Another Day in the Life : Teaching in Sarajevo, Bosnia

In the next in our occasional series Another Day in the Life of …, Katie writes about teaching in Sarajevo, where she previously lived.

I wake up at 9:30 and walk to the bakery five minutes from my door. I pay 25 cents for a buhtla cokoladna – a warm roll with chocolate inside that I buy regularly but can never pronounce correctly. Back at home, I watch an old episode of Oprah, which, as with all television programs in Sarajevo, is in its original language with local language subtitles.

I leave my flat at 11, stopping by the Internet café to check email – there are two computers with Internet at the school, but they are ancient and slow and often busy with eight teachers there at the same time. I take a shortcut through the vegetable market and when I arrive at the school, I make photocopies and short notes for my one-to-one lesson. Another teacher and I head across the street for lunch, the main meal of the day. The classes run from 5 to 9:40, so dinner will be yogurt and fruit at my desk during the twenty-minute break between classes.The one-to-one lesson goes smoothly. I work with a law student and she’s chosen to go through the nuts and bolts of grammar with a local teacher and to have “just” conversation with me. After nearly a year, it gets challenging to come up with innovative ideas and topics to talk about, but today we both take a personality test and it goes over well.

After this lesson, I have about two hours to prepare for four hours of classes. I’ve taught the same lessons before, so I can get ready quickly, but for new lessons, I would probably need most of that time: to decide what order to do things in, find supplementary material like games or songs, and make sure I can present and explain the grammar points well. I run out the door to buy my dinner at 4:45.

My first class is an elementary class. I can speak enough of the local language to translate if I need to, but I avoid that. The book is set up so that translation shouldn’t be necessary, and the students signed up for the course knowing they would be “forced” to communicate in English with a native speaker. Occasionally we have trouble with instructions, but we always figure it out somehow. I like this level because students can see their own progress easily after each class.

My next class is upper-intermediate. Most of the students are teenagers and I ask how they spent their weekend, killing time while the late ones trail in. Only a few have done their homework, so we spend ten minutes working on that and then check answers together. Whispered conversations are not infrequent; sometimes I interrupt them by calling on one of the chatters, sometimes I just ignore them.

After classes end, I record what I covered in the register and two other teachers and I decide to go out for a beer. We head down the street to the noisy, smoky and dark pub. We order cheap beer, gossip about students a bit, and try to come up with something fun to do on the weekend. At 11 I say good-bye because the trams stop running at 11:30 and at this point I’m too tired to walk all the way home.

Photo provided under Creative Commons Licence by damselinredr via

No comments: