Since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, millions of Ukrainian children have been forced to leave their homes. Many of them have been out of school for a long period of time.
However, they are not alone. Hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of people from all over the world have been actively supporting Ukrainian children. One of them is Erkam Yaman, who is a young 23-year-old English teacher from Turkey. He teaches English to Ukrainian children at open educational online meetings organized by Smart Osvita NGO.
Kids are excited about his lessons and his way of teaching. We talked to Erkam to find out how he manages to keep children interested, and what motivates him to participate in the project.
Tell us a little about yourself, please. Where do you live now? What do you do?
You can call me Kam, which is my nickname. It’s like a camera, but I’m not a camera. I am from Turkey. I am 23 years old. I study IT at the university. I love listening to podcasts, and can’t say no to a cup of a good tea.
I am an English teacher. In 2021, I lived in Kyiv for 3 summer months, where I taught English as a volunteer. I spent the best time of my life there and fell in love with Ukrainian culture. I want to live in Ukraine after my graduation.
What made you decide to teach Ukrainian children with our project?
After the war began, I started teaching English to Ukrainian children online as a volunteer. I was looking for a way to help Ukraine somehow. My friend Dasha sent me a message about this project. When I saw this message, I said ‘Yes! Now I can help Ukrainians!’ Then I had an interview and started teaching.
How are your lessons going?
My teaching journey has been very colorful. I enjoy it with passion. I get more than I give. It’s amazing to help kids shine in the crowd and make them feel confident in speaking English. I have been teaching them for eight months without a break. I can’t imagine my life without them. In fact, my life without ‘my lobsters’ would not be that meaningful. Currently we have two lessons a week.
How do you motivate children and keep them interested in your lessons?
I don’t see myself just as a teacher. I don’t see them as my students either. I see them as my friends, as my brothers and sisters. I encourage them to speak English without being afraid of making mistakes. And I make them laugh all the time. It’s so hard to explain how I teach. I just love them and the rest just goes on its own. I often tell them that they are the future of Ukraine. That’s why they should learn English and rebuild Ukraine later, after the war ends. When they feel tired and hopeless, I tell them to look at the Ukrainian flag.
Which stories from your lessons do you remember the most ?
I was teaching idioms that relate to animals a couple months ago. I was explaining the idiom ‘kill two birds with one stone’. One of my students, Solomia, thought that we would actually kill birds. Kids are so innocent. They often understand things literally.
What are your plans for the future?
After we win this war, I hope I’ll go to Ukraine and stay there with my people. That’s my dream. Whoever is reading this, wish me luck. I hope I’ll make that dream come true. Slava Ukraini!