Teacher Story: Daryna - Luhansk Oblast, Ukraine
This story was collected as part of Teachers in Crisis Contexts (TiCC) Event Series to ensure that the voices and experiences of teachers working in crisis and displacement permeate all aspects of the event. For more stories, click here.
Teacher’s Life in a Conflict Zone
Name: Daryna Safryhina
School: Novotoshkivsha No. 10 Formal School
Location: Luhansk Oblast, Ukraine
What do you enjoy most about being a teacher? Being a teacher I enjoy interaction with the children most. I like communicating with them, especially with teenagers. Seeing interest in their eyes gives me pleasure. It’s so satisfying to understand that I was the one who aroused interest in them towards English (this is the subject I teach). I realized that everything starts with communication. When you’re not only a teacher, when you’re simple, faithful and friendly, they feel the sincerity. And some of them pay back with sincerity as well, and this is the best thing concerning this part of my life. Because when you are on friendly terms with pupils, they show more interest, they start paying attention better; they try to do their best. And this pleases me. Moreover, when I know them better, I know how to teach them, what method to choose so they would understand. I don’t have favourite students, but I do have my favourite age group – teens. They are like fire, so lively and bright! And it is also very challenging to work with them. Teaching teenagers is like a constant process of growing because I feel like if I stopped improving my skills, broadening my mind I wouldn’t catch up with them.
What are the biggest challenges you face as a teacher? I like being a teacher, but sure thing this means some challenges. The hardest part is paper work. Sure thing, we have to have lesson plans, monthly or annual plans, but there are too many other documents we have to cope with. This leaves less time for creativity. I could make my lessons even more interesting if I had more time. Another big challenge for me if working at home. Since I entered the university and had so much homework to do, I’ve been dreaming of a job that wouldn’t demand working at home. I have some favourite hobbies I can’t find time for. Maybe my preparation time is quite long because I’m young. I’ve been working as a teacher since 2017. Before that I had had some university practices, too. But having 6 lessons every day is still really challenging.
What type of support would you need to work better every day as a teacher? I would love to have some other foreign language teachers in my school. It’s a great practice here, in Ukraine, that there’s always a kind of tutor for young specialists for this first year of working. But I understand this is impossible in the conflict zone I live now because we don’t even have a teacher of history this year. I love our teaching staff, but I would greatly appreciate help in sharing experience. As for other part of our lives, communication with parents is not as good as I would like to have. I understand that all the families lived through tough times of this military conflict, and there are too many broken relationships. The generation gap is huge here. Sadly, not many parents even take interest in their children’s lives. Or if anything unpleasant happens, they blame everyone but themselves. I was learning Psychology at University during three years, and I feel I could help, I know I’m able to help knowing the problems of pupils, but what would I say to parents if I don’t have children of my own? They wouldn’t even listen to my advice. I’m so eager to start some courses with parents, maybe some trainings, interactive seminars, but they wouldn’t come. It would be so great if someone told them about something like that, if someone sparked the interest in them, showed the necessity of good communication. Communication that opens their hearts, that builds bridges between parents and children.
What would you like the rest of the world to know about your life and/or work as a teacher? I love what I do. I love kids, I enjoy communicating with them. I love interacting with people. And I know that but for God Who lives in me I wouldn’t be like this. I know I’m not perfect, I have faults, but I always do my best in teaching, everything I do in my life I do first for my God. That’s why I came here from the region where I was born. That’s why I can’t be indifferent towards my country, towards the people who live in the war conflict zone. That’s why my heart burns with the desire to do what I can do to help the children. My greatest desire is to share love Jesus gifted me with people. Actions speak louder than words. That’s my motto. And teaching school kids English, playing and communicating with them I hope to make at least a small change for better.
What changes to programs/policies would you like to see? The programs are becoming harder and harder with every year. As an English teacher, I can surely say that the total amount of the language our state wants kids to master is too big. One more problem I can’t fail to talk about is the disrespect towards teaching. On the one hand, pupils know their rights perfectly, and that’s awesome. But on the other hand, they don’t even want to listen that they have some duties too. Teachers need protection from the willfulness of some pupils or their parents.
What are some of the topics/skills that you wish to learn in a professional development program? I’m interested in Psychology. I would have another education connected with that. I’d like to know and understand different ages better to be able to help them, teach them the best I can. Also I’m fond of English, and I would appreciate some live communication or trainings, where I could practice my speaking skills. Sure thing, I’m improving my skills writing a diary sometimes, watching movies in English, but I feel the lack of communication. And I also learned German, but now I have too many hours of English (because I’m the only teacher of foreign language here, as all our teachers) and can’t teach German. I feel my knowledge is becoming worse without practice as well. On the other hand, I love sports. Two years ago I saw the teens desire to play volleyball, but at that time we didn’t have a teacher of PE living in our village. He couldn’t stay after school and play with them. As for me, this is my favourite game, so I started some kind of a volleyball hobby group. We’ve been playing since then. One of our senior pupils even offered his help in training some smaller kids, so we had these sport meetings three times a week with the teens and twice with the smaller ones. It was great. Now we have fewer groups because the guy that helped me graduated last year, but we still play. We’re very grateful to all the charitable foundations that made our gym so cool! If I had an opportunity to improve my skills, or learn something new in sports and start it in my school, it would make the children happier, I know for sure.
The views expressed in this blog are the author's own.