Teaching Jobs Overseas International Employment for Teacher

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International Employment for Teachers

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Teaching Jobs Overseas: International Employment for Teachers

Stories: Amazing Greece

by Wendy Irwing

Tekanis?! ―How are you?

I finally got my  compuyer hooked up to the internet and to email ― it was quite a fiasco getting all the parts to work! 

I've been teaching in Greece for about a month now, and I love my classroom ― its balcony, which is on the third floor of a building in the village of Derveni, provides an incredible view of sunsets over the mountain peaks that reflect off the sea, and I love my students.

My classes have only about 10 students in them. I don't need to know Greek because my students are all advanced enough that they can understand me. 

 


 

 "This is when you stop worrying and begin living"

The curriculum is pretty well set-up for the younger students, and for the older kids―I teach them just like I do American students. 

I teach writing, speaking, and a novel (Remains of the Day) to the advanced students. (The students have other teachers at my school for test preparation, grammar, reading comprehension, and listening skills.) 

What has really surprised me is the amazing vocabulary of the students here. 

 

They put our public school students to shame. I'm teaching with higher standards here, and at a higher level (with younger students) than I did back in America. 

It's really incredible. For one night's homework, I can assign four pages of out of a workbook, a chapter to read, a composition to write, and the students DO the work―and on time! I'm blown away! We mostly have discussions in class―the kind of teaching I always imagined myself doing.

The kids here work really hard. They go to public school during the day and go to language lessons and/or tutoring in the evening for a total of eight different classes a day. 

Some students have English lessons four times a week, plus another language (German, French, or Italian) and math and/or physics and/or chemistry tutors. They know that they only have one chance to get into the Greek university, and if they miss that chance they have to go out of the country for college. 

I wish American students had a greater appreciation for the educational opportunities that they have.

Besides enjoying my students, I enjoy living in Greece. When I'm not working, I'm living in a newly built apartment that is only 100 meters from the Gulf of Corinth―at night I can hear the waves crashing onto the beach. (I'm in the village of Pitsa, in the "state" of Corinthia, in the area of Greece called the Peloponnese, and I'm right on the northern coast, which is to the west of the city of Corinth.) 

My employers pay my rent and utilities, so all I have to worry about is my internet/phone bill. 

The apartment is on the first floor of an unfinished building. The upstairs is bare concrete and will some day be the home of my landlord and his family. 

The apartment has been constructed since I've been here. When I first saw it, I was very appalled―just stark, gray, gloomy concrete everywhere! Now the first floor is completed, and my apartment is rather upscale for Greece.

It has only one bedroom, but the place is new and clean (free of cockroaches and mildewed tile floors!)―unlike the older homes in the neighborhood. 

I have a washing machine (no dryers exist here), a balcony (not very far off the ground), marble floors, and a television that picks up CNN (unfortunately the Greeks dub over the English most of the time) and shows lots of English/American movies.

Outside my apartment is a patio/porch with a grape arbor for shade, and the grapes are ripe right now. Out my kitchen window is a lemon tree and a partial view of the Gulf of Corinth and the neighbor's garden (ripe tomatoes everywhere!). 

Down the street is the Gulf, and across that are mountains that are rarely visible due to the humidity/haze. Up the street are "medium-sized mountains," which are about 3,000 ft. high; the slopes of which are covered with lemon trees and olive groves. 

The "new" national highway follows the base of these mountains and so do the train tracks. If I climb up to the roof of my apartment building (three floors up), to hang up my laundry, I have an incredible view of the coastal villages, and at night I can see the lights of the villages in the mountains on either side of the Gulf and the lit-up cross on the walls of the monastery on top of a nearby mountain. (Not to mention stars!)

The water of the Gulf of Corinth is amazingly clear. Right now (during September and October) the sea is very calm, almost like oily glass. 

Standing on the rocky/pebbly beach, a person can see about 15 yards out into and about seven feet under the surface of the water. Flashes of silvery fish (about stream trout size) can be seen as they swim along the shore. 

I've even seen schools of dolphins playing out in the Gulf. Ships of all sizes are constantly passing by, and local fishermen have their (row/small power) boats moored every 100 meters along the shore.

When the wind blows, the waves are really impressive. The Gulf turns a deep royal to navy blue in the middle, and the white caps make a crisp contrast as they roll in towards the shore. 

Since the beaches around here are made up of polished, round pebbles, the waves, as they recede, draw the rocks with them, creating a sound similar to hundreds of beads being poured out of a jar. 

Most of this past summer the weather was gorgeous, and the village folks walked up and down the sidewalk between the road and the beach, just socializing with everyone who was out and about. 

In the afternoon, people go swimming or take naps; in the late afternoon, the men sit in cafenios drinking Greek coffee while playing Backgammon. 

It's appalling to see men sitting around doing nothing all evening, knowing that their wives are slaving away over dinner and housework back at home.

The daily schedule here is very different. People get up and shop at 8:00 in the morning. If you don't like to go out to shop, (gypsy) men driving trucks or tractors pulling small trailers full of bread, fish, and/or fresh produce, drive up and down each street honking their horns and yelling over loud speakers to announce their presence. 

 

It can be very annoying when a person is trying to sleep. At about 1:30 P.M. people have lunch (you'll notice I didn't mention breakfast―Greeks don't know what it is), and after 2:00 P.M. the stores are all closed, and the Greeks take naps and/or swim until 5:00 P.M. On some days, the stores open up again at 6:30―which makes shopping for me very difficult when I sleep in until noon and go to work from 3:00 until 10:00 P.M.! 

The stores close around 9:00 P.M., and dinner is served around 10:00 P.M. if not later. 

Restaurants and bars often stay open until 4:00 A.M.!

Shopping here is not easy. I can't read the Greek labels on the packages in the grocery store, so unless the food is in something see-through, or there's a picture on the label, I don't buy it. 

Stores owned by older Greeks are generally just piles of stuff stacked here and there, and the store lights aren't turned on unless you really need to look at something in the back corner where it's completely dark. 

When I go out with a list of things, and I'm happy if I come back with two or three items. (I'm getting better about making lists of items that I know I can find.) I'm especially grateful that the modern concept of super markets has arrived in Greece―just within the last ten years. 

The new stores are almost as good as shopping back home; the food is displayed in an organized manner, and I can recognize some of the brands! However, I still go to a separate store for meat, produce, bread, and for cookies―some things a girl has to have!

The Greeks still have a cash-only economy. It's weird to have to go to the bank all the time to make sure I have enough money to ride the bus, buy groceries, etc. I was really hooked on checks in the U.S. At least they have ATM machines available in the larger towns.

Since I don't have car payments, I'm actually making more (spending money) than I was back home. I still have yet to go on a major shopping trip―but that will be remedied soon. 

My employers have treated me to a trip to the island of Mykonos―the one with the windmills, the white houses with the blue trim, and the narrow streets (and where all the gay men go for vacation!). I really had fun shopping there because the stores stayed open until 1:00 A.M.! I also managed some trips to Athens (the acropolis and the Parthenon are incredible) and to the island of Spetses before school started. 

Traveling to the islands can be pretty tiring, though, because the ferries are only so fast. I did really enjoy a trip in a hydrofoil―a very fast cruiser-type ferry.

I hope to do some more traveling over the holiday breaks. I have two weeks off at Christmas and two weeks off for Easter (check for the Greek Easter), so if you come to visit, be sure to plan around those dates.

I wouldn't mind some English-speaking company. I've met a few people close to my age who speak English, but they don't live very close, so I don't see them very often. On Oct. 19 (my birthday), Susan, a teacher from England will be arriving and will occupy the apartment next to mine, so I'm hoping that we really hit it off great and have a wonderful year here. 

I already have a list of things to do with her or with whoever shows up for a visit. (By-the-way, if you're taking a class, apply for an international student I.D. card; it will reduce your travel costs by half!)

You'd really like it here. Except that you have to like olive oil―they put it on everything! I've found that I like a lot of Greek food―tzaziki, kalamarakia (fried squid), fried zucchini, fish, stewed green beans, lemon chicken soup, souvlakia, gyros, vlita (dandelion greens), and village salads (cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, green peppers, feta cheese, and lots of oil!). 

But I really miss breakfast foods, junk food, fast food, Chinese food, and I miss Mexican food. I think I need to stock up on Doritos, Pop Tarts, and Cream of Wheat when I go back to the states

The Greek drivers here will give any American heart failure. One student told me that the only reason they paint the lines on the road is so they know where it is at night! 

They don't pay much attention to lane divisions, and the "shoulder" of the road is really a lane for small cars. 

Passing can be done anywhere at anytime―a lot like the game of chicken―but instead of using turn signals, the Greeks honk their horns (which is all the time!). 

I don't recommend renting a car if you come to visit. You can borrow my bicycle if you want, though, and you can use the cart I just bought for hauling groceries from the super market to the bus stop―I know it's for old ladies, but I'm a wimp, and I didn't like dragging my knuckles on the ground after carrying bags all over town.

Kalispera,

-Wendy-

PS. Feel free to post whatever you think will interest your web page readers! I owe it to you and your web page that I'm actually here in Greece!

Thanks again,

-Wendy-

 

 

 

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