Yozgat is a small city in the Anatolian part of Turkey. Although English lessons are taught mandatorily starting from the second grade and have equal weight with other compulsory courses in the curriculum -at least 4 hours in middle and high schools increasing according to the type of the school- most of the students’ proficiency level falls very low. Regarding my study area and interests, I have thought that doing an internship here will provide me an alternative perspective.
After I have searched for several schools and language centers, I have decided on AYC School, which is located in the center of the city. Soon I have received a reply informing me that they accepted me as an intern teacher. I was very excited and confused at the same time because we were undergoing an unusual period due to the coronavirus pandemic. I already had online courses in my university; however, I had no idea what my lecturers were going through. This time, I would be on the other side of online learning as an intern English teacher.
During the first few weeks upon my arrival though, the classes were hold face to face. Wearing a mask and following the hygiene rules were obligatory. After I arrived at the school, the principle welcomed me and introduced me to my mentor teacher. She gave me a tour of the school and informed me about my responsibilities. She has also introduced me to my colleges and informed me about the routines of the teacher’s room.
The English Department has to have a meeting every Monday morning. During the sessions, we discussed weekly goals -topics to be covered, teaching materials, and the events of the week- homework check, and pta meetings. Under the covid-19 restrictions, there can be 15 students in each classroom at most with 1.5-meter spaces. Wearing a mask during the whole day was exhausting, but I was glad that I could actually meet with students.
However, after the covid cases increased, the school switched to digital learning once again. Although online classes seem more flexible and more accessible, they require much more work for teachers. We prepared online materials, quizzes, and exams. We also created online forums for students to share their ideas or ask questions. I felt exhausted twice during the online sessions. One of the problems was motivating students and drawing their attention to the topic.
Since they joined the lesson from home, focusing was getting more difficult. Moreover, some of the students were not comfortable talking through the camera, so they were unwilling to participate. Most importantly, students needed more feedback about their learning. I realized how crucial classroom teaching where students continuously got verbal feedback from both teachers and other students. I believe the worst outcome of digital learning is that students with lots of questions and confusion and teachers having a full mailbox.
After the classes, I had a chance to visit the city. There was not much to see in a small town; however, people here spent their time mainly in a national park, Camlik Milli Park. They said that it is the first national park of Turkey. Despite the cold weather, the scenery was beautiful and peaceful. I came to the park almost after every class; it was a blessing for me during the pandemic.
Because of the covid restrictions, I didn’t have a chance to visit many places but I was able to go nearby cities such as Ankara, Eskisehir and Nevsehir-Cappadocia. Cappadocia was truly an amazing place. I would recommend anyone to stay in a cave hotel, see the fairy chimneys and take a hot air balloon ride. On my way back, I could also visit Istanbul for a short time. We took a Bosphorus tour and had a trip to the city. I want to revisit Istanbul when we get back to normal. Overall, this internship was one of the unique experiences I have ever had. During this most unusual time, I am so grateful that I had a chance to gain insight into how countries are affected by the pandemic and what the impacts are on students and teachers.