with the little ‘uns

“What do you do when you’re not at the university?”
“Well, sometimes I hang out with small children…”

Last week, amidst a lot of meetings, interviews for the school paper (see page 2… seriously, why THAT picture?), and generally trying to get our lives figured out, Vickie and I had one meeting that changed our lives.

See, there’s this primary school that is supported by/located in the university. And they have English classes. But they have no English teacher. The principal (who speaks excellent English) had been taking on the whole English education of all the students. Coming from my middle/high school (where things like this happened all the time), I knew that while Svetlana would be perfectly capable of teaching all of the English classes, she probably had lots of other things on her plate. For this and several other, more selfish reasons*, when she asked Vickie and me to teach the first and second grade English classes, we were like YES PLEASE.

So far I have had two classes with the first grade, which I have adopted as my own (leaving second to Vickie). Because the class is pretty big (24 students), they divide in half for my lesson. I work with each group for 30 minutes, while the other group stays with their main teacher and has study hall, basically.

The first half-group on the first day I taught… well… they drew the short straw, I guess. I was in a flurry of “what do they know, and what are they supposed to learn by the end, and can I actually speak enough Russian to control 12 six-year-olds who know exactly 10 words of English, and wait we should play games. definitely all the fun games that I don’t know how to explain.” So we tried a lot of things that failed. But since then, it’s been going pretty well. The first group of the day is always eleven girls and one boy, and the second group is twelve boys. Oy. Still, I think I’m managing to at least teach them something. This week we mastered the question “What’s this?”, the names of various classroom objects, and “sorry.” Also I have figured out that they like to act things out if they get to be robots, and I am using this to my advantage.

As for me, I’m learning about the differences between large groups of six-year-old girls and those of six-year-old boys (SPOILER: there are a lot of differences). I’m also learning that children take a pretty evil delight in knowing something better than the teacher, which means they make fun of my Russian pronunciation mercilessly. When I asked them to open their books to page four, and then repeated the instruction in Russian so that they understood, they pounced on my execution of chetyre (four). Apparently I used my American “t” instead of my Russian “t,” and to them it sounded like I said chichire. So they chanted chichire intermittently for the last five minutes of class. (At such points I’m tempted to just stop speaking Russian altogether to punish them, but I feel like I would fare worse for that.)

Here are a few pictures I took from the school website (I’m not going to publish any of my own, for security/parental permission reasons). Most of these are second graders, but there are a few kids from my class sprinkled in there.


*Guys, children. Spending time with them makes your heart happy. Also diversifying my teaching experience etc.


4 thoughts on “with the little ‘uns

  1. Katie, you are following in your Nana’s footsteps….first and second grade!! You will be great and the children will love you! Wish I could read the interview that is in the school paper but my Russian is not too advanced. Spasibo!


  2. Hi Katie,
    WONDERFUL blog. Jesus loves the little children. What a wonderful exposure to culture to have the opportunity to work with first graders! I expect you are experiencing a “learning curve” even as you are hoping that the little ‘uns are also.
    With our continued prayers and thanksgiving,
    Grandpa John


  3. Katie,

    I enjoy the children whose eyes are in awe of their foreign teacher.

    I tutor young adults who are in an ESL class, and I have to find the things like your letter “t” that they need to pronounce closer to the “native speaker” level. Most of them come from Spanish-speaking countries. Fortunately my Spanish is spoken near-native, so I can stress that a 30-year-old CAN get a second language right. Of course I have to agree when they answer back that it is easier to learn Spanish than English!

    We pray on Sunday afternoons, so send us any reports and requests.

    “Uncle” Bob


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