Friday, August 30, 2013

Saying goodbye in Greece

We approached our final day at school with some trepidation and emotion. We have grown attached to these children with their wide range of abilities, characters, and quirks. The day began with a word search that soon became very competitive, with all the children wanting to complete their search first. There were three different searches on the go at once so some teamwork developed. Such was the enthusiasm to complete the task that it extended into two periods.

Just before third recess we were privileged to have a visit from the Deputy Mayor of Gazi and his secretary. They presented us with certificates thanking us for volunteering. The children from the junior class gave a dazzling performance of “Gangnam Style” led by Sam's daughters, Millie and Gabriella.

With the day coming to an end, I played hide and seek with our children. They were very good, helping me to learn their rules and telling me when it was clear to make a dash for base. Mary Sue was left the onerous task of packing all the books and supplies ready to bring back to the hotel.

As the children drifted off home, it was with a lump in my throat I bade them farewell. It has been a real privilege to spend time with them and both Mary Sue and I hope in some small way we have helped their English and encouraged them to keep working on it.

Looking at our team goals of philanthropy, opportunity, learning, and culture, we can say most definitely that these have all been achieved, but without the help, support, advice and general good craic of Sam, the experience would have been a lesser one. It is fitting to say what wonderful hosts the whole of the Handakas family have been, welcoming us into what feels like their home. Sas efcharistoume gia ola.

Message of the Day:

“May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.”

 - Irish blessing

Entry submitted by: Lesley

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Another day in paradise

Another day in paradise, a hot paradise. We are grateful for AC. We showed photos and asked the students about our dinner and the traditional dancing in the reconstructed village up the mountain. They did some activities about clocks and time, acted out verbs, (which they enjoyed), and used the story cubes to practice expressing an idea or an event in English. Since today we had eleven students, the two groups were a bit large and kids in my group grew impatient while the more hesitant students hammered out a story. They shouted out responses to a very quick run through of addition facts. To complete the Gruffalo story experience, Lesley showed the class online images of the Gruffalo and compared them to the pictures the kids had made.

 In response to the "babyness" comment about the books we brought from the hotel dining room corner dedicated to Global Volunteers’ resources, we brought in a fresh supply of books which created some interest.

In the afternoon Lesley had a heavenly massage at a local spa and reported that well-oiled feet in flip flops makes for a very slow walk home. I took a nap.

We ate our delicious dinner of salad, meatballs, and French fries near the pool. Little granddaughter, Maria, once again provided great entertainment for the family members who were also enjoying the beautiful evening. Sam is an effective bridge between the hotel, the volunteers, and other guests. As others have mentioned in previous blogs, it is difficult sometimes to distinguish between employees and guests. How will we say goodbye to family, our Greek family?

Message of the Day: “Your present circumstances don't determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.” –Nido Qubein

Entry submitted by: Mary Sue

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A cultural night out

Mary Sue and I had prepared an outside scavenger hunt with a difference to start the day. We split the class into two groups and we each accompanied a group on the search for various things we had written on a list, such as something of a certain color, hard, soft, small, tall, rectangular, square, numbers 1-10, etc. When the group had found something, Mary Sue and I took a photo of it with the iPad.

After recess we completed the list and reconvened in the classroom to show our photos to the other team and the children had to say why it had been taken. This task prompted plenty of English speaking, observation, and imagination. One boy in particular in Mary Sue's group showed great imagination when for the numbers he suggested the children lay on the ground and form their bodies into the shape of the numbers.

Later we had them create little booklets from a single A4 page and we asked them to draw themselves, their favorite holiday, what they would like to be when they grew up, their favorite game, how they get to school, and their favorite subject at school (recess wasn't allowed). Again with this task, the children had plenty of opportunity to speak English with us as we went around the room asking them questions about their drawings. We kept the booklets and in the evening Mary Sue wrote a little review of them on the back cover to present them to the students in the morning.

In the evening Sam took us to the traditional Cretan mountain village of Arolithos where we saw houses as they would have been in years gone by. We had plenty of chances to apply our photographer's eye and take some pictures. The little church was especially pretty and the interior was beautifully painted. The square was laid out as it would be for a Cretan wedding or Christening celebration and as we took our seats for dinner, the lira and bazouki struck up the distinctive music. Throughout the meal various dances were performed with the audience of various nationalities given a chance to join in. I think we all enjoyed the dance to Zorba the Greek music and the "manly" dances of the Cretan "shepherds." There was much toe-tapping and hand clapping. Our wonderful evening was rounded off in the traditional way, with a raki nightcap. Another of our Global Volunteers Team Goals achieved: CULTURE.

Message of the Day: “Tell me something and I forget, teach me and I may remember, but involve me and I will learn.” – Chinese proverb

Entry submitted by: Lesley

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Stories of labyrinths and minotaurs

Sometimes, for a moment, things go really well if you just let it play out. In anticipation of our proposed afternoon visit to Knossos, we asked the class to tell us what Lesley and I should know before our visit. It appeared that all had been there, but it was one of our advanced students who taught us about the labyrinth and retold the story of the mythological Minotaur. He had the class (and us) spellbound. Every so often, he would search in vain for the right phrase or word, and then announce, "Just a minute" as he raced out the door and down the sidewalk to ask Sam for the correct English word. The class, which normally has to be in constant motion, waited patiently for the runner to return. Sometimes he just hung onto the doorknob, leaned out the door, and called out to Sam. After a while he suggested that they draw pictures of the Minotaur and labyrinth. Brilliant idea! Although this had been our intent all along, we let the idea come from a student.

If only we could have replicated that experience for the next three classes! :) We played the fly swatter game using the two bodies we drew on the board. They named the correct body part as they swatted it on the board. To make it more challenging, Lesley used sentences like this: I kick a ball with this; I hear with this, etc. We are engaged in a constant delicate balancing act between being somewhat orderly and just getting on with the game and letting the students arrange themselves in the most advantageous lineup so as to beat their opponent. Having said that, they have learned that the game will not continue until all eyes are on the teacher and it is absolutely silent. They shush themselves. Lesley is going to do a follow-up tomorrow on the charming Gruffalo story she read today so she may mention that in her journal entry.

We try to alternate active and quieter activities. We ended the day by playing Go Fish and Bingo in small groups. We have what we think is a great activity planned for tomorrow.

Lesley and I took two buses to get to Knossos. It was a thrill to see the ancient Minoan site and look forward to sharing some photos with them tomorrow. If I were to return to Crete to volunteer, I would bring books of simply retold Greek myths. Today I really wished we had had some books of myths to share with our class.

After our pizza and Greek salad dinner, Sam shared village traditions, rituals, and celebrations surrounding the birth of a child, the mother's confinement, godfathers and godmothers, baptism, courtship, engagements, weddings, gift giving, death, burial, period of bereavement, and memorial services.

Message for the Day:  “Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.”        –Maori Proverb

Entry submitted by: Mary Sue

Monday, August 26, 2013

They inspire you

Our day began at breakfast with a walk down to the garden to watch Dimitri stamp on his grapes in the traditional way to extract the juice to make wine and wine vinegar. The leftover skins are then used to make raki. We were shown his vegetable garden where the wonderful salads we have eaten are grown. Such a variety peppers, auvergne, avocado, tomatoes, and okra, to name but a few.

At school it was a typical Monday, I would guess, and the children were, to quote Mary Sue, "squirrelly." We began the class with only three boys, but as we began to reassess our program for the day, some more children arrived and we ended up with eight. We now had three Manos and two Theodosis. Our first period was spent asking the children what they had done over the weekend. Some still struggle to comprehend the question and answer idea and even when asked to repeat a suggested answer don't seem to understand that they should repeat what we have said.

We then split into groups and using flashcards asked the children to identify the subject in sentence form like “This is a ...” Mary Sue was so pleased when one of the less able children shouted out “This is a...” for several pictures.

After recess we learned the true meaning of flexibility, which is one of the definitions we had decided makes a good volunteer. Our plan had been to talk about the different rooms in a house and what we do in each room, and for the children then to draw a basic floor plan. However, most of the children wanted only to draw their bedrooms, but this then led to the vocabulary of wardrobe, drawer, shelves, desk, and toy box. So whilst the lesson wasn't how we had envisaged, the children led us down a path of equal benefit and each in turn was able to describe to us on a one-on-one basis their own rooms from their drawings. If they didn't know the word for an item of furniture, they were able to tell us its use and we then could write the word on the board so that they could label their drawings.

The remaining two periods were split between whole class song and rhymes and smaller group bingo and reading. We have noticed that the children do tend to sit quietly and listen when being read a story. This is something we hope to expand on in future lessons. With such a range of ages and abilities it is sometimes difficult to keep the attention and focus of all whilst still making it fun, but it does give me a sense of satisfaction when the children respond well to a lesson and talk. Smaller groups seem to draw better, clearer responses.

In the afternoon we relaxed and planned some lessons for the following days. After yet another delicious dinner, Mary Sue showed us some of her impressive photos she had taken of Rethymnon and some of its citizens. We headed to bed early to read up on Knossos before our planned visit tomorrow.

Message for the Day: “They inspire you, they entertain you, and you end up learning a ton even when you didn't know it.” –Nicholas Sparks

The "they", I think, could mean teachers or students.

Entry submitted by: Lesley

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Ready for Week 2 to begin!

During our first week with our class of older students, my teaching partner, Lesley, and I focused on speaking and conversation, not on writing. For some, it was challenging to answer simple questions; they tended to repeat what we said, rather than answer the question. On the other hand, they can talk about pictures they have drawn. We will continue to work on questions and answers and conversation.

We began by using picture word cards. After ascertaining that they knew the words, we held up a card and asked, "What is this?" The expected answer was "This is ..." We did other work with the picture cards - they alphabetized the cards and they put them in categories such as food.

Lesley read a simple, charming book about a puppy, which they enjoyed. I then asked for them to tell what was happening in the pictures. The next day I read it again, rather quickly, and then I reread it and had them join in by finishing the sentences.

Another day Lesley read a book about a monster. They were attentive listeners as was I as I enjoy her Northern Irish accent. They then drew monsters and told the class about their monster. I discovered they have a need to finish what they start and will miss outdoor recess time to do so. The next day, we did an exercise which required them to follow directions. After their paper was folded in fourths, each drew a monster head, then folded the paper back to hide the head and passed the paper to the next person who drew the shoulders and so on. They did not like that activity. They prefer to do their own artwork.

Another day they folded their paper into four rectangles and drew pictures of themselves, their family, their favorite food, and what they enjoy doing. They then told about their pictures.

We divided into two groups to use the story cubes. I had the two most advanced students. Their sophisticated use of the English language was imaginative and fun to observe. The verb story cubes proved to be a challenge for some. We will continue to encourage them to speak. How they feel at the moment influences their level of participation.

Two of our team members have departed. Lesley took a bus to Aghio Nikolaos and from there took a ferry to the island of Spinalonga on Saturday. She was inspired to take this trip by Victoria Hislop's book, The Island, a story about the lepers sequestered on this island, some years ago. On Sunday, she walked to Heraklion. Round trip, it is close to twenty kilometers. On Saturday. I took the bus to Rethymnon where I stayed in a lovely hotel near the sea, ate great food, and enjoyed walking the narrow alleys, taking photos. We are happy to be back "home" as was the hotel staff. I received greetings and a hug from one of the women. 

We are ready for week two to begin!

Message of the Day: “Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” - Robert Louis Stevenson

Entry submitted by: Mary Sue 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Creating memory books

Today we had the kids create their own personal books that included all the information we went over throughout the week. This way they have direct access to what they learned with our time there. This journey has come to an end and it was a wonderful experience. The kids were very grateful and drew pictures for us to keep in their memory. I will certainly remember them all.

Message of the Day: “Experience is not what happens to a man. It is what a man does with what happens to him.” –Aldous Huxley

Entry submitted by: Julie

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Extraordinarily bright kids

Today the kids did many different activities. They learned different English verbs such as “eat”, “be hungry”, and “laugh.” With these newly learned verbs we had the girls compete with the boys as we tested their knowledge. During the second half of class time we went over common phrases and sentences with the kids such as "How are you?" and "My name is…" These kids are extraordinarily bright and have caught on rather quickly to all our lesson plans. It has been an amazing experience to watch these kids so eager to learn and see their competitive spirit come to life. Looking forward to another day with the kids.

Message of the Day:It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” –Albert Einstein 

Entry submitted by: Julie

Monday, August 19, 2013

First day of English classes!

For the first day of class we started off by introducing ourselves. Shortly after, the kids learned to spell their names on construction paper. Then we played a picture game that was very interactive where the kids came to the board one by one and drew a picture. The class then would say what the picture was in English. The first to shout the correct answer in English was rewarded with a sticker.

During second period we had the kids say what they wanted to be when they grew up. We then gave them the English name to their chosen profession. They drew a picture of what they wanted to be and spelled the English name of the occupation on their picture.

We finished the day playing an alphabet game and putting together puzzles that fostered identifying English words and forming short sentences.

Overall the day was a great success. We were able to identify the level the kids were at so that we may have better tailored lesson plans for the remainder of the week.

Message of the Day: “The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.” –Khalil Gibran

Entry submitted by: Julie

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Creating a community among us

Community is what comes to mind as I reflect on our first day in Greece. Our team leader Sam has created a community among us and for us. Our stay is at a hotel owned by a local family Greek family, Dimitris and Suzanna Tsalopoulos. They put out love and generosity by their presence, food, and hospitality. The hotel is an extension of their home and we have been accepted with open arms. Each meal has been prepared straight from Susanna’s kitchen. During our first day of orientation we ate great food and learned about each other and how to prepare for the weeks ahead. 

Our team of volunteers - Julie, Mary Sue, Leslie, and our leader, Sam - have created our own community with four common goals. Looking at the weeks ahead we will support each other to cultivate opportunity, philanthropy, culture, and learning. We will do this by embodying characteristics such as punctuality, flexibility, working together, sharing, supporting, respecting, learning, being open and honest, being constructive, having a sense of humor, being light hearted, communicating well, having fun, and being responsible. As a community we have prepared for our first day, learned basic Greek, and eaten authentic Greek food straight from mama’s kitchen. Looking forward to the week ahead! 

Entry submitted by: Georgia