Monday, 8 October 2012

The Blog In Which Things Get Better

Part of the whole self-improvement jazz is to try and sort out all those niggling problems that make your life unpleasant. On the other hand, without unpleasantness, there's no contrast to make the pleasant visible. Everybody's got to do some of the jobs they hate, because Mr Muscle only cleans bathrooms.


I haven't enjoyed taking Kindergarten. Fact. Things they like include jumping on me, using me as a horse, shouting "Cartoon!" in Russian until we put a film on, and hitting each other for funsies until someone gets hit too hard and starts crying. Due to their bad behaviour, and the way they didn't listen to a word we said in English or Russian, we came to the conclusion that it was impossible to teach them any English, or any games for that matter. They also didn't seem to be able to explain Russian games to us. For those reasons we gave up on playing with them. We did put a lot of effort into producing pictures for them to colour in: three letters at a time we went through the alphabet. Then we ran out of letters, and just watched a few films while Sonya and Daryona the 6-year-olds went to Kitezh last week, leaving us with Nastya and Danya the 5-year-olds. Now they're all back together, we'd just been doing colouring in that involved more than one word e.g. a farm scene, a pond.

Today was a giant leap. Katya had told us that she would be in our Kindergarten lesson, would do a few games with us all and have a talk. The upshot of this talk was that the 4 of them like our lessons, and want to continue, and would like to have better classes. Together it was concluded that this must be achieved through respecting us - treating us as they would the other adults - and by introducing rules to improve behaviour. However, if by the end of this 'evaluation week' their behaviour is still unacceptable (so if they're still driving us barmy), then our thrice-weekly lessons will stop. I'm not sure I like that idea, seeing as today after Katya left and they finished their colouring they actually wanted to play a number game with flashcards. Even Nastya pronounced the numbers 1-5 correctly from the written English, even though she can't read Russian! I was very impressed. Katya has told us what English the older girls do know, and what games they know how to play. This will prove incredibly useful.

The action plan is to make proper lesson plans, with 3 or 4 activities on, so that they can see that the cartoon will come after the colouring in and games and such. This way we might actually only watch 30 minutes of film each time, rather than ending up watching them for an hour! I'm cautiously optimistic that maybe we might be good at taking Kindergarten after all. It would be a shame for them to miss out on what help we can give them with English, which they will all study at school.

The 4th form's behaviour also improved today. Not good by a long shot, but Vicka only pretended to fall asleep twice, and little Katya stopped saying "No Lesson!" once we'd shepherded her into the classroom. They enjoyed drawing self-portraits and labelling them.

5th form seemed happy to work on some English today after a few doss lessons of watching Racing Stripes. Though we went in with no lesson plan, Maxim handily turned up on time while the others were 10 minutes late. This meant that Maxim could show us where we left off in the book and we had time to look at the lesson plan quickly and translate what we could. With 2 pupils to a teacher we could keep an eye on the pairs of boys and give them lots of support. They didn't seem bored, only a little frustrated, but then I think it's been a while since they've had a proper lesson and they've not been in language-learning mode.


On to the awesome!

Yesterday Maxim tried to teach us how to play the incredibly complicated Game of Thrones board game. It's ridiculous - the rules make up a whole booklet! There are so many little bits and pieces of card or plastic to place on the board or in front of you. We managed to play less than 2 rounds in over an hour before the whole village came upstairs for the Therapeutic Community Meeting. He has challenged us to a rematch though, so Vicky and I have found the rulebook in English on the internet so we can put up a fight against him :D I really appreciate his friendliness, and patience with us.

Today we had an 'Autumn Festival' in Orion, complete with beautiful bouquets of yellow roses (my favourite!) in the dining room, and a play. The play was really sweet, based upon saying goodbye to Summer for the year and welcoming Autumn in: the girls performed a dance with leaves in hands, there was a game involving gathering paper leaves, children acted and recited poetry. There were riddles to solve with sweets as rewards, and also a Summer vs Autumn poem competition. I contributed a silly little rhyme:

"Summer is great, Summer is fun
We all eat ice-cream in the sun
Our ice cream melts, and then it falls
Onto the ground, oh hang it all!"

Yeah, it's not Pushkin, but I did think that up in about 10 seconds! I read it out, and then Katya translated it to Russian, even making it rhyme :O She didn't translate 'hang it all', but I think my tone of voice explained the disappointed sentiment and intended humour and got the intended giggle.

This evening Vicky felt like doing some sewing, but lacking any cross-stitch kits I proposed we used her materials to make some friendship bracelets. Though my first attempt failed about an inch in, my second attempt is looking good. I hope Vicky will like it anyway.

Joy was also in abundance today because I finally received a package my parents sent on the 4th of September, containing 3 bars of my favourite dark chocolate and my book of silly children's songs that I think the kids will enjoy.

Hooray! x

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