Life in Greece

The Other Side of the Desk: The Last Days of Greek School and the Final Exam

29 May, 2017

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In Greece, as in the States, classroom technology works when it wants to; not always when you do.

I could write volumes comparing my experiences teaching ESL to being a Greek student. In this post, I’ll limit those little observations to one: The temperature is never right in the classroom.

It was amusing to me at first that even in Greece I couldn’t get away from students complaining about it being too hot or too cold, but I understand it now. Yes, one problem is probably an old system, barely held together, and in serious need of replacement, but the biggest reason it’s never quite right is having so many different people in the same room.

In my lessons the Saudi students would complain it was too hot, while the Europeans would complain that it was too cold. It didn’t help that different parts of the room were controlled by different panels, some of which I had no access too. So, there was always this dance of me shuffling from one side of the room to the other, from an ice-box to a furnace, and back.

In our Greek class we had a German deacon who was always in a heavy cassock and thus needed a colder room, while we had some Eastern Europeans who thought the air-conditioner would make them sick. Same dance.

Anyway, I wanted to dedicate the chief portion of this blog post to the tail end of that journey. As the final exam drew nearer, and we’d registered and paid for it, the lessons being much more intense and we found ourselves swimming in vocabulary lists, grammar points, and practice tests for at least three hours a day from March to May.

This drew us closer as a class, especially now that we’d been whittled down to 9 from the original 20+ students. On the Friday before our big exam (which was on Monday), we’d planned on doing our last field trip together; a walking field trip to the sites in Ano Poli. Though Euphrosini and I had been to all of them already, we were really looking forward to spending time with our class in the prettiest part of the city.

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Our class in Ano Poli (Photo credit: Angelina Mendeleva)

After weeks of sunshine, God chose that morning to send us rain–a lot of it. And so the messages shot back and forth on whether or not we’d have the field trip. Those of us who lived closest to the center, or who were already on buses headed there, braved the rain and met at a cafe next to the Arch of Galerius to see if the rain would pass. At the very least, we’d be able to see and encouraged one another before the exam. Mercifully, the rain died out almost completely and we had our field trip!

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At Moni Vlatadon. From the left: our teacher, Theologia, Dn. Athanasios, giving us some history about the monastery, and finally Maxim, deep in thought. (Photo credit: Angelina Mendeleva)
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Two-thirds of our class at Ano Poli (2 were missing, and I’m behind the camera). From the left: Maxim, from Romania, Dn. Athanasios, from Germany, Theologia, our teacher, Angelina from Belarus, Eleni, from Kazakhstan, Euphrosini, and Eleni, from Ukraine.

On the day of the exam we all waited together in front of the lecture hall and when the doors opened we sat together within three rows. The first part was the written exam consisting of: Listening, Reading, Grammar, and Writing. I think we all found it challenging, but in the end did better than we’d thought.

The second part of the exam was the oral exam which is an interview done in pairs in which they ask you a series of questions individually, and then have you converse about a topic. Since they couldn’t practically interview all the pairs at once, we all had different exam times. Before and after our respective exams, we all waited at a nearby cafe to cheer on those going in and then to grill them on how it went when they got back, hoping to get a bit of insight and encouragement.

Euphrosini and I had the unexpected blessing of being paired together for the exam, and being interviewed by our regular sub, Marina! That certainly took a load off our backs and we were able to speak more freely.

As the last of us went to take their oral exams around 630, a lightning storm came in and came down heavily on us. The day started out sunny and warm, so none of us were prepared with umbrellas or jackets.

That evening we met at a tavern near Aristotle square for one last meal together as a class, our little family. We enjoyed an evening dining outside, with live-music in the backdrop, reminiscing about the past year, and talking about our plans for the future.

Two weeks later, we received our results. All of us had passed the exam and did quite well!

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Glory to God for all things!

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