habitat?” (that question made me really excited cause it’s our focus in science right now, holla @ learning things). “Does the groundhog have a family?” “Why do you care about the shadow?” “How does a shadow decide the weather?” “Why do you do this?” “Do people worship the groundhog?” “Is this is church holiday?” etc. etc. etc. (seriously we had a lot of questions). After answering as many of the questions as I could I finally said, “It’s not a religious holiday, it’s more just a silly one that we think is fun.” And the ENTIRE CLASS ERUPTED IN LAUGHTER. Like rolling on the floor, laughing out loud, actual real-life laughter.
And then at that moment I realized they were so right, this is such a weird holiday, this is really funny. I laughed too.
We spend the rest of the day with the live feed of Punxsutawney, PA on the projector to refer to, since we didn’t want to miss the magic moment. We read a lot of books about Groundhog Day. We also did a STEM activity where we invented things that would either make sure the groundhog saw his shadow, or make sure the groundhog didn’t see his shadow. (Students got to choose which side they wanted to work on based on whether they wanted winter to stay or spring to come) ((I know you’re not supposed to pick favorites but DUH I didn’t want the groundhog to see his shadow, SPRING COULDN’T COME FASTER.)) (((The featured image of this blog shows their inventions.))) We did a test with the “sun” (my phone flashlight) and both teams were successful. Eventually, by the end of the school day, we watched the groundhog see his shadow (lame), and I basked in the glory of how well an absolutely unplanned day can go when you just let students ask questions and you answer questions and create together. Overall it was a Groundhog Day to be remembered.
What does this have to do with teaching abroad? NOTHING, just wanted you to read my story. I’m kidding. So far I have learned that when teaching abroad, you have to be willing to be flexible. A benefit to this, especially at ICSB, is that there is freedom to be (flexible). Something that I also experience in my teaching day to day is the necessity of integrating culture into my lessons. Talking about Groundhog Day opened up a great door to be able to talk about different holidays my students celebrate in Hungary. Being better informed about Hungarian culture will help my lessons be more applicable to students, and, obviously, help them learn better. Finally, I have learned to laugh a lot. I make mistakes all the time. Seriously all. the. time. I think I say “Good Morning” to an old woman down my street incorrectly every single morning (r’s are really hard here, guys) but just the other day she got so excited that I kept trying that she kissed me on the cheek. I laugh a lot about my mistakes. I laugh a lot about how much I’m learning about my own culture. I really had never considered Groundhog Day all that weird until trying to explain it.. and IT IS SO WEIRD. I have to laugh and I get to laugh.
So, all that to say, I am really enjoying teaching abroad.