This year was my first year of organized teaching English in a school in Poland. Previously I taught at a summer camp in a county-owned historic estate called Reymontowka, which is a few miles from the eastern Poland city of Siedlce. This experience was different and more challenging because the school had formal class plans devised by the English teachers.
Gary with the 7 and 8 year old students
Eight days of teaching in an mixed elementary-middle school in the town of Strzala was more of a challenge because it involved students ranging from 7 years old to 16 years old and necessitated changing material and techniques from one class to the next. Ms. Agnes and Ms. Joann were the English teachers at the school. I was well prepared by them on student expectations and felt totally at home because of the excellent support given to me. I could see they were very dedicated to preparing their students for a world where English is the closest thing to universal language. The younger children were like kids in the U.S. – very excited and enthusiastic – while the older students took some time to loosen up.
Student assembly on the last day
My positive feelings of accomplishment were rewarded at an all-school assembly at the end of my time at the school. There was a well planned and performed program of genuine thanks and gratitude for me coming to their school to teach. I was given a book of Polish historical and geographical attractions, a tasty cake baked by two of the older students, and a CD of pictures taken of me and the students in class – going over English use in everyday activities, doing the hokey-pokey, and even kicking a rugby ball during a pregame warm-up. This experience had a major impact on me – the teachers, administrators and, most importantly the students, demonstrated how important it was to have Global Volunteers at their school.
There are few places in my life that I have received a confirmation of the importance of my role in such an obvious manner. My next trip for Global Volunteers will be back to the Strzala school in 2016 to teach English and renew the friendships I made this year.
Footnote – Several months after returning to the U.S. I decided to “adopt” the English program at the Strzala school. I asked the teachers through the local Global Volunteers leader in Poland (Dorota Wierzbicka) for a list of needs to enhance their English program. The list was provided in the order of need. I then wrote a check to Global Volunteers, who is administering the donation.