School has Started at Albanian College!

I really thought I would write another post last weekend but I was too much in the throws of trying to get everything ready to start school last Monday.  I have felt really crunched for time since being in Albania.  It is not just getting up and started in a new school but all of the adjustments to living in a new country are keeping us very busy.  For example, there are several small grocery stores (or markets as they are called here) close to our apartment but it is challenging to figure out what to buy.  Everything is written in either Albanian or Italian plus we simply are not familiar with the items in the store.  Each time I go to the market I try to buy at least one totally unknown or new item just so we can try and figure out what different things are.  We are also continuing to get our apartment set up a bit more.  Although it is nicely furnished there are still some needed things.  This weekend the goal is to get some more lighting into our living room so will be taking a city bus to a lamp store.

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There are about 25 new teachers at Albanian College this year.  The first week of teacher training was for the new teachers.  We spent a lot of time learning about the school including the international baccalaureate curriculum,  Managebac (the equivalent of Fairport’s Schooltool), receiving our class and room assignments.  They also ran a class on culture shock which was interesting and helpful.  Each evening they had some type of social get-together which you could choose to attend.  The pictures above are of two of the outings.  The teachers and their families are from places like Australia, the U.K., Ukraine, Spain, Belgium, Greece, Canada, Houston, Atlanta, Salt Lake City, North and South Carolina.  Many of them are career international teachers who have taught in Thailand, Venezuela, Shanghai, Ghana, Tanzania, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt and other countries that I can’t remember.  It is so interesting to hear about their experiences and get to know them!

This video is of my classroom on the day that it was assigned to me.  It needed to be put in order within a week so it would be ready for the children to come to school to meet their teacher.

This is my very kind husband who was put to work helping to prep my classroom.  Thank you, Randy!

Here is my classroom one week later.  Hooray, it is ready to welcome first graders!

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An interesting fact about the wood furniture in the classroom is that it has all been handmade by local carpenters.  Also, notice the air conditioner near the ceiling.  Most of the school is air conditioned because of the intense heat for much of the year.  The temperatures have been in the low to mid-90’s since we have been here.

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Here are the three first grade teachers along with our Albanian Assistants.  My Albanian Assistant is standing behind me.  Her name is Edlira Byku.  She has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in English from a local university.  It is difficult to get a teaching position in Albania without experience so it is common for Albanian teachers  to work as assistants for a few years and then apply to work in the public schools. Edlira has been a fabulous help not only by translating for me but also she is helping me to understand the ins and outs of Albanian culture.  I am so fortunate to be working with her! The woman in the yellow dress is another first grade teacher who is from Chicago and came to teach at Albanian College after teaching for two years in Saudi Arabia.  The Asian woman is my “buddy teacher”.  She is from Singapore and taught in Shanghai before coming to teach in Albania.  Both teachers have been so very generous in sharing their resources and expertise as I get up and going with the international baccalaureate curriculum.

The teacher picture above was taken in the school library.  The Albanian College Tirana library has more volumes in it than any other library in the entire country of Albania. Isn’t that amazing?!?!  There are no public libraries in Albania.  Even though the school library has more volumes than any other library in Albania, the library still has a very limited number of books compared to Dudley School in Fairport.

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The school put this banner up for the first day of school.  The building that houses Albanian College was previously used as a school to train elite Communists officers.

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We were all off of school on Wednesday of this week because it was Mother Teresa Day.  Yes, Mother Teresa is from Albania.  There are parks and squares named after her in Tirana in addition to various statues of Mother Teresa throughout the city.

I just completed my first week of teaching.  I was slated to have 15 children but only 11 of them have shown up so far.  5 of the children speak no English, 2 have some English and the other 4 could be described as being almost fluent English speakers.  They are darling children who I am really enjoying so far.  I will let you know more about them in my next post.

42 thoughts on “School has Started at Albanian College!

  1. I love this interesting & informative post, Sarah! And what a transformation of your classroom (not unlike what I have seen you do at Dudley, many times😊). I know Randy was a big help! Thanks again for taking us along on your journey. Ann P.

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  2. Your classroom looks amazing! I am surprised to hear about how few books are available. Happy to hear you have such a wonderful assistant. Hoping a few more of your students will come to school. What a great experience this must be for you all. Much love!

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    1. Thanks, Sarah! Yes, it is amazing how few books there are here. Randy and I have been talking about possible ways that we could have some books donated… Also, we need to start a conversation about your visit to Albania. xo

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  3. This is all so interesting. Thank you for sharing it with us. I need to go back and read everything again to take it all in. Randy’s new job skill is bulletin boards, his engineer background is paying off.

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  4. Sarah-I am so proud/amazed/jealous of you and this great adventure you are on! Those kids are absolutely some of the luckiest students in the world to have you as their teacher! I love reading these updates! Can’t wait for the next one!

    Jan

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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  5. I LOVE reading these updates! Your classroom is great! Can’t wait to read about your experience in the lamp store. I’m sure it’s quite the adjustment without a Walmart ☺️

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    1. We successfully bought two lamps today from a store called Megatec, it is kind of like an IKEA but on a smaller scale. Ten years ago Tirana had no big malls or stores only small individually owned shops. There are still lots of small shops which is where we shop primarily because it is much more convenient. I hope your boys are off to a good start in school! Give Carter a hug from me!

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  6. Sarah this is wonderful. Obviously I love your classroom. And I love that your husband can help you out. We’re all rooting for you.
    And a happy happy birthday

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  7. Sarah, your adventures are off to a great start; those students are lucky to have such a devoted teacher (and husband helper – shout out to Randy!). Some of your IB lingo is familiar – learner profile, Managebac. Your classroom transformation is impressive. Did you send boxes of supplies there? Thank you so much for taking the time to share all of this!

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    1. No, I did not bring boxes of supplies because it was too expensive to get them here. I brought one 50 pound suitcase full of stuff. The school has a good number of resources which I really appreciated. Love it that you recognized some of the IB lingo. I really do not feel comfortable with the whole IB thing at all yet but hopefully with time it will flow more easily.

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  8. Sarah,
    I anxiously check my email for your blog. I love reading of your adventures and journey into living and teaching in Albania. The children are so blessed to be taught by such a dedicated teacher. Hope you have a wonderful birthday! Miss you!
    Lynne ❤️

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  9. Hi Sarah! Thank you for sharing this amazing post. I cannot wait to hear more about your experiences and your students. If there is something we can do to support you and your students, I hope you will let me know. We could send letters or collect books or something like that if possible. I am having fun with Nicole getting to know your sweethearts from last year!

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    1. Thanks for your offer to help support our students here. I will get back to you on that. Also, I need to touch base with you at another time to find out which of my kids you have from last year. I miss seeing them and my Dudley teacher friends!!

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  10. I hope this gets to you to wish you a Happy Birthday! And to thank you for your fabulous posts. I am enjoying every word. Your mother would have loved this! You are amazing. Anyway, I will be thinking of you on your birth date and hope someone bakes you a nice cake. 🙂 Much love from aunt jean

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    1. Thanks for your message, Aunt Jean. I had a very nice birthday. We had a few teacher friends over to our apartment for wine, cheese, cake (from the bakery across the street) and ice cream. I am glad you are enjoying the blog. I have thought about my parents frequently since being here. Dad would love all the history here and mom would love the different culture. Much love to you! xoxo

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  11. Sarah – I was so excited to see a new post from you! It is such fun to hear about your adventures!! Your classroom is beautiful, and your students so lucky to have you! Your DU colleagues were probably green with envy about your AC – our first day with students was 96 degrees and nearly 100% humidity! I am surprised that so few books are available – is there anything we can do from here?
    If I remember correctly, today is your birthday! Happy Birthday, Sarah – Cheers to this year of amazing adventure and new learning experiences – you are truly one of my heroes!!
    Best,
    Karen

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    1. Thanks for your message, Karen. The heat in Fairport must have been miserable at school. 😦 I hope it has cooled down a bit by now. Thanks for your offer to possibly help with books here in Albania. I reached out to Christina to ask about possibly donating some of Dudley’s discarded books. Randy is coming home for hunting season and perhaps he will be able to bring some books back with him in his luggage. Let’s be in touch more about this sometime soon. Also, thanks for all your words of encouragement. 🙂

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  12. HI Sarah

    I am always so excited to read your posts! Thank you for sharing! And, what an amazing husband to help you! I always thought an extra pair of hands would be nice!
    Happy Birthday!
    Barb

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    1. Thanks for your message, Barb! I hope your year is off to a good start. Randy just bought his ticket to go home for hunting season. He will be leaving Albania on October 24th. I am sure I will be in a funk for a few days but then I should be fine.

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  13. Happy Birthday, Sarah! Have fun celebrating in your brave new world. I love reading your blog and imagining what it’s all like. Will you be able to post pictures of your kids? I’d love to see them. Thank you for taking the time to do this. Your blog is greatly appreciated. And keep up the good work there! You’re amazing. Hi to Randy! 😊

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  14. I love reading about your adventures and look forward to each post! Glad to hear that the year is off to a great start. What a great class size! Ha!

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  15. Happy Birthday Sarah!!!
    I was so happy to see a new post from you. Your experience sounds amazing and so interesting!! AC is the best. No one should have to work in 90+ degree heat. I heard DU was awful for a few days. How are
    Liz and her gang doing?? Say hi to her for me. Can’t wait to read another one of your post. Great job with those BTW!! Take care.
    ~Maureen
    Ps.. you amaze me!!!

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    1. Thanks for your message, Maureen! Elizabeth and her family are doing well. The older 3 children have settled into the school routine and Elizabeth is settling into life as a stay at home mom for the first time. I hope you and your family are doing well and that your are settling into your new lifestyle.

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  16. This is just fascinating Sarah! Who knew about Mother Theresa!?? I love the high ceilings in your classroom, looks so inviting!
    We miss you at Dudley! We’re off to a good start though!

    Ellen

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  17. Hi Sarah, as you can see, I’ve finally gotten into your blog! What a great experience for you and Randy! You’re meeting people from all over the world and sharing everyone’s culture. Fascinating! Hope you had a great birthday in your new homeland. It sounds like you haven’t had time to get too homesick so far. Onward to your next blog! I’ve got some catching up to do!!

    Love and thoughts,
    Pat Linz

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  18. I guess I am caught up!
    How are you liking your class? Did the other children show up eventually? Good that you have 4 that are fluent in English already. Interesting that your assistant is a full fledged teacher but has to get experience via assisting first before she can get her own classroom. Great to have someone like that to help you. Especially with the language barrier.
    How are you and Randy adjusting to living in Albania? It’s nice that they have socials so you can get to know the staff :-).

    Miss you!

    Pat Linz

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog, Pat! Randy and I are adjusting well to life in Albania. There are definitely parts of life that we miss in the USA (mainly our family and friends) but we feel fortunate to be able to have this experience. xo

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      1. Of course! I love reading your blog Sarah! It is a great experience, once in a lifetime! It’s totally understandable that you would miss the USA but we’ll be here when you get back :-).

        Karen is due Nov. 8th, very excited about that!

        Just starting a new job. I’ll be manning the front desk at the Y. It’s part time, 20 hrs. a week M-F, 2-6 p.m. Only 2 min. from our townhouse. Free Y membership. Just started playing Pickleball :-).

        Getting to know more of the neighbors. I joined our Ladies Dining Out group and our Book Club. Still have my Golf League and Bible Study, which I enjoy.

        Jamie and I just watched the Bills game at the Greensboro Bill’s Backer bar. It’s a nationwide club for Bills fans. Fun! I like the comradery.

        Hope all of your family is doing well!

        Miss you! I still miss our walks where in we would solve the problems of the world in one conversation ;-).

        Love,
        Pat

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