The school in Kolychivka has an after-school club called the “Sunflower Club” where students go to learn about other countries and cultures. The vice-principal is in charge of the Sunflower Club, and she asked us PC trainees if we would come and share about our home states and what they are like. My cluster-mates are from New York, California, Michigan, and Massachusetts, so we all had different places to talk about. The day arrived that we were supposed to speak in Sunflower Club, and we all had lessons to teach that morning. So after lunch we had our technical trainer Katerina help us translate a few phrases into Ukrainian about what our home states were famous for, and we tried not to worry about saying the words wrong or not being able to answer the questions the students had for us. I was kind of dreading Sunflower Club, as we didn’t have much time to prepare and I didn’t know what to expect. So after school we congregated in this room with a huge sunflower smiley face thing on the wall, and I tried to look excited to be there. All the kids introduced themselves, and then we gave our quick presentations in Ukrainian. There were a few chuckles from the kids, so I know our Ukrainian wasn’t quite flawless. But after that, they started asking questions and life in the US and Katerina ended up translating for us so we didn’t have to worry about butchering Ukrainian anymore : )
The questions were so interesting! They started out with questions about what school is like in America, and we tried to explain the differences. In Ukraine, students are graded on a 12 point scale and receive marks at the end of every class period. So we talked about our grading system based on letters A-F and how F means you don’t pass. This concept was completely foreign to the students; in Ukraine, there is no such thing as failing or being held back. The students automatically pass to the next form (grade) at the end of the school year, regardless of how well (or poorly) they do in class. They also asked us if everyone had their own cars, and when we started driving. When I said I was 16 when I started driving, the kids were very excited. Here, they have to be 18 to drive. What I loved about the exchange was how we got just as much out of it as they did—they had questions about America, and in asking us, they explained Ukrainian culture to us. I really enjoyed it : )
Towards the end, they asked us what we did for fun in the U.S. All of my cluster mates are super athletic and talked about running and doing yoga and such, so when it was my turn I said “riding horses and listening to music” because it was true, but also because it was different from what everyone else said! Then after Sunflower Club ended, this one little girl came up to Katerina and started talking to her and pointing at me. Katerina beckoned me over, and said that the little girl loved horses too and wanted to meet me. So we talked for a few minutes, with Katerina translating everything I didn’t understand, and I told Seraphima (the little girl’s name) that if she ever comes to the US she can come ride horses with me : ) I’m pretty sure I made her day, and I’m glad I got the chance to meet her at Sunflower Club. She’s in the sixth form (grade) and we don’t teach sixth form, so I wouldn’t have gotten to meet her if we hadn’t spoken at Sunflower Club! At the end we took a picture with all the kids, which I’m including below. Andy, Andrew, and Tammela are standing in the back left, and Janira and I are hunched down at the right end of the front row. Our technical trainer, Katerina, is standing at the far right. Seraphima is in the middle of the front row, wearing a pink jacket.
So the next morning I observed Andy and Janira’s lesson in the seventh form, and on the way out of the classroom after the lesson I almost ran into Seraphima who was waiting in the hallway. She looked really bashful and started talking really fast in Ukrainian and I tried to catch what she was saying. I caught something about horses and something she did last night, but I was pretty much lost. Katerina had come out behind me, and quickly explained that Seraphima drew a picture for me last night of a horseback rider that she wanted me to have because I liked riding horses too. And she took this incredible drawing out of her folder and gave it to me, and hurried away to class as I tried to thank her. I was so impressed with it; it was so detailed and precise! It made me remember how much I loved horses when I was her age, when I first started riding and convinced my parents to buy my first horse : ) I took a picture of her drawing so I could share it with you and you can see how great an artist she is : ) She even wrote an English inscription, in cursive! Wow! I’ll definitely treasure this gift; it’s in my binder in its own sleeve with all of my teaching materials, and whenever I flip through and see it I smile. I’m pretty sure Seraphima made my week by giving me this drawing… I wish I could express that thought in Ukrainian and tell her!
Click on the pictures to make them larger!