Monday, September 6, 2010

More About My Classes, Observations and Eating Octopus!

Danas je ponedjeljak! (Today is Monday). My Crnegorski language skills are improving. My language lessons are officially underway and this past weekend a friend of mine said I speak the language very well. I am learning Crnegorski quickly and my vocabulary has expanded significantly since my arrival. It’s really a fun language to speak.

Today was full of excitement. This morning I met up with Marija (a Native American Professor at Universitet Crne Gore Nikšić) again, and she drove us to Nikšić. On the way, two other colleagues from our department joined us. We had a full car! I met Peter, a young professor, who teaches writing in our department. He's great and lives in Podgorica as well. It was so nice to talk with him because we are relatively close in age (he's 25), and I really enjoyed hearing about his experiences working with the students and taping into his knowledge about the structure of the university. Peter and I share a lot of common interests (i.e., passion for writing, traveling, and public speaking.) I am looking forward to getting to know him better, and other faculty members in our department.

When we arrived to Nikšić, I met with Biljana (my department chair) and Marija to discuss my teaching schedule, to receive my office/classroom keys, and to review the course syllabus I developed for "Teaching Young Leaner's." I will teach all day on Monday's (4 classes) and Wednesday's (4 classes) from 9AM to 5PM. All of my classes will have about 15 to 20 students in them, so it’s manageable. Biljana and Marija were extremely thrilled and very pleased with the syllabus I put together. They both commented, "You are so well organized and detailed Dustin. It's perfect." I couldn't help, but laugh. I was just relieved that they liked my syllabus and lesson plans.

On Monday's, I will be teaching a course called "Contemporary English Conversation." The course meets once a week for forty-five minutes and the course is a requirement for fourth-year students. In a nutshell, the course is designed to help students improve their speaking (grammar) accuracy, among many other things. The course will be heavily discussion based. The department requires that the students read one novel in this course. The novel selected is called "The Sea, The Sea" by Iris Murdoch. Outside of this requirement, I am free to pretty much teach and engage the students in a number of conversation based activities. I will have to develop one oral mid-term exam (administered in October) and one oral end-of-term exam (administered in December). In January, the students will have a Final Exam for this course. The subject they will be tested on is the novel they were required to read.

I am starting to discover that the Montenegro grading system is quite different from the United States. The majority of the professors in my department have told me repeatedly that many of the students will not appear in class until a week before exams start. (I pray that this will not be the case with my students). I am quickly learning that Montenegro is an exam-based society. In the majority of classes, students are studying and preparing for big tests that they must take at the end of every semester. Things such as class attendance and participation are not seen as critical or mandatory. This is certainly not the case with all classes, and even students, but I have been told that I should not expect high and consistent attendance rates in my classes. However, because I will be teaching fourth-year university students, Biljana said the students "tend" to be more responsible, committed to their studies, and mature. I guess I will find out soon.

This morning I had the opportunity to speak with the Dean who oversees the entire Faculty of Philosophy at Nikšić. He’s an older gentleman who speaks very, very little English. Marija ended up serving as our translator. He was extremely friendly and eager to have me join the staff for the next academic year. He said, "We have you now." I must say that I am impressed with Universitet Crne Gore. I was so nervous that things were going to be extremely unorganized and chaotic, but really everyone I have met so far has been well-organized and punctual. My department is truly exceptional and the professors seem to be very dedicated to their students. I love the climate of our department. People are great communicators, and they are always willing to answer any and all of my questions.

After all of my morning appointments, Marija and I went to one of the nearby lakes in Nikšić for lunch. It was an awesome restaurant and the scenery was beautiful. Nikšić is surrounded by several large lakes and tall mountains. Actually, Nikšić use to be a part of Bosnia, but was given this territory after the Second World War. King Nikola has a palace (or summer estate) in Nikšić and there is beautiful monastery that was built at the end of the 19th Century (pro-Serbian) that is located near the city’s center. Anyway, back to our lunch by the lake, Marija order us a bunch of fresh, homemade Montenegrin delicacies that are native to Nikšić. The food was marvelous and our main dish was OCTOPUS. I was told Montenegro is a great place for sampling octopus. Well after having octopus as a main dish I can officially attest to the fact that the rumors are true... it is exceptional. Why? I even think I prefer it to lobster, mussels, and shrimp.

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