Friday, September 30, 2011

Message of the day (by Pat): You have brains in your head and shoes on your feet you can go anywhere. Dr. Seuss (paraphrased)

After a restful night’s sleep, the volunteers were ready for another hearty breakfast comprised of apple fritters, various cold cuts, veggies, coffee and tea. Um, um, GOOD!

The Cisie drivers arrived on time, as usual, and we were driven to our teaching assignments. The Cisie children were anxiously awaiting our arrival greeting us with “Good morning!” at every turn. The classes went smoothly, and before long we were taken in Andrzej’s taxi to Spoleczna, the semi-private school in Siedlce.

After spending a week with my fellow volunteers, I get a kick out of the various pronunciations of Siedlce. Don’t worry volunteers, there will be many more after us who will have difficulty pronouncing Siedlce. Maybe we should consider changing it to Shuttletown or something.
In my estimation, the children at Spoleczna appear to be a little more advanced than the children I taught in other schools in the past. The majority of my fourth graders are smart, responsive, and eager to learn. I have one kid in my class, Filip, who reads better than I do…well, come to think of it, that ain’t sayin’ much since I’m from New Jersey.

We returned to Reymontowka for yet another delicious meal: Vegetable soup, pork with a delicious honey-mustard sauce, french fries and veggies. Oh man, was that good!

After lunch, we remained in the dining room to discuss weekend travel arrangements for Carol, Rita, and Jim’s weekend trip to Lublin. I knew this was going to be an interesting trip for this adventuresome threesome when one of them asked, “I thought we were going West to Lublin?” You see, folks, Lublin is in the other direction and South of Siedlce.

Oh, I forgot to mention that Pat and Jim went across the street to pick some raspberries for their cereals the next morning. Unfortunately, Jim won’t have any for breakfast because he ate all of his already.

Pat was making plans to go to Warsaw with Gosia. Poor Ed had to stay at Reymontowka and monitor the decibel levels of the music at the wedding that’s taking place on Saturday. Don’t feel too sorry for Ed, however, he has plans to have lunch with the new Kasia/Kate and her husband and two children on Saturday, and another lunch on Sunday with Jola and former Cisie Pani Dyrektor, Bozena.

After a refreshing break on the patio, we sat down for our final meal of the day. Jim finally got his potato pancakes which he has been anxiously awaiting since he arrived here on Saturday, which, I might add, he devoured voraciously. There wasn’t a single potato pancake left on the platters.

I am sure I’m speaking for the rest of the volunteers when I say I’m having a blast here in Poland. Thank you Dorota for making it all possible. Jeszcze Polska nie zginela.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Message of the day (by Edmund): Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

Another day in our Polish Paradise. Breakfast featured Polish cheese along with our usual terrific breakfast trimmings.

Our teaching schedule was slightly altered with the addition of a student concert at the Spoleczna School. The concert was a unique chance to see and hear traditional Polish Folk music. The program was well received by students. The visiting group of four adult musicians noted our presence as visitors and played a Jewish foxtrot, written in Poland and dedicated to America. It was a truly neat experience.

All group members will be off on weekend excursions, except Ed, who plans on relaxing and hopefully picking a few local raspberries for our warm fuzzy group of volunteers.

Rita and I tutored three neighborhood 7th grade girls who walked over to Reymontowka. A good example of 3 great kids wanting to improve their English skills.

A spaghetti supper capped off the day with prunes in whipping cream for dessert – PRICELESS.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Message of the day (shared by Jim):
One generation plants the trees; another gets the shade. (Chinese proverb)

Today is Wednesday, our second day of teaching and what could be better than starting with placki (fritters) and coffee? The food at the Manor is presented so beautifully. Carol said that there must be an artist in the kitchen.

Arriving at school, we meet the students – so welcoming and helpful. Most of us are still struggling to find our room or the teacher’s lounge. When the students see that we are lost, they direct us to the WC.

Today in class we were talking about wild animals and I shared some northern Minnesota stories about bear, wolf, deer and camping adventures. We were also reading excerpts from Star Wars and a story about the Iditarod Trail, explaining misunderstood words as we went along.

Suddenly the students stood up and I knew it had to be break time. Then off to the teacher’s lounge to share delicacies and coffee with the staff. It’s hard to believe that at noon we were ready to eat again and lunch is our biggest meal of the day.

A tasty chicken soup was the start of lunch. Are we stuffed yet? Of course, but we need extra energy to work for a few hours – planning tomorrow’s classes. In the resource room, we gave Dorota a workout – she can answer any question – and always with a smile. Carol then tutored a high school junior focusing on English phonics and Pat tutored three waitresses on English terms for food and beverages. Needing to clear our minds, we took a walk, always ready to dodge bicyclists or speeding cars on the road.

Previously we have had dinner in the “fireplace room”, but tonight we ate in the main dining room because we were the only guests in the Manor. Reymontowka Manor House is a beautiful place to stay while volunteering and we are so glad to be here.

By Rita.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Message of the day (shared by Rita):
Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin. (Mother Theresa)

Finally, the first day of school! It meant a 7:00 a.m. breakfast, bountiful as always, and a 7:30 a.m. departure with either Iza or Gosia driving us to Cisie Elementary School.

Pat was to teach 2nd and 3rd grades, Jim and Ed with 4th graders, Rita with 5th graders, and Carol with the sixth graders—mercifully all small classes.

We entered, were escorted to the Teachers Lounge and shown to our individual classrooms.
Open, curious, smiling faces followed us with “Good Mornings” amidst a happy bedlam…an affectionate legacy from earlier Global Volunteers!

Comparing notes, I believe we each found a warm reception and traded “successful” approaches. Time did not stand still as we had feared, and students were genuinely responsive—Bingo, based on colors and shapes was a really enjoyable exchange in my classroom.

A discussion of different sports brought wide responses—girls favored snow-boarding, and boys, more predictably football/soccer.

Between classes we were invited to the Faculty Lounge for coffee or tea and elegant pastries—Just saying “No!” proved hard!

The Spoleczna van needed service, so a local taxi driver, Andrzej, delivered all five of us to the Spoleczna School in Siedlce. Here again a noisy chorus of “Good Mornings,” and small, responsive classes. Our morale was definitely improving, and courage returning. The Faculty Lounge offered another round of tantalizing goodies…promise of a weight gain!

Again at lunch we shared insights over pickle soup. For Jim and Rita, a young university graduate would be coming for an hour’s tutoring mid-afternoon.

Wednesday would come soon enough, but our initial exposure today was most reassuring. Our students are attentive and responsive. Aren’t we lucky to be a part of Global Volunteers’ 21st season here in Poland under Dorota’s confidence-building leadership.

By Carol.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Message of the Day (shared by Pat):
A life lived for others is the only one worth living. Albert Einstein

What a great new team of volunteers: Jim and Rita from the cold northern parts of MN; Carol from West Palm Beach, FL and a summer home near Boston, MA; Pat, the veteran volunteer from the farmlands of IL; and, yours truly, Edmund from Ewing, NJ.

For you newcomers to Reymontowka, you will note that most of our entries into the Journal will concentrate on what we ate that day. For example, our first breakfast at the Manor House consisted of a halved hard-boiled egg floating in a deliciously thickened mustard sauce, various cold cuts, fresh vegetables, just delivered hot rolls, juice, coffee, and tea. A hearty meal indeed. When Carol looked at her breakfast dish, she asked Rita if she would like some, thinking that the plate was to be shared by everyone at the table. Lo and behold, Carol was told that that is her breakfast, not the table's.

During our initial Orientation meeting, Our Fearless Leader, Dorota, gave us a brief history of Poland and commented that Poland was freed from communism in 1989. Since then, Poland has prospered handsomely. Global Volunteers offered its services to Poland soon after that but had to change its focus of providing "hands" to Poland and provide something that Poland really needed, the understanding and usage of the English language. To paraphrase what the founder of Global Volunteers said during his meeting with the Polish representatives asking for assistance, he said that "Global Volunteers have never done anything like that before." And the Polish representative responded, "They'll be speaking English, won't they?" Many years hence, Global Volunteers has provided over 2,600 volunteers to teach conversational English to the children of Poland.

Continuing with the Orientation, the team of volunteers offered the following as its three goals:

1. To assist students with their ESL activities.
2. To be goodwill ambassadors.
3. To learn and appreciate Polish culture and its people.

The team then listed the types of characteristics that it would need to be an effective team:

1. A sense of humor 7. Flexibility
2. Cooperation 8. Patience
3. Communication 9. Tolerance
4. Openness 10. Dedication
5. Open-mindedness 11. Kindness
6. Honesty 12. Helpfulness

Dorota then distributed the Journal Entry Schedule as well as the Teaching Assignments. We were informed that all five team members will be teaching in the same schools: Cisie and Spoleczna.

At Cisie, Pat will be teaching Grades 2 & 3; Edmund--Group 1 in Grade 4; Jim--Group 2 in Grade 4; Rita--Grade 5; and, Carol--Grade 6. At Spoleczna, Pat will be teaching Grade 3; Edmund--Grade 4; Jim--1st Junior High School; Rita--2nd Junior High School; and Carol--3rd Junior High School.

Dorota gave out additional tutoring assignments as follows:

Pat at the Zelkow elementary school as well as tutoring Reymontowka waitresses.
Edmund will be the Team Journal Coordinator as well as tutoring a couple of middle school students.
Rita and Jim will be tutoring Agnes, an aspiring student.
Carol will be tutoring Kasia (Kate), a high school student.

Along with Our Fearless Leader, all of the volunteers went to the 12 o'clock Mass at the old wooden Trinity Church built in 1776, down the dirt road from Reymontowka. A beautiful church. The Polish people in church knew we were from Global Volunteers because we were with Dorota.

After Mass, a delicious lunch was served consisting of mushroom soup, a pork cutlet topped with tomato and melted cheese, carrot and red cabbage salads, juice, coffee and tea.

After some much-needed free time, the Team met with various representatives of Cisie and Spoleczna to find out what the schools would like to see the volunteers concentrate on during their class assignments. The English speaking representatives of the schools were very encouraging and the one thing that got my attention was when Kasia/Kate from Spoleczna said to me: "The students will be more nervous than you will be in the classroom. All of you will do well." Yeah, easy for her to say.

Another Orientation meeting followed, but this one had an added ingredient: classical piano music in the background. The young lady who will be performing tonight at a recital was practicing on the grand piano.
A simple but delicious supper was served: cold cuts, veggies, and a creamy dessert with fresh raspberries.

The Team and other guests at Reymontowka attended a concert this evening featuring eleven year old Alicja Rokita, an aspiring young pianist studying at the School of Music in Warsaw, and a student of forte pianist, Krzysztof Rynkiewicz, who performed for us several years ago.

Just a typical beautiful day in beautiful Poland. Good luck team members.