The Turkish “University” Experience

I’ve been working my University job for a little over a month now. Let’s break down the experience.

 

The Pros:

Work 4.5 hours a day

Free drinking water (sometimes)

 

The cons:

Oh boy.

 

If you’re looking for sharp folks, this is not the place to find them. Let’s say first of all that the university system here is different. Everyone has to take an exam before entering university, and the scores on this exam are the only thing considered for university entry. Students rank their top schools, and the schools then choose the best students they can get. On the scale of scores, my students averaged about 60. I think around 98-99 is a good score, but I’m not sure… all I’m sure of is that a 60 is… not great at all. Not. Great. At. All.

 

To sum things up, this is a private university for kids from wealthy families. They would never have made it in the public universities, which are much more rigorous, so their parents pay a lot of money for them to pretty much sit in class and do nothing in exchange for a degree. I believe it’s literally impossible to flunk out of this university, or to be expelled for behavior.

 

The university is basically a corporation– it just collects the parents’ money and conserves it as much as possible. Consider that the tuition is comparable to a Princeton tuition. In return, students get pretty much nothing but that piece of paper. Everything on the campus is broken. The classrooms are so basic- just chairs and a frickin’ chalk board. The text books are just photocopies– the university bought one copy of the book, made black and white photocopies of parts of it, and charged students the retail price for the bootleg copies. But hey, no one really comes here for the functional learning environment.

I’ve never even met my supervisor; I got my schedule emailed to me at the beginning of the year, and I get emailed topics to teach each week (usually on Monday morning, guess they haven’t heard of lesson planning before…) by a mysterious lady named “Nazife”. Usually, I’m assigned one book page to cover per hour… putting me on the spot to come up with an actual curriculum and activities to do each day.

 

Given what I’ve described, I think you can guess that my learners are not too motivated. Honestly, I sometimes can’t believe this is an adult (18-35), university class. I feel like the behavior is comparable to my 7-year-olds back in Thailand, it is absolutely unbelievable. They’re nice enough kids, they just really don’t get what it takes to be a productive student. Most of the time, I’m talking to myself while giving the tutorial portion of the lesson. I can’t even hear my own voice sometimes. But then when it comes time for the activities, students all get frustrated and cry out because they don’t understand. Then, when they ask me to re-explain, they all start talking again. I definitely could be managing the class better, but it’s not just me; my colleagues have all been teaching for 5-15 years and are having the same problems. Between all of us, we’ve had students arm wrestling, lighting things on fire, taking group pictures, hooking up in the back corner, and blasting music on their iphone speakers. What do you even do with a class like that?

 

It’s not at all an issue of rapport– my students and I generally like each other a lot as human beings (except for 1 class, who are arrogant little assholes). I’ve gotten plenty of invites, gifts, students asking for private lessons, and classes telling me how much they love me. The problem really goes deeper…it’s an issue of a bunch of grown ups who never learned to sit in their seats and concentrate on something. It’s always, can we play a game? Can we leave 10 minutes early? Or, students continuously yelling, “teacher, teacher!” even when I explain to them that I can only help one student at a time. I thought it would be an issue that I am about the same age or younger than many of my students. But there’s definitely a much bigger maturity gap than I had expected.

 

This may not be completely fair; the root of the problem may be that the university forces students to attend every single lecture, every day. This is 5 hours per day of mandatory attendance. Really, the university doesn’t really care if the students learn… so what’s the point? It’s just pissing people off by taking their money and then caging them in for 5 hours a day for no reason. I was told by the head of my department that the most important part of my job is taking attendance. So there you have it; I’m just a glorified babysitter. But if every single student weren’t forced to be there, I think we could have a decent lesson with the ones that actually wanted to pay attention. Instead, what we have is 5 hours of hell, with trapped, uninterested students (and trapped, exasperated teachers) going out of their minds. If it weren’t for the unbeatable hours, I would be out of there. And hey, I guess that having classes who don’t listen really takes the pressure off. I don’t feel inclined to create a good lesson for students who couldn’t care less, so I’m totally off the hook and can spend my free time how I please.

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