Teacher’s Pet

In Ozurgeti, I had the occasional private student. Mostly they were reserved for the Georgian English teachers. Most of the teacher took a full load of students afterschool to supplement their pay. It ironically made the students not care about their actual lessons in school. They put more time and effort into the time with tutors.

Even when I did have the occasional private student, the rate of income in western Georgia was soo low, that I practically did the lessons for free.

In Tbilisi, the demand is very, very high for Native English speakers. Tbilisi is like a bubble unto itself in Georgia. It is a very cosmopolitan city (as much as Georgians can be cosmopolitan). Citizens in professional jobs understand the importance of knowing how to speak English. The first thing my students in Tbilisi say for the reason they want lessons is that they want to be able to speak to English clients or something similar.

Even getting private students was a fluke. My host dad, Zura, is always thinking of business (money making) opportunities and one day offered to ask around if some of his contacts had need for a native English speaker. Within the week, two organizations wanted me to work for them. One would have been working with my friend, Pete. But because Anna doesn’t get home until late, the times were not working out for it to happen. Once TLG found out I was available for extra services, they put my name out, too. So now I get a constant inquiry of potential students.

Davit. Davit is an IT specialist that works with my host mom, Mari. He wants to learn English because he doesn’t like not being able to communicate effectively in English with clients. He can understand fine, usually. But he hates the way his delivery is jerky. He wants to be confident with a smooth, ‘conversational’ delivery.

Davit is a great guy. I have learned so much from him. He is very open and non-partial with Georgian history and politics. He also has a progressive outlook on life, which is refreshing in Georgian men. Davit is obviously shaped by the ‘dark days’ of the break with Soviet Union and the Revolution. He wants to protect his kid from that as best he can. One interesting thing he told me in a tangent conversation was about a culture nicety that gets lost in translation. Georgians don’t usually say, ‘thank you’ or ‘please’. Or at least that’s how its perceived by those that speak English. But that’s what gets lost in translation. Georgians, he said, don’t say it literally in their language in conversation but they use intonation to imply it. So since they don’t use it in their conversation, usually when they translate in their heads, it doesn’t happen.

Tamuna. Tamuna is a single mom that works for the Ministry of Interior. She is one of the students that I have to travel to. She is about 30 and works like a maniac. She, too, wants to brush up on her English to speak better to clients.

Tamuna is also a progressive minded Georgian woman. Which isn’t as hard to find as men. Actually, I can see my seniors from last year in Tamuna. Although she got married early, she didn’t let that hold her back. She doesn’t care about what others think, even her parents. That frame of mind allowed her to pursue a divorce. Both of those topics came up during a conversation about gender roles.

Nani and Layla. These two girls work together. Nani was referred to me by a TLG friend. They work together at a bank. Both want English for business reasons. (All of my students’ English is understandable, but they want it to approach fluency.)

Layla speaks slightly better English than Nani, but I think Nani’s vocabulary stronger. They wanted to have joint lessons. Which is fine by me. They are so fun together! And its obvious that they are the best of friends. They have a travel group that they are a part of that travels in the summer throughout Georgia. So whereas most Georgians haven’t even seen their own country, these girls have been everywhere.

Layla and Nani

Layla and Nani

The best part of having these private students is I learn so much from them about their thoughts, dreams, fears and ideas about the world and their country.

***

“I don’t know what he wants, I don’t understand what he’s trying to say. Don’t you get it? You walk to school every day with all these children who are normal. I can’t talk to my son! I don’t know what he wants or what he thinks or what he feels. I can’t tell him that I love him, I can’t tell him who I am. I want to talk to my son! I don’t care what it costs, I don’t care what the stupid doctor says it’s right or wrong. I want to talk to my son!”

Iris Holland, Mr. Holland’s Opus

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