Forget CEOs! Teachers Get Bonuses!

In Turkey, November 24th is Teacher’s Day.

Inside and outside of one of my cards. (We are still practicing articles.  There are none in Turkish. My kids think they are tricky—clearly.)

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  Teacher’s day is a serious business in Turkey.  To understand why, a little history is necessary.     It was only 90 years ago, in 1923,  that five years of primary education became compulsory and publically funded.  It was not until 1951 that middle schools were introduced and eight years of education became available to the public.  It was only in 1997 that it became compulsory to complete 8th grade. 

Comparing it to the U.S., it may seem strange that children have only been required to finish 8th grade for 15 years, however it is a matter of  when and where education began.  In 1923, when Atatürk created the public education system, only 10 % of the population was literate. 

He had big goals and wanted his country to be modern, to do this he knew literacy was needed, at the least.  However by 1926 there were only 200 teachers in Turkey and to accomplish his goal to provide publically funded education to children until the 5th grade he needed about 3000.  There were simply not enough teachers in the country. 

Teacher Education programs were quickly established, though the dearth of teachers  is one of the reasons for the tradition of large class sizes (in recent times about 4o or 50 students in a class in public schools, 30 in private).   For all of the challenges, from 1923 to 1999 the official illiteracy rate lowered from 90% to 14.3%, a tremendous drop in about 75 years (Karakaşoğlu, 2007, p. 790).

Due to the historical context of education in this country, teachers are greatly valued.  The term “Hocam” (my teacher) is an honorific and a very respectful salutation .  There is no difference in terminology for a university professor with a PhD from a primary school teacher—they are all considered equally important and are all “Hocam.”    On Teacher’s Day in Turkey, students present their teachers with chocolates and flowers, sometimes other presents too.  In the past, in addition to the lovely home-made cards and sweet letters, I have received a set of towels, scarves, mugs, and even sweaters!  On Teacher’s Day our school gives bonuses based on how many years you have been at the institution.  For some of the older teachers the bonus is equivalent or exceeds a month’s salary.  For me, it was a meaningful gift ( almost $300).   Some students even visit their former, retired teachers at home on Teacher’s Day.  It is very interesting to me that as a “Developing” country Turkey is able to financially reward teachers to such an extent.   I worked in the U.S. as a teacher and was never even wished a “Happy Teacher’s Day,” let alone a gift from your employer! 

 

P.S.There is a Teacher’s Day in the U.S., it is on Tuesday during Teacher Appreciation Week, which takes place in the first full week of May—Who Knew?

Survived!

I have survived the first week of school.  It went pretty well.  I missed teaching and the kids.  There is something special about the first week of school, when the kids are a little scared and trying to make a good impression.

A lot of my students from last year have come looking for me and have asked how my father is.  They knew he was ill, but are surprised when I tell them he died.  A couple times little girls have actually teared up.

Being back I knew people might ask how it was to be home and how my father is. What I didn’t expect from people is the comment…Wow you had a really long vacation!  They seemed to skipped over the terminal illness and death thing.   I had a particularly awkward encounter with  my neighbor.  First she commented on my long vacation, I said I went home because my father was very ill—he had cancer.  So then she asked what kind.  I said prostate because I don’t know how to say endocrine tumor in Turkish.  She said, oh..that’s not so bad, my father has that, then she asked how my father was now.  Dead.   I think she has been avoiding eye contact.

On my quest to have a more balanced life, I have been going to bed earlier this year.  It makes such a difference to go to sleep at 10 instead of 12.  It makes the morning so much less painful.  On the other hand, it is a habit that makes mornings come early.  It means that by 9 am this morning, I had showered, blown my hair dry, had breakfast, and walked the dog.  I had tried to sleep in, but to no avail.  I have a wedding to go to tonight.  I will have to take a nap to be able to stay conscious past 10!

School is Back!

I was on a posting roll, and now silence it back.  I am working on building new routines.  I have been away from the apartment for about seven months in total since January.  Coming back spurred re-organization and new projects.  I have also needed some time to re-acclimate and settle back in to Turkey.  I am also spending lots of time just enjoying being with my husband. 

Also work. School hasn’t started yet, but we have had a couple of weeks of teacher In-Service days, getting ready for the new semester.  I am excited about the new school year, and without the stress from last year, believe I will be a better teacher, person and friend this year.  I really did not have a lot of patience for anything last year, all my thoughts were at home. 

I am working on developing balance this year.  Balance for work, health and home.  (More on health balance in another post.)  I also have a few trips coming up, and am looking forward to those to.  Technically the New Year is in January, but for teachers, it really starts in September!

Oh Real Life? Ouch!

Back from the delicious lands of vacation and back to work.  This year I have adjusted my teaching style from Western to Turkish.  If I treated my students in the US this way there would have been a mutiny.  I am serious.  I stopped wearing dangly earring while working in San Diego because I was afraid they would be RIPPED from my earlobes while I broke up fights.  I am not kidding.  One time I thought these girls were going to toss each other from a window (3rd floor.)

Turkish students are used to authoritarian teaching, they do not respond well to the US style of teaching.  They see it as weakness and walk all over you.  Since I have modified my style the students behave better and learn more.  Class is a little less fun for all of us, but since the learning has improved I will suck it up and be a crazy b*tch.  On the plus side they are much more respectful in general, and are very sweet.

Today was a long hard day. Hall duty and 7 classes which means I have to stand in the hall darning ALL the breaks including lunch and only have one class off all day (40 minutes at 10 am—that’s when I eat my lunch.)

After eight hours of standing on my feet and holding both my bladder (we are not supposed to leave the hall to use the bathroom) and my patience, I went home and started to cook.  Cooking relaxes me.  However I followed a recipe and it was a big fat fail.  I now have to figure out how t salvage all that craptastic soup.  Cooking did not work to relax me this time.

So now I am having a glass of wine.  And it seems to be hitting the spot.

Back to School…Sorta

So last week was my first week of teaching after not working since February.  The week went really well, and I was excited to be back.  The school is great, the colleagues are wonderful, the kids are…kids. All in all a great workplace.  This afternoon I was preparing for the second week of classes, writing my lesson plans, preparing dinner for Monday, planning to go to bed early and then all of a sudden I wasn’t.  I have next week off.  

Swine Flu.  I had heard some students a nearby college had been diagnosed with swine flu.  There was a death over the weekend due to the flu.  All elementary and secondary institutions have been closed for disinfection.  So I worked one week, and now have a paid vacation.  I do not mean to sound cavalier about the flu, but a week off is a week off.

So we are driving to Antalya to see Bulent’s sister.  Antalya is a city right on the Mediterranean.  Right now they are still enjoying beach weather, about 75 or 80.  A nice break from the frigid 60-65 and sunny we are having in Ankara now. 

Starting Work a Month Late

My Work Permit finally came.  It was supposed to be processed sometime in early September.  It was supposed to be ready *next week* for about five weeks.  Well, I have it now.  We moved into our apartment provided by the school last night.  I am excited, it is quite large, has two large balconies, a large kitchen and TWO Bathrooms.  TWO Bathrooms!  It is also closer to downtown.  Where we were living was, great. The apartment was beautiful and only about 10 minutes from my school, but it was 20 km from downtown.  So Bulent’s commute to downtown would be long, expensive and frustrating.  But this new place is equidistant to downtown and my work.  There is also the added benefit of living in the same building as the other foreign teachers, aka neighbors I can talk to, and invite over.  My former neighbors were very friendly and inviting, however they did not speak English.  One of my old neighbors invited me over for tea several times, and it was very awkward.  We would talk in baby Turkish, and body language until she got frustrated and called her son in Istanbul and had him translate on the cell phone.  That poor man, he is patient but really, there is a limit to which I will subject strangers to inane small talk—and that is it.

You Will Have No Sympathy

I have been back to work for two weeks now, after a glorious 6 months of traveling and relaxing. And things never change. Two weeks after I started working I realized I had to do laundry. Right. Now. Because I have no clean underwear for tomorrow. Not even the granny panties. It is funny how quickly you get back into the cycle of not getting what you need to done–in a timely manner. Thankfully I realized this 9 pm and will not have to go commando tomorrow. Also, soon I will have more time for mundane chores.

Yes, once school starts I will only be working 4 days a week. (Yes, that is right, I will have one weekday off a week, plus weekends.) And right there is where you might want to smack me. Also, maybe step on my toes because….of the perks. Convenience. Every day, I eat a well balanced, freshly prepared lunch, for free. It saves so much time messing around in the kitchen the night before, or in actuality—2 minutes after I should have left. I know. But here is the thing, we are not cold cuts people, so sandwich material tends to be limited. And you do not always want to haul leftovers out. Or the leftovers you have might not be as appealing as one would hope.

This was nice about my poor student days at San Diego State when I also worked at 7-11. I got all the free day-old sandwiches I wanted. I had one for lunch almost every day. And for dinner on the nights I was too tired to cook. The wages were horrid but I made up for it by eating my own weight in stale sandwiches.

So far my lovely free lunch on real plates has not be taken for granted. Though it may soon be eclipsed by another service, I just found out about. There is a Doctor on campus, who will see you, diagnose you, and call in your prescription. Which is THEN delivered to your classroom!! Obama, when you are looking for ideas for health care—take a peek over here!!!!!

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Yay Perks!

The school year is starting soon, which means I have gone back to work.  In Turkey school does not start until after Bayram, the celebration after Ramazan.  However, just like everywhere else the staff goes back first.  And so I am introduced to the Turkish school system.   The first thing to know, is that since I am a foreign teacher I have been offered an apartment as well as a salary.  A 3 bedroom, two bath, two living room apartment.  In addition to my salary.   Fantastic!  I mean who wouldn’t love this.

The other perks please me almost as much, and also tell you how simple my desires are.  Chaici and Lunch.

Let me explain.  In most larger businesses there is a Çaycı—or Tea maker.  In my school there is a small room where two men make tea and coffee all day.  And deliver it.  You just call down and they bring you tea or coffee, for about 50 kurus (about 35 cents).  It is BEAUTIFUL!!! Amazing!!  A pleasure.

Lunch.  There is a free yummy, healthy lunch served everyday that includes soup, main course, dessert and fruit.  Free.  Every day.   This means no more shelling out tons of money on lunch.  Or PB&Js.  Or plain rice with chickpeas… (I kept forgetting to buy peanut butter, or bread.)  So there you go.  I am just as excited over easy access to lunch and coffee as I am for an awesome apartment.  I have big dreams.