|My very first day|
|Sports Day. Competition is fierce and calls for war paint.|
About half of the students I taught were already very familiar with the English speaking culture. They love our music, films, TV shows (I have a friend who credits the show "Friends" with teaching her English) and even those who weren't familiar with our culture knew our basketball teams and players well. Side note, I got into a cab the other day and the driver could barely say two words in English however he was able to start listing all of the basketball teams. Randomly. "Lakers!" "Miami Heat!" "Chicago Bulls!" And when they asked where I'm from and I reply "Dallas", they know where that is and respond with, "Mavericks!!!"
|I often brought clips from TV shows, movies, TED talks, etc. into the classroom which they often enjoyed.|
There were a few unexpected and lovely differences though. For the most part, they wanted to be friends outside of class. There were many times when I had scolded a student for misbehaving in class but then afterwords, I'd get a "Hi Teacher!" and a smile in the hallway later. Another fun thing is that when I would invite them to my apartment for a pizza and movie party (you can do that here), they would come and have a great time! I don't ever remember wanting to go to one of my teachers houses. Most seem to want a relationship outside of the classroom and I've been honored by some of them as they've entrusted me with information about secret crushes, dreams, frustrations about family, peer pressures, etc.
|Christmas cookies. Always a hit.|
Here are a few tidbits for anyone thinking about teaching in Mongolia:
- It's considered rude to point at someone, at least with one finger so if you need to point to one of your students, try to do it with your whole hand.
- I would have students point to their noses and ask if they could go to the toilet. I later realized that they were going to blow their noses as it's considered gross to do this around others.
- As is typical with Asian cultures, cheating is seen as helping. They honestly do not see why we think it's so wrong and I was under the impression that the other Mongolian teachers weren't sticklers like we foreign teachers were.
- Where we say the teacher "gives" the test and the student "takes" the test, it's the opposite here. The student "gives" the test and the teacher "takes" it. This can be confusing: "Teacher. When are you going to take the test?" "I'm not, you are. Oh wait."
- All students wear uniforms with small differences depending on your school and grade.
- They just recently added a 12th grade - up until this year (2015) students graduated after 11th.
- They LOVE performing and at least once a quarter will find a reason to display their talents to each other and the teachers. Singing (both pop and traditional Mongolian songs), dancing (same), acting, and playing instruments (mainly Mongolian instruments).
- Other huge interests include robot building, chess, sports day, soccer, basketball, anime, Japanese horror films, pizza and chicken.
- We celebrate "Teacher Appreciation Day" and the students will perform for us and give us hugs and gifts. It's a good day.
|Teacher Appreciation Day|
|This is one of the gifts I received one year! One of my very talented students drew this picture of me.|
- The Mongolian culture is a very touchy-feely one and I often looked up to see students holding hands, arms around friends, playing with each other's hair, sharing the same chair, etc. There were days when I had to say things like, "Jake! Get her hair out of your mouth."
- They very much believe in things like evolution and global warming and yet I've heard many of them talking about believing in ghosts, aliens, mermaids and the like as well. Sounds like high school to me.
- They are in the crossroads of not only childhood and adulthood but also in a culture that seems to be rapidly changing. They are choosing whether or not to hold on to their grandparents traditions (only just reclaimed in the last 30 years when Mongolia declared their independence from Russia) and being very attracted to the English speaking culture.
- The education system here LOVES to give exams and mock exams. At least once a quarter, it seemed like we were giving exams in addition to the regular tests over what we were teaching in class.
- Teens can't drive until they turn 18.
- It's very rare, but teachers are allowed to punish students in a physical way such as hitting them with a belt.
- I gave all my classes a point system where they could earn points for good behavior and lose points for bad behavior. Once they hit certain goals, they were rewarded with games, a movie in class day and finally a pizza party. Most responded very well to this system.
|Make your own pizza party with some of my 11th graders last year.|
- I don't know this as a fact but I believe that most, if not all, of my students have been exposed to terrible abuse, alcoholism, abortion, incest, abandonment, sex trafficking and more. There are organizations set up and being set up to bring these issues to light and provide help but work like this can be slow going and this culture does not yet embrace sharing difficult personal things. There were many times when my students' pain was obvious and I regret not being able to help more than lend a listening ear.
- They all believe that if they learn English well, their future will be better. Many dream of going to an English speaking country for University and then coming back and making Mongolia a better, stronger country.
|Some of our graduates last year. Precious.|