Some differences between Kosovar and American schools, as well as my role at mine and what I’ve learned from my first semester.
A quick overview of my experience with education: I got my degree in Elementary Education in Texas, took the certification tests, and am a certified teacher in my state. I’m pretty familiar with Texas public schools through classroom observations, student teaching, and substitute teaching. That being said, this prior experience didn’t help me much at all with understanding the way Kosovar schools are run; it’s completely different. Administratively, curriculum-wise, textbook-wise, teaching-wise — krejt (all). It’s so different, that I made a chart to highlight some of these differences:
* = my personal experience in Texas public schools
** = my personal experience in my Albanian village’s school, as well as anecdotes from fellow volunteers
Obviously, my scope is limited and not super accurate, and I’m sure I missed 34938 other little things. There are excepts to everything, of course, but this is a decent highlight of how differently the schools are run here.
Every volunteer’s service is vastly different from each other, and the schools are a huge contributing factor to this. My school seems to be one of the exceptions here, as it’s very nice and very well run under the direction of my director. Most volunteers have significantly less director-supportive experiences here in Kosovo.
Anyway. Let’s talk more about me.
So… how do I fit into all this?
At first, I didn’t. And I still kinda don’t. I approached my service with caution, preparing to see the needs / wants of the school and the community first before diving in headfirst. I intended to initially observe so I could understand the school culture.
…And I did! I was very successful at this. However, I became so observant, that I observed how nicely everything ran together without me. This observation made me even more unsure as to where I even could fit in. Everything seemed completely fine, and I didn’t feel needed at all. And, truthfully, I still don’t feel needed, and probably won’t ever feel needed.
I help out my counterpart in the classroom with activities, the vast majority of the students in school know me by name, I’m greeted by an obscene amount of hugs whenever I’m at school or students see me out and about in the village, and I’ve started 2 English clubs (6th grade, and 7th & 8th combined – there were too many interested students).
I’ve readjusted my expectations for my service and lowered them greatly. I’m just doing what I can, and I remind myself that every day. If the only thing I can leave behind is exposing some of my students to an independent American woman living abroad, then so be it. I’ve embraced a bare minimum of personal contribution. Selfishly, I’ve grown tremendously in becoming more self-reflective, stronger and more resilient, and pushing myself reeeeeeeeally far outside of my comfort zone. I live outside of my comfort zone here. As for my village and my school… I’m not sure if I’ll ever see my contribution. And I think I’m okay with that.
But, for now, I’m on Winter Break! I survived my first semester “working” (remember that I’m a volunteer… so I don’t get paid) in a Kosovar school. Only 3 semesters left (that’s the spirit)!