The English classes that I volunteered in met each day for 45 minutes. I would usually go to teach during gaps in my own class schedule. The two classes that I was part of the most in my experience at Anatolia were a fourth and fifth grade classroom. Each class had about 20 students in it. Each grade within the school had two different classes of students. All of the students that I was able to interact with were perhaps the most enthusiastic students that I have ever had the opportunity to work with. I’m not sure if it was because I have never had experience working with 4th and 5th graders in America or if it was because of the differences in culture, but this group of students had the most energy I have ever seen! They were all particularly thrilled with learning the English language, and also seemed eager to learn in general.
A normal day would begin at about 8 am and end at 2:30 pm. The fourth and fifth grade students at the school usually have their normal academic classes such as Math, Greek (equivalent to American students’ language arts classes) History, French (the students were learning to speak French fluently along with English), and finally an English class. The class schedule varied each day. Instead of having long breaks such as lunch and recess breaks that we have in the American school system, the Greek students have breaks for about 15 minutes four times a day. It gives them the opportunity to go outside in between lessons and play. During their break time, the students would frequently play “football.” The students were particularly engrossed with this sport, called Soccer in America. “Football” is an extremely popular sport in Greece and so the students are very competitive with one another when they play. The elementary school scheduled games for the students to play in tournaments against other classes. One day, classes were cancelled because a “football” game was being held!
This is very much an example of the Greek culture in the schools. It is very different from American school systems in that the schedules were determined on a daily basis. Sometimes classes would be cancelled because of different events or sometimes the teachers wouldn’t know if classes would be happening. One of my favorite aspects of the Greek culture is the importance of community and celebration of their own culture in the schools.
Everyday my teacher would change student activities in order to make learning more exciting for them. On Fridays, the students were given the opportunity to pick a topic that was of interest to them and present this topic to the classroom. One Friday I was able to observe this presentation, and watched one of my fourth grade students present his topic on the deep sea. I have never seen a student so interested and excited to share his knowledge about a particular topic. It was an extremely rewarding experience to be a part of.