Teaching in Albania has Ended

As of June 25th my teaching in Albania came to an end. Throughout March and April I had held out hope that perhaps we could get back to school for at least the last few weeks of school. But of course, just like most of the rest of the world, that was not to be. Since March 10th I have spent 3 to 4 hours a day prepping for and delivering instruction to my grade one students. As you can imagine teaching children online versus in person is completely different. Here are a few reflections after completing more than three months of distance learning:

  • I felt like I was able to keep most of my students from losing their skills but I don’t think any of them made the progress they could have made if we had had face-to-face teaching. My students who were new to speaking English this year had a harder time simply because they were not hearing English spoken in the classroom all day long like they needed to do.
  • The school’s expectation was that each primary teacher prepare 20-25 minutes each of literacy, math and Albanian with the goal that each primary age child would spend an hour and a half daily on distance learning. In general I made 4-5 assignments each day that followed this general structure:
    • read aloud- I made a 6-8 minute video of me reading aloud each day
    • math assignment- many of the assignments started with a 3-4 minute video of me teaching a skill and then I made a pencil/paper or IXL (an excellent, scaffolded, electronic math resource) assignment
    • reading assignment- alternating between Raz-Kids, Storyline Online and Tumble Books; the children recorded themselves reading and then answered a short quiz about what they had read
    • writing assignment- once again many of these assignments started with a 3-4 minute video of me teaching a writing skill (i.e. descriptive words, punctuation, narrative writing, etc.) followed by assigning the child to write in their journal for at least 10 minutes
    • inquiry assignment- these assignments centered on the central idea (international baccalaureate) and were either science or social studies related
    • As the children completed their assignments they sent them to me through a platform called Class Dojo. I individually commented, approved or returned these assignments to the children each day.
  • I scheduled class Zoom meetings once or twice a week. One of the meetings was academic and usually centered on our inquiry unit. The other weekly class Zoom meeting was more for fun. i.e. celebrating a child’s birthday, playing a game or just talking about whatever the kids wanted to talk about. I did periodic individual Zoom meetings which I found to be very helpful and will do more of if distance learning continues in the fall.
  • The parents were key to the success the children experienced with distance learning. The children are 6 and 7 years old so they cannot manage distance learning independently. The more involved the parents were the more assignments the child would complete which meant the more progress the child made. I really admired the parents and how they managed it all. Most of them were working from home while trying to manage their child’s schooling. Some children were cared for by grandparents who spoke no English which meant the children had to wait for mom or dad to help them when they could.
  • My technology skills took a giant leap forward over the last few months because they had to do so. I think the main thing I learned about technology is to be patient with myself. Often, if I clicked around on a site I could independently figure out how it worked and how to implement it with my students. If needed, I could always depend on another teacher to get me going.
  • As you already know a big part of school is socializing with other children. I encouraged my students to call, FaceTime, use Just Talk Kids and Skype with their classmates. A few of them did stay in touch with one another but it simply is not the same as actually getting to play together. Lack of socialization for the kids was one of the biggest downsides to distance learning. The children really, really missed each other.

Here is one of our many Zoom meetings.

 

Here are some of the many platforms my students used during their time with distance learning. Usually a school has to buy a subscription to use most of these but because of the pandemic these online companies gave us free and unlimited use of their platforms. What a wonderful gift!

Here is link to a video I made to say farewell to my students,  2019-20 Grade One at Albanian College   It is 11 minutes long so please just watch part of it. It is always bittersweet to say goodbye to students. I feel ready to have a few weeks off from teaching but at the same time I will definitely miss my students particularly because there is a good chance I will never see them again. 😦

A year ago I was finishing up my first year of international teaching. It was an exciting year full of meeting new people, adjusting to living internationally and many, many travel opportunities. This second year of international teaching started by the entire administrative staff from Albanian College resigning followed by three earthquakes and then a pandemic. Despite the contrast between the two years I have no regrets. I have grown to love the country of Albania and it’s fiercely loyal, hospitable people, beautiful beaches and stunning mountains. The opportunity to work (and play) with people from around the world cannot be underestimated. I have LOVED this experience! It has helped me grow as a person and as a teacher. I am grateful to the Fairport Central School District for giving me a two year leave to pursue this dream. Also, my rock star husband was so very supportive through it all. I could and would not have done it without him. 

So what is next? I am headed back to Fairport to finish my teaching career there. I have reconnected to my FCSD email account and the 2,800 emails that have accumulated over the last two years. :0 I will be resuming my position as a grade one special education teacher at Dudley School.  Who knows what teaching will be like in the fall. No matter how it looks I am ready for and looking forward to it.

Right now I am still in South Africa. Last month I purchased a ticket from Austrian Air to fly back to Albania on July 4th. Our apartment and my classroom need to be packed up plus I wanted to have a bit of closure before moving back to the States. Randy bought tickets to meet me in Albania. My flights were canceled, not because I could not get into Albania but because I could not get out of South Africa. Randy was able to get into Albania and is there packing up with the help of a few friends. I have now purchased a repatriation flight to America that departs here on July 19th. I feel confident that it will go because it is on KLM Airlines which has had a flight every Sunday for the last several weeks. The cost of the ticket was horribly expensive but I felt like I had no choice. I need to get home so I can quarantine for two weeks and then get my life restarted in Fairport.

This will probably be my last post but I may do one more about my almost 4 months locked down in South Africa with Elizabeth and her family. We’ll see… 

Thanks so much for reading this blog over the last two years and going on this adventure with me. I have enjoyed sharing it all with family and friends. Your encouraging words and interest in this experience have humbled me. My hopes and prayers are that you and your loved ones are staying healthy during this world health crisis.

38 thoughts on “Teaching in Albania has Ended

  1. All I can say is, Wow! I have enjoy every last one of your blogs. I look forward to seeing you in Fairport. Save travels Sarah!

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  2. Sad that it is coming to an end. Sorry that you didn’t get face to face closure with students, coworkers and friends in Albania.
    We look forward to seeing you in NY sometime soon. Happy you had such quality time with the Chervenak family in SA. What an interesting story it has been to follow for these two years. When your great grandchildren read about you, they will be impressed with your adventures!

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  3. I have been thinking about you in the past weeks and how you, even more than most American teachers, had such a lack of closure at the end of a school year. This is further underscored by the fact that Randy is cleaning out your classroom. He is a rock star husband indeed. I have loved reading of your adventures, and I truly appreciate the time and effort you put in to keep us informed and involved. Selfishly, I would love to read a South African post, but you certainly have a lot to do – all those emails! When these crazy times are over, I look forward to getting together. Safe travels to you and Randy.

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  4. P.S. I meant to say what a great video! Your tech skills rock – and to think we never even had a computer at Drury. Look at you now!

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  5. Sarah, I have loved every single post you have made and it was wonderful to follow along on your adventure. Have a safe trip home. ❤️

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      1. Ahh, thanks, Ellen. Good for you to venture into the world of blogging. I enjoyed reading your posts about playing the piano and Lululemon. I really liked your prospective on both and am looking forward to reading your future posts. Hope to see you soon! xx

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  6. Dear Sarah Thank you so much for the Update. We have been thinking a lot about you, your situation and your life.

    In Denmark we have had weeks with restrictions, but we have avoided the big pandemic, and now more or less we are living as before. Of course we are not traveling as usual, and this summer both Rasmus and Amanda with families will stay in Denmark. They will visit us and that is nice. We have had the 2 boys of Amanda a lot and it has been so funny. Kinder gardens have been with restrictions so we have made some beach days with fun for all of us.

    Niels Kresten and I are normally traveling a lot, this year it has been inside Denmark. We have enjoyed visiting the small islands and the north of Denmark.

    Thank you very much for your update. Bring our regards to your family. We hope you will return to the states and the rest of your family as planned. It has been a long holiday in South Africa.

    Best regards Niels and Else

    Sendt fra min iPad

    >> Den 5. jul. 2020 kl. 19.08 skrev Teaching in Albania : >  >

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    1. Else, thank you for the update on your family. I am so glad that the pandemic has had such a limited impact on Denmark. That is definite benefit to living in a small country. I am hoping you and Niels can get back to your travels soon.

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  7. Thank you for sharing your wonderful adventures (and history lessons!) on your blog. Reading your posts was certainly something to look forward to. Now we get to (hopefully) hear more about your last two years in person this fall 🙂 Safe travels, Sarah.

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  8. Sarah, I enjoyed reading your blog. As a fellow teacher (now retired), I could identify with what you said about teaching through electronics. I can’t imagine first graders and electronics. Safe travels back to America.

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  9. What an awesome title & blog post, Sarah! I have so enjoyed taking this vicarious journey with you! I do hope that we will eventually get a bonus South Africa-themed post, but your primary focus right now needs to be on getting back to Fairport, where you have been missed by so many. Coincidentally, your very first post about teaching in Albania was listed right under this post, so I had the chance to read it again. I remember reading it the first time almost two years ago while on vacation in Ireland and being so excited for you. Who could have ever predicted the trajectory of those next two years, but doesn’t that make for an interesting life? Can’t wait to see you, once you complete quarantine!💕 Ann P.

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  10. Hi Sarah, I have really enjoyed reading your blogs, and expanding my “international” knowledge . I will
    miss them. Have a safe trip home

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  11. The video is a wonderful keepsake for you and your charming and productive students, Mrs. Williams, master teacher that you are:)) Enjoy your last two weeks in Pretoria. I hope the journey home works out as planned.
    Love, Laurie

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    1. I am not sure I am a master teacher but I certainly have enjoyed my profession over the years. 🙂 Thanks for your kind words about the video, it was fun putting it together. xo

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  12. We have enjoyed your stories of life aboard. And I hope you have safe travels looking forward to seeing you again in person.

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    1. Thanks, Mary. I am looking forward to being back at Christ Church sometime soon. It has been great to Zoom in for some of the virtual coffee hours. So good to see all the familiar faces!

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  13. Sarah – You inspire me, teach me, & WOW me! I know you’ve loved Albania & I’m very sure Albania has loved you right back! What an amazing experience & gift. I will miss your blogs. Please know so much love is waiting for you here in Fairport! 💙❤️ Travel safe. Love you, Lisa

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  14. Sarah, it has been so amazing reading your adventures over the past two years!! You are my hero! I have been thinking of you often during this time so I was thrilled to get this last post and learn you are safe and coming home soon. It will be great to see you! Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us and always being a student yourself. You make the world better!
    Travel Safe!

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