Archives for category: Teaching

Wildflowers and mountains, very Bakuriani

I FINALLY made it to Bakuriani! It’s odd that I’d never been there before, as it’s just up the mountain from Borjomi, one of my favorite weekend getaways. I went there a different way than I usually travel, though; I was teaching at a summer camp held there. It was, to be honest, a pretty sweet gig (despite some incredibly rude kids): as a teacher I wasn’t responsible for the kids outside my class hours, so I got to have plenty of free time to read novels, go on walks, and catch up on Jane the Virgin. Bakuriani is primarily famous as a ski resort, but they’ve done quite well in marketing themselves as a summer destination, too. The place was full of summer camps and families relaxing outside the heat of Tbilisi. Though room rates are cut in half for summer, it looked like the hotel was making a fairly good profit selling the campers Coca-Cola and ice cream. It was on average about 10*C cooler in Bakuriani than back in Tbilisi, making the weather just lovely. We were lucky to have sunshine for the majority of our time there, and somehow I didn’t spot any mosquitoes!

Since camp was keeping the hotels quite full, I actually spent time in three different hotels: Hotel Ritza, Hotel Ana-Maria, and Hotel Edemi.  None of them were perfect, but all of them were quite good–especially for the summer season prices. I was definitely comfortable. They all seem to be managed by the same people, but Ana-Maria was the most recently renovated.


View of Aghmashenebeli Street from below, where Hotels Ritza (the big yellow one left of center), Ana-Maria, and Edemi are located.

Since I was at summer camp, I didn’t try any of the restaurants in town, eating with the camp at Ritza. The strawberry-apple jam and (home made?) pelmeni were excellent (though pelmeni for breakfast was hard on my stomach). Other meals were less impressive, but nothing was disgusting or anything. Likewise, I can’t comment on transportation to Bakuriani, as I traveled on the camp bus, though I hear the train up from Borjomi is wonderful.


Thunderstorms rolling in over the mountains at dusk

Everyone working in the little shops in town was incredibly friendly and helpful (not always the norm), and I really liked walking around, poking in various places, and exploring. The town layout was pretty simple, so I never worried about getting lost. One nice little walk was to a suspended footbridge behind the “Bakuriani Resorts” hotel (I think that’s near the “Otsdakhutianebi” ski slope. Visiting the Didveli ski slope and taking the cable car up was also fun, but be warned–5 GEL only gets you halfway up; you’ll need to spend another 5 GEL for the next cable car further to the top (I didn’t…this time). There’s quite a lot to do in Bakuriani (I didn’t have time to do it all): it has one of the few cinemas outside of Tbilisi, there’s an amusement park and a botanical garden, and you can rent horses, bicycles or ATVs to go for a ride. The scenery is beautiful, and in early July, at least, all the meadows were full of wildflowers. Bakuriani is definitely a nice place to escape the summer heat and relax–I hope to go back sometime soon, maybe I’ll even try skiing.


Many of you might have caught my title reference to Teach and Learn with Georgia, the Georgian government’s program placing English teachers in public schools (and while we’re vaguely on the topic: no, I don’t work for them).  At first I thought this name was rather hokey, but now that I’ve been teaching for longer, I understand it more, though not, I believe, in the way they intended it.  After my recent post on ExPat-ese, tcjbritishvili wrote a post about his take on the language situation for foreigners here in Tbilisi, and I commented that “I find it sad that there are many teachers who aren’t interested in learning…it seems wrong to me”.  Which has made me get all philosophical about what I do, and why I do it, and the meaning of life, and the universe and…well, I digress.  Though teaching is not my “profession” as Georgian-English would call it,  it is my job and I enjoy it.

Part of why I enjoy it is because I’m a nerd, and I love picking up new facts: one of my textbooks just had a lesson on rituals that discussed the significance and cultural variation of handshakes around the world, and one of my favorite units explains how to survive attacks by various wild animals–this information could come in handy sometime!  I think a love of learning is an important trait in a teacher, though, because it will (with luck) be contagious and keep the students interested in class.  As an English teacher abroad, one of the easiest ways to keep learning is to study local languages and do some online classes for “fun”.   I’m now enrolled in a great Georgian class here: come join me!

(Edit March 22, 2014: Unfortunately the Georgian program is no longer on the website: I’ve kept the following up for posterity’s sake, and if I hear of the situation changing, I’ll edit this post again)

March 4, 2013:

There’s a relatively new Georgian online language-learning website that I’ve been playing with lately:  They offer English, Russian, Italian, and French instruction for Georgian-speakers, and Georgian instruction for Russian speakers.  I’ve been using their Georgian program, and finding it particularly helpful for distinguishing between tricky Georgian phonics: კ/ქ/ყ, ტ/თ, and პ/ფ as well as for improving my Georgian typing skills (maybe not a major concern for everyone, but I consider it a useful life skill).  Even better–the Georgian programs are currently free!  They plan to develop more levels of the existing programs as demand increases, and a Georgian for English-speakers program is in the works.  I’m spreading the word so that demand for the Georgian programs will increase and I’ll be able to get to some more difficult topics, so please join!  I think that non-Russian speakers with a bit of Georgian would find the program helpful for improving their Georgian and perhaps learning some Russian in addition.  Unfortunately, the website itself  is only in Georgian, so I’ll post directions for getting started below.  I think the website is a great supplement to classroom time or life in the country, because it helps to cement high-frequency words through highly repetitive exercises. It won’t make you a fluent conversationalist (or put me out of a job), but it should help increase your comfort level with the fundamentals.  You also earn points through correct answers, and my competitive side quite enjoys overtaking people with Georgian names in their own language…(cheap thrills!).

Directions for starting a program if you don’t speak Georgian:

  1. Go to the homepage.
  2. In the top right corner, under the graphic that looks like the battery click “რეგისტრაცი“.
  3. In the first two boxes “ელ-ფოსტა” and “ელ-ფოსტა განმეორებით ” type your e-mail address.
  4. In the next two boxes “პაროლი” and “პაროლი განმეორებით” type the password you would like to use for the site.
  5. The next box is optional, but you can provide your telephone number, if you like.
  6. Next required box is “სახელი”–first name.
  7. Followed by “გვარი”–last name
  8. The drop down boxes are for birthday (optional)
  9. The next boxes are optional, sex and city if you care to answer.
  10. When you’ve completed the form, push the white bottom below that says “შენახვა”
  11. You’ll receive an e-mail at the e-mail address you provided. Click on the link to activate your account.
  12. When you’re ready to investigate the class options, click on the “პროგრამა” tab. Language classes are listed by the country’s flag.
  13. The rounded boxes on the “პროგრამა” tab will give information about the course: duration (xx დღე) and price (xx ლარი or უფასო free).
  14. To start a free class, click on the “დაწყება” button, and click “OK” as necessary. You will eventually be brought to a screen telling you that you need to install the appropriate keyboard for the language you are learning. You can do this independently of them with no trouble at all, but remember to switch your keyboard or all your answers will be wrong.  Then start the class, and mess around until you start to learn the language and the software.
  15. To start a paid class click on the “ყიდვა” button, which will take you to the payment screen. I haven’t done a paid course, so I can’t explain this step-by-step, but I know that you can pay by credit card or paybox

Some advice for using the online program:

You don’t need to type the spaces between words, and doing so will be incorrect (this takes some getting used to!).

There are multiple different types of exercises including dictation, translation, filling in the blanks, writing just the first letters of the word, and correcting orthographic mistakes–often I find that when the program isn’t working, or claims I’m making mistakes when I know I’m right, it’s because I’m not paying attention to the type of exercise that has popped up.

There are still some minor bugs–sometimes the audio doesn’t match what you’ve typed when you typed correctly, or it tells you to translate into English when it means Georgian, but none of them are remotely dealbreakers in my book.

I’m an actress.

Well, no I’m not–I’m a teacher, but often the two are the same thing.  As a kid I wanted to be an actress, and all the acting classes I took have been the single most useful thing for me in trying to be a good English teacher.  (I’m not saying that this can replace professional teacher training, but since I don’t have that, I use the skills I do have to my best advantage)  I don’t often post about my work on the blog because I want to preserve my and my students’ privacy, but I think this is an important topic.  There are lots of English teachers in Georgia now, of all different ages and levels of professionalism.  I have friends who are career ESL teachers or working on their PhDs in pedagogy, while I know others who consider their teaching incidental to the opportunity to enjoy plenty of Georgian wine.  I’m in the middle of this spectrum–I’m not a professional English teacher (before I came to Georgia I was a language learner, a Georgia lover, and a swim teacher), but I take my job seriously.  I owe it to my students to be the best English teacher I can be–and to do that I have to invoke the skills I learned in Middle School Drama Club.

Em and her friend T in the 8th Grade Play. Em was the octogenarian dowager princess in a version of Sleeping Beauty.

Build your character Teacher Em is really a character I play while I’m in the classroom.  Teacher Em is far more confident than Regular Em, and Teacher Em knows far more about English Grammar.  When I get ready to teach, I get dressed and do my make-up for my role.  The clothes I wear, the make-up (Regular Em doesn’t wear much) are all part of getting myself into character.  I think of myself in my teacher persona before I go to class, and then I have the confidence to stand up in front of people for two hours and be an expert on the English language.

Learn your lines.  Although developing a teacher persona helps me feel confident enough to stand in front of my class, Teacher Em can only make it so far if she hasn’t got a clue what the Present Perfect Continuous is (In case you’re wondering, that’s “have been” constructions) .  This is why prepping for class, like learning your lines, is vital.  I don’t script an entire class and then memorize it, of course, but I make a point to look at the activities and grammar explanations before I stand in front of my students.  Sometimes their questions still catch me off guard, but that’s what improv is for (also, that’s what saying “That’s a good question. I’ll find the answer for you by the next class” is for).

Enunciate. This should go without saying, but you’d be surprised.  Speaking English clearly helps the students understand, and improve their own pronunciation.  And all those diction tongue-twisters we learned in Drama Club warm-ups make an in-class activity that even older students enjoy.

Energy! Energy! Energy! It’s rather tricky to teach your students anything if they’re fighting to keep from falling asleep.  Bring the energy to help them stay engaged.

And even if something unexpected happens, in teaching like in the theatre The show must go on!

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