It’s been an interesting few weeks here on Leros since my last update. It’s funny, usually when I don’t post for weeks and weeks, it’s because there isn’t enough going on that warrants taking time to write about. This has not been the case for the latter half of January and the first week of February.
With the regular teacher at the Hub away for three weeks, another volunteer and I have doubled up on the number of English classes we’ve been teaching. The entire team of volunteers has also been adjusting to the sheer number of refugees on the island. Along with this adjusting; however, the team continues to turn-over, as it always does. I think January saw ten volunteers come and go. There are a handful of us who are in this for the long haul, but for the most part, people keep dropping in for a week or two at a time. This is fine, it’s what keeps this place fresh.
There were many times that I thought about posting recently, but things were almost so routinely busy that I didn’t know what to say. Teaching four different English classes everyday is riveting, but tiring. Sure, when I’ve taught in the past, four hours of classes wouldn’t have felt like too much, but since each class is a different level of English, I need to do a lot of preparation. I’ve also found myself encountering many unexpected challenges when it comes to teaching Arab speakers different English. For example, those in my lowest level English class struggle to differentiate EVERY vowel sound from each other. They also struggle comically with the sounds that “B” and “P” make, which amounts to everyone, including me, constantly practicing how to puff out your lips and pound out that “PUH” sound. I feel bad for the teacher next door to my class who has to listen to my students and I on repeat as we review all of the letter sounds each day.
In the upper-level English classes, if I’m not on my game, I struggle to keep the students engaged. They’re all so well versed in the language that they come to my class just to experience an American teacher. It’s a strange predicament, but really, I love it. All of the levels are fun in their own way, but I’m looking forward to next week when I’m able to dial back and only teach two classes again. Having been so immersed in teaching, I haven’t been able to do any other volunteer aspects of the job. This doesn’t mean that I’m overly missing driving and clothing distribution prep, but it’ll be fine to fall back into a routine again.
Other than this weird schedule that I’ve been on for almost three weeks now, everything is going well. We’ve slowly begun to re-open registration to refugees and the island hasn’t received a large influx of refugees this week, so no one has been denied a place to sleep yet. I’m relieved to be offering our school to new people again. Closing our doors felt necessary and took some pressure off of the school, but I’m glad to not be denying people anymore, it’s one less “no” that they need to hear everyday now.