Tsagaan Sar

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School Days: Milk Tea and Morin Khuur

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Currently, I’m sitting on our divan wearing flannel jammies and sipping instant milk tea–I’m not brave enough to try making it on my own yet. We are wrapping up our sixth week of teaching, and things are chugging along well. Our students are a delightful challenge. They are so much fun, and I just want to do my best to teach them the skills they need to succeed. I have already learned a lot about and from my students, and I look forward to learning more with them throughout the rest of the year.

Eric and I are both teaching three different kinds of classes with a variety of students. Eric is teaching an English math keywords to our tenth graders as they prepare for their IGCSE exams. He is also teaching oral English to 9th and 10th graders, and two afternoons a week, he is teaching classes for the Mongolian teachers at our school. My classes are 10th grade IGCSE, 11th grade TOEFL, and 12th grade SAT. In these classes, my focus in teaching has circled around essay writing, especially for the upperclassmen. Occasionally, I have good ideas, so as we have been working through essay structures, I have tasked my students with writing about Mongolia. This serves three purposes: first of all, my students get to write about something that excites them; secondly, my students are eager to defend their positions because of their topics; and thirdly, I get to learn a lot about Mongolian culture, history, and current events through my students’ words. It is a win/win situation in my book!

Because there is so much more to talk about, let me just include some brief anecdotes and accompanying pictures to bring you, gentle readers, up to date. 🙂

Training in Terelj

The week before school started, we joined the rest of our language institute’s teachers and staff for training in Terelj National Park. We stayed at a hotel in the countryside and spent the week getting to know one another better, getting excited for the school year, and bonding within our smaller teams. We also enjoyed a variety of Mongolian meals at the hotel and managed to fit in some local sightseeing around our various sessions. We even built a ger. Of course, what I mean by “we built a ger” is that three skilled Mongolians directed about 30 teachers over the course of several hours in how to unbuild and then rebuild a ger. I think if they didn’t have us around, they could have done it all by themselves much faster. 😉 Unfortunately, Eric picked up a stomach bug during training and missed a lot. (Fortunately, he was back to normal by the time school started!)

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Our School

The academic year started on September 1, and we were in for a few wonderful surprises. To begin with, Mongolian schools hold opening ceremonies that include speeches, performances, and a ceremonial ringing of the first bell of the school year. Because our school is technically bilingual, these ceremonies included both English and Mongolian, so we weren’t totally clueless. Later in the day, our students had a welcoming ceremony for Eric and me, which was very touching. It was short and sweet, but we felt very honored by the students’ well wishes and musical performances.

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Teacher’s Day

In early October, there is an international teacher’s day. On this day, none of the teachers taught, and there was a special schedule drawn up to include classes for all the different teachers. Students taught from our lesson plans, and we were able to attend a few of these classes as students. I will say that by and large, our students are a confident group of public speakers! There were more performances on Teacher’s Day that included skits, songs, and dances. Everyone in our school really enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere, and I smiled and laughed so much that my face hurt. That evening, the faculty from our school joined with the faculties of our two sister schools to enjoy a banquet, even more musical performances, a lottery for prizes, and a lot of dancing. For someone who grew up not dancing in public, I sure am glad that our coworkers encouraged me to join in the fun. Even Eric–who does not like drawing attention to himself in crowds–got up and cut a rug or two. Teacher’s Day was easily the most memorable day of our time in Mongolia thus far and is one of the most memorable days of my life. It was simply wonderful. 🙂

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There is more to say than this, but I will resist writing more at this point to keep from overwhelming you all! I hope to update more frequently now that we are starting to get into something of a routine here in UB.

Love you all!

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