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Writing Lessons on Trains

Teaching and Traveling in Kosova

Eight Month Class Update


We celebrated 100 days of school at the end of February. We had 100th day of school crowns and played with the 100 balloons third grade blew up. We practiced counting and writing to 100. 
We had a successful Mother’s Day performance where the students recited a Mother’s Day Poem I wrote to include “I love you mom” in all of the languages that my first graders speak. They sang a pretty charming song for their moms that was taught by our art teacher as well. 
We studied animals of all kinds and made some pretty great non-fiction animal books. 


We learned about poetry for three weeks ending in a school wide poetry week. My students were most excited by the poetry gallery, the poetry balloons, the poetry bake sale (buy a treat with a poem) and sharing their poetry books with their second grade reading buddies. 


We’ve also made some big strides in reading and math. I’ve got a whole class of students on a first grade reading level and first grade sight words!!! This is a ton of growth for my little students who started out with no English, some were unable to read and write even their own names! In math we’re working on some double digit addition and an added bit of geometry. I used gofundme to raise money for 10 kindles and a bake sale to raise money to get Razkids to help the students learn to read and to add more books to our library. 

We took a trip to the Bear Sanctuary on Prishtina. We learned that sanctuary means safe place. Also no one got eaten so that was good. 


We had an Easter egg hunt after the students spent the week in art class learning to dye eggs.

My students are as charming and energetic as usual. Lately they have gotten into telling “jokes” and showing me “magic tricks” here are a few of my favorites as well as a few of my favorite conversations: 
Student: what is a ladybugs favorite day? 

Me: ?

Student: spring 

Me: oh so funny

Student: yes! It is funny because spring isn’t a day and the ladybug likes it anyways! 

American student: Teacher, what country is this? (Holding my magnet of the Grand Canyon)
Me: The United States. 

American Student: Teacher, I don’t think that is the United States.

Me: Can you hand me the tape on my desk? 

Student: Teacher, what is tape? 

Me: The clear sticky stuff.

Student: Teacher, what is clear?

Me: It’s see through.

Student: Teacher, what is see through?

Me: It doesn’t have a color. 

Student: Teacher what is color? 

Me: Red, green, pink, blue…

Student: Purple! Red!

 Me: Yes, colors.

Student: Ahhh, color!
Student: Teacher what is sticky? 

Me: You know, I’ll just get it myself. 

Student: Teacher, what is self? 

Me: Good morning ____! How are you feeling today?
Student: Today I am feeling 71 happy and 72 excited. 

I overheard two of my students talking at lunch: 

Student one: I like your shirt ,where did you get it?

Student two: This I buy from Viva Fresh. This I buy from Bulgaria. Me I buy from my mom’s tummy. 

   

 Hope you enjoyed reading! 

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Women’s March in Prishtinё

Earlier this year, January 21st 2017, I attended the Women’s March in Prishtinё

to echo the Women’s March on Washington. I arrived to the march in the cold with snow underfoot along with four other American women. We joined a crowd full of signs boasting “ndal  hunën ndaj grave dhe vajzave” (resist violence against women and girls) and “të drejtat e grave janë të drejta të njeriut” (women’s rights are human rights) among other signs.

We quickly received stickers from one of the woman who had organized the march and chatted with several other American and international woman as well as local woman all living and working in Prishtinё. Then it was time to march.

We marched quietly, following a banner that nearly reached across the street. Photographers and journalists walked alongside us and took many photographs and videos. Several of these images have been shared around the world.X X X X

We were greeted by many individuals excited by our colorful signs created by Join the Uproar and The Amplifier Foundation. We felt a bit like celebrities as many people took pictures of us, with us and with our signs. It was however, a very interesting feeling to be in the published photos when we are not local Kosovars. I feel that the reasoning was that our signs were in English and easy for the intended audience of the articles to read. I do wish that they had included more photos of the whole march.

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It was quite powerful to be a part of the largest march in history but humbling to know those issues prevail worldwide.

If you’re questioning the need for a worldwide feminist march please take some time to watch Girl Rising and The Mask You Live In. Then read about feminism; I think you’ll find yourself in support.

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A Visit to Prague and the Christmas Markets 

Ever since I’ve learned of their existence, I have wanted to go to as many European Christmas markets as possible. We have quite a cute one in Pristina which sells a lot of hot wine and coffee but not much else. I went to one in Paris as well, but it was not the big famous market held under the Eiffel Tower.

img_1192We had missed the big Parisian Market by a week because we went over Thanksgiving break which may be the kick off to the Christmas season in the U.S., but not in Paris. Back home in Pristina, I set about Googling the best Christmas markets and I started messaging my friend Jenny, who teaches in France, to decide where we should meet up for a true European Christmas Market experience. We decided on Prague. We had both always wanted to go to Prague but hadn’t yet made it. It was also a classic place to go for a beautiful Christmas-y weekend.

Waiting for my friend Jenny at the airport, I felt like I’d walked into the final scene of Love Actually. Families all around me kissing and hugging as they met up for the holidays intensified my excitement for the winter wonderland Prague promised to be.

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Like most European cities, Prague has a great transportation system so the train dropped us off right in the middle of a little neighborhood Christmas market surrounded by beautiful buildings and less than a block from our hostel.

92b48a92-5c71-49a9-864c-f31a343c24f6We spent most of the weekend wandering around and looking at the beautiful buildings and the Christmas markets. Saturday night Jenny and I went to the famous Christmas market and it was a complete zoo!
Shoulder to shoulder people from all over the world speak a dozen different languages. Lines were easily 30 people deep to even look at the stalls. We ended up taking a long walk back and meandering through a couple of the smaller, but utterly charming markets.


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Sunday night we tried again and it was so much better. I really recommend a day that is not Saturday to wander Prague, if possible. Sunday, the big Christmas market was beautiful and pleasantly busy. The lights illuminated the night and brought a cheer to the old town square. With the clock tower on one side, a cathedral on the other, a children’s choir and a beautifully lit tree in between, Prague at Christmas is a picture right off of a Christmas card.


While in Prague, we toured the national library in the Clementinum. The room was so beautiful, but they wouldn’t let us take photos probably to better preserve the books and the art. As a part of the ticket we also saw a cathedral and an astronomy tower. We got some great views of the city from the top.

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We also got the chance to take a warm wintery boat ride around the central part of Prague between the old town and the rest of the city. Traditional spiced hot wine and tea were included with our tickets and looked at the bridges and buildings from the water. We got a good look at the museum for the famed Charles Bridge and the collection of locally made nativity scenes featured inside of it.

 

By the time Jenny and I headed our separate ways, we had seen four Christmas markets, two gingerbread stores, and a million lights. Prague was gorgeous and I loved it!

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A Long Weekend in Paris

img_1056Paris is arguably the most notable and clique city in Europe. City of Lights, City of Love, City of people who’ve been dreaming about European travel.
Summer of 2015, Paris was where I first landed in Europe. It was the start of my solo travels, traveling with friends/family, and a month long teach-in-England experience.

I had an awful time. Flight landed three hours early with three hours too little sleep, I got caught in customs, lost in the subway system, there was a huge line for a taxi when I gave up on it. It was a whole mess. Then on top of that I could find nowhere to get food and I got lost trying. Then it rained, while I was lost and hungry and so I committed the ultimate jet-lag sin and I fell asleep at 4pm. Don’t ever fall asleep at 4pm. Ever.  I was up at midnight stuck sitting silently on the top bunk of my first ever hostel

Needless to say I was on a train to my next destination by five the next morning.

I had planned to end my big trip in Paris that was when I had planned to spend some actual time playing tourist. I say tourist quite purposefully as there is no true traveling in Paris. In Paris you’re a tourist; it’s best to embrace it.

I will say I had a much much better experience that round. Saw the Mona Lisa (I like Winged Victory better), walked the Champs Elysee, visited a few chalets, got given tickets to the Pompidou Center. To top it all off we saw the fireworks get set off of the Eiffel Tower on Bastille Day and I don’t know that I will ever see anything to top that.

So Thanksgiving this year, I met up with a friend teaching in southern France, and a trio of my American friends who still live in Kansas City. I was a couple of days late to the party so they had already done a lot of the touristy things that I had done the summer prior so that I wouldn’t miss out on anything new to me.

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Now besides having to work right up until Thanksgiving day my teaching had graced me with the worst cold/flu illness that I’ve had in years. I don’t think I’ve had a fever since high school but man did I have a fever my first two days in Paris. My friends had my back, helped me find some cough drops and let me nap on their shoulders’ on the subway. Though also, as true friends do, they made a collage of photos of all the places I fell asleep throughout Paris. They had a good collection though: me asleep on a friend’s shoulder, on a train, on a bus, in a restaurant, on another train, standing up on a train, standing up in a train station and sitting on the couch in the AirBnB which was literal steps from my bed.

Beyond a bit of altitude sickness my first day of ski school when I was eight I’ve never been sick while traveling. I’ve learned I never want to be sick while traveling again.

I did have a good time trying some new things out in Paris. We went up to Versaille and wandered our way through the most extravagant building I’ve ever set foot in.

We spent a day on a hop-on-hop-off bus sitting next to the heaters and seeing the sights. We took cheesy photos by the Louvre and went to a chocolate museum.

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My favorite part was the Tour Montparnasse tower. The views of Paris from there were incredible. We stood up at the top forever in the cold just looking at the city before We ducked down to a lower deck to wait until it was time for the tower to glitter again.

 
Even if Paris isn’t my top city I will admit there’s nothing like the glitter of the Eiffel Tower at night and there is nothing like a good weekend of laughter with my friends.

Thessaloniki and Dion

Last weekend I got the chance to go to Thessaloniki, Greece and the ruins of Dion at the base of Mount Olympus. I’ve wanted to go to Greece for a long time. I really loved reading about the history of Greek, Roman and Egyptian civilizations while I was growing up. I loved reading of the sophisticated structures that people had, the roads, the aqueducts,  the culture, the myths, and the interactions between the cultures.

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I’ve gotten a taste of Greek and Roman Ruins in Italy and here in Prishtina, but to go to the ruins at the base of Mount Olympus was something completely different altogether.

I had a crazy journey getting to Greece, so crazy it got its own blog post.

We started the day with a walk down the ruins which lead us further into the old town. We stopped at a bakery for a pair of traditional pastries and a fresh juice place and for some fresh squeezed juice. We wandered around the ruins that were integrated right into the city.

 

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Thessaloniki also has several beautiful churches. They all had beautifully carved wooden furniture, glowing candle lit lighting, and traditional art inside. My favorite was a massive chandelier carved from wood that hung low in the middle of the room and lit up the whole cathedral.

Another impressive sight in Thessaloniki is the Rotunda.   Known for its decorative mosaics made of tile, the Rotunda is a huge building that had been a temple, a cathedral, a mosque and then a cathedral again. What remains of the ceiling is beautiful and detailed. The building still has the Minaret from when it was a mosque.

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Right down the road is an archway that Thessaloniki is known for. Its known as the Arch of Galerius. The carvings on it were still really stunning and fairly clear despite being nearly 1,750 years old! It’s crazy to think that those carvings have stuck around for so long.

 

Another of the iconic buildings of the city is the White Tower.  The Tower has very odd stairs but a great view. It has kind of an ambiguous history that seemed more or less just a symbolic show of who had control of the city.

After we had hit all of the historical sites that we could find, we took advantage that Thessaloniki is a  bigger town and did a bit of shopping. As the night went on, we made the trek back up the big hill to our hostel. All together, we walked over twelve miles around the city in a day.

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The next morning we went to buy a quick breakfast from a very nice Greek vendor who gave us some oranges for free and wished us well. We sent off an hour further south towards Mount Olympus and we got a bit lost in the tiny village of Dion before turning around in a sheep field and making our way to the ruins of Dion.

Dion was beautiful, all hidden under ruby red crunchy leaves and towering trees. The ruins went on and on and on. It had two churches, two theaters, and at least a dozen temples. There were remains of stores, and guesthouses, and homes. The city was amazing to walk around. It was also a total gem of peace and quiet since we came so late in the fall. It seemed like no one else was around. In the two hours we were there we saw two small groups and two families and so it felt like the ruins, statues, and mosaics were just out there to explore.

I especially loved the temples. The temple to Zeus was probably my favorite because it was exactly the temple from Hercules when Hercules goes and visits his father in the temple. I really loved to see that since I’ve wanted to come to Greece my whole life and a lot of that was due to Hercules, Magic Tree House, and Percy Jackson.

I really loved my first weekend dash into Greece and I’m sure I’ll be back for a while longer another time soon.

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Journey to Greece

Last Friday after parent-teacher conferences, I started off towards Greece with Rhett, one of my fellow American teachers. It seemed like an easy enough trip but it quickly all went wrong.

We had a simple plan, pick up the car we had reserved and drive to Greece. We had directions screenshotted on our phones for when we lost service in Macedonia and Greece. So, we took our usual bus from the school to the center of town and got off a stop early to pick up our rental car. While we chatting with the guy at the rental agency, he asked where we were going and when we told him Greece, he just said “no.” No? “Why no?” we asked and he told us that we could not take a Kosova rental car to Greece for two reasons: first, we cannot take a car with Kosova license plates into Greece without paying €180 in insurance and licensing; and second, the rental company (Hertz) only has Kosovar employees and Kosovar citizens cannot go to Greece. If the employees cannot get to Greece, then they cannot come and get the car if something went wrong. All of which is true only because Greece does not recognize the country of Kosovo and therefore does not recognize its citizens.

Okay, so plan B?

We walked out of the rental car place with an added determination to go to Greece as we had each been planning to go since moving to Kosova. So we walked straight around the corner to an unofficial taxi stand and got in a taxi to the bus station. We were at the bus station for less than three minutes as we ran down the line of the busses trying to find the Skopje bus and, of course, it was last in line.   We hustled down the long row of busses and just managed to climb on it as it pulled out of the station.  We found the last two open seats on the entire bus.

All right, so we do the math. Because of  parent-teacher-conferences, we got to leave school really early and we caught the 14:30 bus for Skopje.  We should get to the bus station at or before 16:30, which would allows us to catch the 17:00 train or bus to Thessaloniki where our hostel reservations are. The bus station is just below the train station, so all we’ll have to do is exchange a bit of currency and buy a ticket. Okay, we’ve got this!

We’re moving along the Kosovar countryside, stopping on occasion to pick people up or drop them off. Then we stop for gas. Then we stop so the bus driver can chat with a worker at a second gas station. Then we stop to let more people off. Then we finally hit the border crossing into Macedonia and get through the first window of customs just fine. But when we go to the second window, however, it takes considerably longer, After many minutes tick away, eventually they pass back all of our passports. But the bus still doesn’t move forward. An officer gets on and asks, in Albanian,  “Who speaks English?” Rhett and I look at each other worried.   We are very clearly the only people on the bus who speak English. I’m worried that there is something wrong with our passports. The man sitting behind us raises his and and gets off of the bus with the men. He comes back a few minutes later and collects all of his things and we drive away without him.

Plan C

The bus pulls up to the station at 17:30, a full hour after the arrival time. We’ve missed both the bus and the train to Thessaloniki. We go inside the station anyway, just to check that the bus and the train have left, we were hoping that they were delayed, as we were and there is still time  enough to catch them but, no luck, they’ve both left already.

We go outside to catch a taxi to the airport and luckily find the best cab driver in Macedonia. We talk the whole ride to the airport and he tells us all about his kids, and what to see next time we’re in Skopje, and what he thinks of the brand-new, over-the-top buildings,  and we have a good laugh about the number of statues going up in the city each day.

He asks us when our flight is, and we let him know that we are actually looking to rent a car. Since the other rental places close at 16:30 and the ones at the airport are open until 19:00 or later, the airport is our only option. “Ah, I know a guy. I’ll get you the best car.” And he did. He walked us in and he spoke rapid fire Macedonian with the guy and next thing we knew we were outside with a very cute little car. Then our favorite cab driver gave the car his okay, made us promise to wear our seatbelts, told us to drive safe, and gave us advice on where not to buy gas (Greece). He then gave us a big Balkin goodbye hug with a kiss on the head, just like the local teachers do with all our little students.

We follow the taxi out of the parking lot, around the tolls, and onto the right highway with a hand waving out the window telling us where to go. We get started on the right road and we cruise along to our exit 30 km up the road but….. we take a wrong turn.   And another wrong turn after our u-turn, and we end up lost on an uninhabited little road in Macedonia. Keep in mind that in the Balkans in November it gets dark around 16:30, so it has been dark outside for hours at this point.

We spot a restaurant/roadstop with a glowing sign advertising “Coca Cola, Pizza, and Wifi” on the road next to the one we are on,  so I take a gravel maybe-road to the stop. We have a bit of a time with the car as it does not have a parking gear. It has drive, reverse, and neutral, but no park.  It turns out the wifi at this place is a lie, but they’ll accept our euros, so we get some dinner and puzzle over our maps until we figure out where we are going.

Back in the car, we are ready to go. I put my keys in the ignition and turn them and…nothing. Thankfully, the car’s manual is in English but we spend over 20 minutes just trying to start the car. It turns out that the car has to be in neutral, with the emergency brake on, both seat belts buckled, both doors closed, the lights on, your foot on the break, and it had to be at least a full minute since the last time you’ve tried to turn the car on.

Finally, we put all the steps together and take off towards Greece, going the right way this time. There’s only a minor issue when we get caught in a Macedonian toll with enough money to pay, but in the wrong bills and coins to get through the toll. Who knew they would only accept €1 coins and €.50 coins? No bills, no 1 cent, 5 cent, 10 cent, or 20 cent I thought the guy was never going to let us through.   We finally found some Macedonian Denar (which feels a bit like Monopoly money since our toll was nearly 90 Denar)  and paid nearly the whole toll in that plus nearly the whole toll in Euros, but none of us were ready to try and figure out change. I thought the honking car behind us was going to rear end us out of anger, but the toll worker finally let us through.

We get through the border crossing just fine only to get lost in Thessaloniki as soon as we hit the little tiny streets. I finally gave in and turned my airplane mode off and paid for cell service in Greece so we can call our hostel. The nice guy offers to help and asks Rhett to describe where we are, of course we have no clue where we are.  We think we are near the hostel and there is a pretty view and some ruins by us.  He says “okay, stay there” and hangs up and less than 2 minutes later a college-y aged guy knocks on our window.   It’s the guy from the hostel, we were so close, he just walked over to us and he directed us into a parking space and we walked up a couple flights of stairs that run along the ruins and we’re finally at our hostel.

Our 4.5 hour drive to Greece turned into 9 hours of crazy, but Greece was so worth it.

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View from the ruins next to the hostel.

A Day in Prizren

Prizren is one of the larger cities in Kosova. It is often cited as the cultural capital of the country. I was excited to visit some of the older building and squares in the city, as Prizren was not damaged to the same extent as the rest of Kosova during the war that took place in the late ‘90s.

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Prizren was an easy two hour bus ride each way with local music videos playing on the tv screen at the front. Like any of the buses in Prishtina, there are really not official stops for the bus. You get on the bus wherever you want to along the route so long as you wave. You can also get off the bus wherever you if you ask the driver to pull over. We hopped off the bus in the middle of town instead of riding the bus to the station.

From the center of Prizren, we walked closer to the main river through the old town. From there we walked across a few of the old stone bridges and explored a bit of the older part of town before we chose a spot along the river to eat outside since it was the nicest day we’ve had in awhile.

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After lunch by the river, we got to visit a well known Mosque as well. It was built in 1512 and was gorgeous inside and out. It was really intricately painted inside. The details and the colors were beautiful, well painted and well maintained. Fortunately, I had visited a mosque on our walking tour in Skopje so I knew how to properly remove and store my shoes. I luckily had a scarf that I lent to my roommate and fellow American teacher, so we could both cover up our hair and see the mosque.

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We then walked up a short but steep hill following a graffiti trail to see the fortress Kalaja.

The graffiti directions were extremely helpful because they helped to close the gaps between the official signs for the fortress.

There we a few other sets of tourists on their way and up down from the fortress. We passed an older couple and their adult son who were talking as they walked and a few military members who were taking selfies with the view.

 

img_0702We had a stray dog that followed us up the whole walk. His blue ear tag showed us that he had seen a vet, been spayed/neutered and gotten his shots and the released as part of a Kosova animal care organization. He was so sweet and stopped for a break whenever we stopped for pictures even though we never petted him or offered food. He just wanted our companionship for the walk up to Kalaja. He even sat right on the edge of the outer wall of Kalaja fortress with us.

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The fortress was built in the 11th century and then added to in 14th century. It has since been under the control of the Byzantine empire, the Ottomans, the Serbian Empire and now the government of Kosovo.

Like most of the places I’ve been in Eastern Europe it was free to walk up to the fortress and explore. We climbed over the tops of the more solid walls and got to walk down a flight of stairs leading down through a tunnel and out of the fortress like an tenth century escape tunnel. There was also a few fully intact buildings that we explored inside.

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After an interesting and exploratory day, the bus ride home provided quiet time to reflect on what I had seen and enjoy the beauty of the sun setting over the mountains.

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GoNoodle

 

GoNoodle is one of the sites I presented quite a bit on at the Kosovo Learning Summit Conference in October with my two colleagues. It is a site for teachers, parents, and students which allows the students to watch age appropriate videos that help the children to either dance wiggles out, build strength and balance, focus and calm down, or reflect. I use it so my wiggly little 5 and 6 year old students to dance and sing.

I use GoNoodle every day in my classroom and my students love it. This year my schedule only has one twenty minute recess for my first grade students which leaves a lot of time in my classroom or the language, art, and gym classes where the students are often expected to be sitting down, listening and working hard on academic material. To combat this we take a few GoNoodle breaks each day.

One of my favorite features on GoNoodle is the ability to add my own YouTube videos. I’ve added videos to use as my anticipatory set for math when we were learning how to count by 2s, 5s, and 10s. I also have all of my calendar videos on GoNoodle so we watch StoryBots’ videos on the days of the week and the months of the year.

Another benefit that I have found is the videos allow my students to sing along in English. This works on pronunciation and builds the basics of fluency in speaking and reading. My ESL students, especially the ones who just started learning English this fall, will even sing the songs on their own.

The Koo Koo Kangaroo guys were a common request as my Halloween costume.

 

I also like that I was able to recommend GoNoodle to parents. Many of my students live in apartments, so after sitting down at school for large periods of the day they go home and sit in their apartments on rainy days. For a few of them this leads to six year olds sprinting laps in the living room and driving their parents crazy. I was able to recommend GoNoodle as another alternative to running around the park in the rain or sprinting through the house. Now instead of coming back to school stir crazy my students come into class singing even more songs all in English.

When we presented at the Kosovo Learning Summit we had a chance to participate in a GoNoodle video with the local teachers from the public schools. It was fascinating to introduce GoNoodle to a whole set of non-English-speaking teachers who teach without technology in their classes. It was so much fun to watch them get excited about using the songs and dances with their students from a phone or other small device or recommending it to students to use at home. They thought the videos were great and even did one of the Maximo videos with us.

My favorite part has to be watching and dancing along with my students. It is so nice for them to have a low pressure activity where they are encouraged to move and they are not struggling with learning new concepts in a new language. It’s a brain break in its truest form, and it’s also a great breather for a first-year teacher!

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A Pop See Ko gif

Halloween in Kosova

Halloween is widely celebrated all over the world and Kosova definitely takes part in the festivities. In The United States it feels like Halloween has lost a lot of its mischief. Americans might jump out from behind a door or hide a big fake spider, but they rarely cause more mischief than that. In Kosova, the mischief is still the core of the holiday.

To add to the Halloween fun we also made this week our red ribbon week at ASK. This is an American school tradition of a drug abuse awareness week, however: the primary school focused on anti-bullying instead of anti-drug. This involved funny dress up days and several conversations about what friends do vs what bullies do.

My students wrote about what good friends do, how they personally are a friend, and about someone who is a friend to them. We also acted out how to be a friend (it was precious) which helped my kids, who’ve only been learning English for a couple months, to understand what is going on and visualize being a good friend. Towards the end of the week we watched a bullying video, talked about it, made a friend vs. bully chart and then practiced standing up for ourselves and others. I think next week we might practice saying “stop that’s mean! in Albanian, Turkish, Bulgarian, and a couple other languages since the students have free reign to speak in whatever language they want during recess and most of the hair-pulling and sand-castle-stomping is done by the kindergarteners who are just learning English this year.

The dress up days were quite fun. All of my kids came in with stories to tell about where their outfit had come from each day. We kicked off the week with red day, then a caps off to bullying day which made me realize the only hat that made it to Kosova with me was a beanie that I’m not too fond of.

Wednesday was twin day and since even the teachers can’t tell us apart, I matched with my friend and fellow American teacher from second grade.

Thursday was a mix up day which none of the local teachers participated in. My students got a kick out of my big hair bow and mismatched socks, so it was worth it. I was also well aware of the fact that I had to ride the bus to and from work so I needed mix up clothes that I could wear on the bus without getting too harshly judged by the local Kosovars.

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Friday, as per request I was a Koo Koo Kangaroo guy from Pop See Ko on GoNoodle, a website full of free dance videos for kids. I had given my students the chance to suggest Halloween costumes as a part of a writing  assignment and the most common suggestions were a cat (because they can all spell cat), a queen, and the Pop See Ko guys.

Friday I introduced them to It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown and they laughed and laughed. A couple of them told me their parents had watched it, but they had never seen it. We colored Halloween pages and ate cupcake/brownies that I had made. Baking with all new ingredients and temperatures is hard, but my kids liked them so I’ll count it as a win.Then we carved up the class pumpkin who’s seeds we had counted the day before.

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My students voted on the pumpkin face. He’s gap toothed like many of my little students are becoming.

I went out Saturday of Halloween weekend with a bunch of the other Americans to the American place near my apartment. I hadn’t realized until we were on the bus back from Prizren (another city in Kosova) that we needed costumes. Now in packing to move I had very very limited space so I had nothing to make a costume out of. I spent the next hour running around my apartment with my two American teacher roommates Meghan and Rhett  as we frantically tried to turn our normal clothing into two costumes. Meghan had her Rosie the Riveter outfit ready to go, and I problem solved by cutting up my free eye mask from my last flight, then with an all black outfit I made a fairly convincing robber. Rhett ended up turning a couple of bobby pins and a teacher dress into Lucy from I Love Lucy.

I had been told by the local teachers that American parties were the only ones where people were in costume and even more than that at the American bar about half of the local Kosovars were in costume. The Halloween party there was a ton of fun. We had a mix of Halloween classic songs played as well as live music that was partially songs in English and partially some of the most popular Albanian music. After a bit they even pulled a couple of tables away to make a little dance floor and we had a good time.

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