I finally feel settled into a routine at Schooling Plus, so I thought it an appropriate time to talk about my experience teaching in Tunisia thus far! The center itself is run by three highly successful women, which I really like. My role here is largely to interact with my students, giving them the opportunity to practice communication skills with a native speaker. This means that I have a small part in every English class offered at Schooling Plus – an Arabic teacher teaches the bulk of the lesson, introducing new grammar and vocabulary, and I spend about a half an hour in the classroom with some type of speaking and listening activity. The ages of my students vary from unruly five year-olds to adults in their fifties, and with this continuum comes a range of abilities – on any given day I could teach one class the ABCs and another the intricacies of a business meeting.
I also have quite a few classes of my own – which is a first and is very exciting! I currently have three groups of YLE students (YLE stands for Young English Learners) in which I can be a total clown – songs, games, coloring, dances… I try to make these classes as educationally fun as possible since these poor kids have to sit and learn English for three hours on the weekend! I currently have two adult classes, one is a pre-intermediate class of young adults which meets twice a week and the other is an advanced class of deans and professors in the sciences that meets three times a week. I was at first intimidated by my academics group; it felt odd being a slightly ditzy 25-year old American teaching a group of successful and established male professors, but I have come to look forward to my time with them. The topics greatly interest me (this weeks topics have included global warming and recycling) and we always have stimulating discussions in which even I learn a thing or two. I started out co-teaching this class but they have requested to have me full-time, which has really boosted my confidence in teaching!
During the week I only work for two or three hours in the evenings. Saturday and Sundays are my busy days – I start teaching in the morning and don’t finish until dinner time. It’s more or less 8 straight hours of kids and afterwards I feel completely worn-out! Their happy little faces and the occasional “I love you teacher” makes it worth it though.
In related news, a couple of weeks ago I moved in with my manager, Mrs. Atadelle, and her family into their house which is located directly behind Schooling Plus. This has turned out to be a great decision, both in the practicality of living so close to work and the benefit of living with a family over an empty apartment, and then there is something else. As I learned in Turkey, living with a family can fully enhance your experience abroad. I have been given this rare opportunity to view Sfaxien life from the inside looking out, to feel a part of it. Today, for instance, I was on my way to work (i.e. a one-minute walk) when I heard somebody calling my name. I turned around and saw that it was Mr. Trigui inviting me to join the extended family for lunch. I had already eaten lunch, but didn’t mention this out of politeness. It turned out to be a feast of 3 courses prepared by his two sisters. First course, a vibrant red soup poured over broken up pieces of home-made bread. Second course, couscous served with piles of whole-grilled fish. And finally, dates dipped in a sweet peanut-colored sauce. Yes, this is what the inside looks like… picking fish-bones out of your teeth and discussing the secrets to a happy marriage in Tunisia with a warm and welcoming family (by the way, we settled on: a happy kitchen = a happy marriage = a happy life). And a simple family lunch made me think, how lucky am I?