Super Math Teacher

The thoughts of a middle school math teacher

What a LONG semester

This has been the longest semester ever!  Finally, though, school is out for 2 weeks for winter break.  I do not plan to think about my classes until January.  At least we do not return until January 7.

I thought moving to Turkey would be beneficial.  I did not realize how spoiled I was in Vietnam. In Vietnam, we had a week-long fall break in October, plus a few professional days here and there, before the winter break.  Here in Turkey, we have had exactly 1 scheduled day off, for Ataturk Day, which is a National Holiday here in Turkey.  One day off, the end of October.

The only other day off was an unscheduled snow day.  It snowed in Ankara a week ago, and the conditions were too dangerous for the buses, so no school.  The snow came in on Wednesday night.  Thursday was pretty icy as I walked down the hill to school.  Many students and buses were late that day.  Friday, there was no school.  I think that the conditions were worse on Thursday, but who am I to complain.  I was definitely ready for a day off.

The semester has been such a long one.  There have been days where I have come home in tears, as a result of my frustrations.  I know some of the frustration is because of the length without a break.  However, in talking with colleagues, many of us are feeling the same things.  I am speaking with both international teachers and local teachers.  There are many things that we find frustrating.

The spring semester has a few more holidays, including a week-long spring break.  Hopefully, there wont be as many days of frustration for me.  I am lucky to be able to live overseas and have the opportunities for travel and seeing the world, while teaching.  However, I know there are some things that I can’t change, and that adds to the amount of frustration I feel.  I need to keep positive, and look at the little things that keep me coming back: the high fives from students;  the kids who don’t like math but tell me that I am their favorite teacher; the kids who laugh at their own mistakes; the time with colleagues outside of school (Tuesday nights at Jenn’s, weekends spent at the mall, time exploring this amazing country).

I definitely am ready for 2 weeks to rest and relax.  Mom arrives tomorrow and we are exploring Turkey together for 13 days.  I need this break.

This has been a LONG semester, but it is finally over.

Leave a comment »

Traffic Adventures in Ankara

Today, another friend and I were meeting up with some friends in another part of town.  It’s a far distance from where we live, and the two of us were talking about our holiday plans……


Our taxi was hit by something.  We looked behind, and did not see another car.  I looked to the right (I was on the passenger side); there on the ground lay a Harley Davidson.  You guessed it…..we were rear ended by a motorcycle.  I told the driver, and he got out.  Apparently the damage was pretty extensive.  He told us to remain in the car (we were on a major thoroughfare), so we did.  The motorcycle driver was walking around, so we knew he wasn’t hurt.

Our driver made sure we were okay (with his limited English).  We stayed in the car, while the police were called, and the driver got his phone to take pictures.  As we waited, Evie and I decided we probably should take another taxi.  First, we phoned our friends to let them know what had happened.

We paid our driver, after we gave him some contact info (just in case).  We decided to start walking towards an intersection, so that we could get a new taxi.  Almost immediately, another taxi stopped for us.  We had walked about 10 feet from the accident.

To be honest, I think the driver was shaken.  No one was hurt, but the taxi is probably out of commission for a while.  I never knew a motorcycle could do that much damage!  I am grateful that no one was hurt.  It could have been worse.

It could have happened anywhere.


Leave a comment »

Happy Thanksgiving

Here it is, the day before Thanksgiving.  As it has been for the last 4 years, I will once again be teaching on Thursday.

I am thankful for many things:

  • For good friends who are hosting a dinner tomorrow (everyone bring a side dish!)
  • For living in an amazing country and having the opportunity to travel throughout.
  • For family back home.  Even though we are thousands of miles apart, we still are close (see you in a month Mom!)
  • For friends who put up with my venting frustrations on a regular basis (I am a teacher, after all!)
  • For having a job that allows me to share ideas with my colleagues.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Leave a comment »

A Visit to Cappadocia

Last weekend, a group of teachers set out for an overnight bus trip to Cappadocia.  The region is about 4 hours drive away.  It was a reasonable cost (only 750 Turkish lira) and a lot was packed into the itinerary.

Since Mom is coming in December, and we are going there, this was the perfect opportunity to get away from Ankara and see some other sights.  I have already made day trips to Konya and Eskeshir.

My favorite part was visiting the Goreme open air museum.  Seeing all the different churches, which are over 1000 years old was incredible.  Climbing on the rocks to enter the caves, seeing frescoes that are just as old.  Wow.

IT was a short trip, and I definitely will be back to spend more time in this amazing place.  Going there with friends, old and new, was also alot of fun.

Leave a comment »

Has it already been one month?

Wow.  It has already been one month here in Turkey.  

I have made the transition from Common Core to Cambridge standards.  I am getting used to a schedule that seems to be very inconsistent (40 minute periods, sometimes a single period, sometimes a double one).

Moving to BLIS was definitely a good choice.  I finally feel that I am actually part of a department.  IN the MS math department, there are 6 of us.  All female.  I am the only non-Turkish teacher in the group, and expectations are high.  I share lots of ideas with everyone, and they have all been very receptive.  🙂

My students are definitely different from those in Vietnam.  While the Vietnamese students were driven to perfection, these students want to do well.  THey look for opportunities to think outside the box.  Today, for example, students were creating graphs about a set of data.  They chose what type of graph would be appropriate.  Many students came during their break times to work, instead of using the time to play basketball or hang out with their friends.  Talk about dedicated!

I also enjoy working with my colleagues.  The other Grade 7 teacher and I collaborate several times a week.  It is true collaboration.  We share ideas and discuss what we want to do.  Both of us feel that we make a good team.  Today, she taught me Turkish division and I taught her American division.  We both are benefiting from this partnership.

Another positive is the sense of welcome and community at BLIS.  We have had a welcome picnic, have a welcome cocktail tomorrow evening, have a couple of trips planned for October.  This is in addition tot he small group that I do a lot with.  Again, there are dinners, movie nights, trips around town, and so on.  It is nice to have friends to do things with.  We also have weekly Turkish lessons, provided by the school.

Leave a comment »

Ready for a new year?

School officially starts for students in 2 days.  Teachers started on August 13, but we have since had an entire week off, due to the Bayram holiday.  I’m not quite sure exactly what the holiday is about, except that it is 4 1/2 days.

Tomorrow is the last workday before our students arrive.  So far, my teaching schedule has changed 3 times.  I’m still teaching Grade 7 math, but the different classes have changed times and when they are double blocks.  I guess I’ll find out more tomorrow.

I’m a little nervous this year, which is something that hasn’t happened in a number of years.  The main reason is the change in curriculum.  BLIS uses the Cambridge standards, so I am teaching a british curriculum, complete with some different terminology.  So far I have learned that “directed numbers” are integers, “indices” are exponents, and a trapezoid is called a “trapezium.”  I guess I’ll get used to some of these terms, but it is going to be an adjustment.

The other reason that I am nervous is because we also have to meet the standards set out by the Turkish Ministry of Education.  The only problem is there is no available English translation of the standards.  I have been told that they are more rigorous than the Cambridge, but would like to see for myself.

In addition, there are 5 sections of Grade 7  math, and I am only teaching 4 of them.  That means I must collaborate with one of my colleagues.  As the only non-Turkish math teacher in the middle school, I am hoping that meetings will remain focused and in English.  We have department meetings every week, according to the schedule.  At least everyone in my department is female, so I will fit in.  We have already decided that we will learn from each other.

So, to sum up, I am nervous, as well as excited.  Turkey is an amazing place, and the people here have been so friendly.  Hopefully, my students will be the same, and this will be a great year!

Leave a comment »

Ordering Pizza

You would think that ordering a pizza would be simple.  Decide who to order from, what type of crust, what toppings,, the size, and then place the order, either online or by telephone.  Well, when you are in a country where you don’t speak the language, it is definitely NOT that simple.

After a long week of new teacher orientation stuff, plus back to school meetings, trips to IKEA and the local gym, a group of the new teachers decided to order pizza for dinner on Friday night.  What follows is a summary of our experiences.

Step one: go to the Domino’s pizza website.  Naturally it is all in Turkish.  Step two: Use Google Chrome and translate the page.  Now we can read it.  Or so we thought….

The translations were definitely not what we were expecting.  We had to choose pizza type (social, legend, myth, Fit & healthy, and so on).  We opted for Social.  THen there was the “Pizza Neck Size”  Default was middle, so we left that alone.  Type of crust was simple.  Then came the toppings……

Choices for toppings included Egypt, Bitter chili spring, Roasting,  Local Tastes Spring……plus standard ones like mushroom, pepperoni (made from beef, not pork), cheese, and so on.  THe highlight was when we had to choose between “I want it painful” and “I want extra cheese”.

We decided on the pizza we wanted, and went to enter our delivery address.  It is all drop down menu choices.  Our neighborhood is not a location, and there is no option to enter an address.  At this point, it has been an hour to place an order.  We changed websites, and went to a delivery site that has an English option.

We went through the menu again, with the same choices, and managed to enter our address (in this case, my apartment).  We got an email saying we would get a confirmation call.  SUre enough, there was a telephone call, and it was in limited English.  Ten minutes after the call, the pizza arrived.  Once we placed the order, it was only 20 minutes to get our meal.

Part of the challenge, and part of the fun, is trying new things when you live in a country with a totally different language.  Placing an online order was fun.  We needed the laugh!

Here are a few things we saw:

  • Choose your materials instead of choose your toppings
  • I want it painful
  • Egypt is a pizza topping (we later learned Egypt means corn)
  • Cracked chicken couples (still haven’t decided on that one!)
  • Turkey chest (instead of turkey breast)

Anyone who travels overseas should definitely try to order something as simple as a pizza in the local language!


Leave a comment »

A new beginning

I have moved on from Vietnam.  It was time after 4 years in Ho Chi Minh City.  Starting today, I am now employed at Bilkent Laboratory and International School (BLIS) in Ankara, Turkey.

Naturally, there were a few hiccups along the way as I prepared for the move.  Getting an employment visa was the biggest.  I made a trip to the consulate in Miami.  I submitted forms and documents.  I paid almost $400 for the visa.  Then I was told it would take 4-6 weeks!  I was 3 weeks away from beginning my contract.  Of course, after I made the trip, new teachers were told to just get a tourist visa.  So easy, and only $20!

THen came the packing and moving to Ankara.  I packed 4 suitcases of clothing and such, with a few school supplies thrown in (very few, however…..).  Only $410 to check a total of 4 bags (2 were free).  Then the flight from Raleigh was delayed, and I was hoping I would make the connection in Boston to Istanbul.  Luckily, I made it with about 10 minutes before boarding.  After that, everything was smooth.

Arriving in Ankara, I was brought to my apartment.  Although it is smaller than in Vietnam, it is still a good size.  I have 2 bedrooms.  Best of all, the kitchen has an oven!  I have 3 balconies (one off each bedroom and one off the living room).  They allow for a great breeze.  The windows and door have screens, so I can leave them open and not worry about bugs.

Today was the first day for new teachers.  We accomplished filling out paperwork, getting our health check, receiving our settling in allowance, and going to the mall that is just down the hill.  Tomorrow is the day that returning faculty report, so everyone will be there.

Leave a comment »

The end of an era

Today was the last day of work for me at AIS. It was graduation day for my Grade 8 kids.

It was a bittersweet time. I gave the teacher speech. I recognized students. It was a moving ceremony.

Afterwards, there were the numerous pictures with the kids. There were lots of tears.

It has been a long ride, and it is time for the next phase of my overseas adventure tires to begin.

Leave a comment »

Saigon Junior Math Competition 2018

Saturday was the final math competition of the year for me.  It was the Saigon Junior Math competition, designed primarily for middle school students.

This year, AIS took 3 teams of 3.  We also had 4 alternates, but only 1 chose to attend.  He actually ended up competing as part of another school’s team, who had a member not come.  All in all, 10 students competed in the 4 rounds: Individual, Pass Back, Cross Number, and Relay.

Although we did not win any individual or team awards, I am proud of the students that went.  They knew they were up against students from other schools who tend to win these competitions.  During the awards, we predicted which school would win.


Two weeks ago, we competed against the same schools in the Saigon Junior Logic competition.  Our teams, composed of 2 students from Grade 7 and 6 students from Grade 6, were the youngest ones  there.  However, our B team, made up of 6th grade students, won the Engineering Round, where they built the tallest free-standing tower of marshmallows and spaghetti noodles — an impressive 113.5cm tall.  The second place tower was just under 100cm.


I am happy with the students’ overall performance.  At the same time, I am relieved that the competition season has ended for me.  These students gave up other after school activities to practice, and then gave up 2 different Saturdays in order to attend the competitions. (Meeting at 7am in order to ride the school bus to the competition locations was not fun!)

Leave a comment »