Tuesday, October 9, 2012

October 8, 2012

Mornings are definitely getting cooler and cooler, but fortunately, I don’t have to wait long for the sunshine to take away the frosty edges and make me feel fully alive. I made my way to the American Pilot School and found Tatjana still teaching her third grade class entirely in Russian. She commented that since English classes begin at the third grade level, this is the first time students are exposed to the language and can’t yet follow instructions in English.

We moved to the auditorium where Zeinep was already getting things ready. The green board wouldn’t show any of the colored chalk I had requested so as to write the three columns of a KWL chart in a different color. We had to resort to regular chalk. We had forty-three students and so it took a little while to break them into groups of five, get them started on the reading about Columbus Day and then the summarizing. I showed them some pictures of the way this day is traditionally celebrated in the States and they were intrigued by the high school marching bands as they don’t have any here. Students expressed their gratitude for being able to learn more about this holiday and concluded that it shouldn’t be celebrated as an honor to the man who committed such heinous crimes, but as a marker of the historic event that changed the course of humanity.


                             Students read about Christopher Columbus and got ready to write a summary.

I rode the minibus to Lingua where everybody seemed to be very busy. Matt was at the computer and I remember to ask him about recycling in Bishkek. He confirmed that no entity, governmental, NGO or even Peace Corps, has any ongoing program to organize recycling in the city apparently concluding that it’s too big of an undertaking for anyone of them. He laughed when I told him I’d been saving all my plastic bottles, containers and bags. He did inform me that plastic bottles could be taken to the Osh Bazaar where some people bought them very cheaply. I told him I just wanted to donate them to prevent their burning along with the rest of the garbage here.

Zarina was busy at lunch, so I proceeded to the Muslim Kitchen restaurant next door after she wrote in Russian how to order my usual lagman and salad. This place is large, airy and fairly priced, but the service is chaotic beyond belief. I got my lagman and was almost finished with it before I got the simple tomato and cucumber salad I had ordered with it. I enjoyed drinking a cup of coffee back at Lingua and asked Anna if we were expected to contribute to the purchase of the coffee and tea so readily available in the teachers’ lounge and she no, that Lingua provided free of cost. How wonderful!

Nargiza asked if I needed anything and I mentioned I wanted to find a second hand shop to buy a couple of sweaters and perhaps a comforter before winter set in. She had never heard of second hand shops carrying household items but offered to take me there tomorrow after my visit to the dentist.

It was back to another marshrutka to get to the Kyrgyz National University for our first training session. Gulnara had already set out the laptop and LCD projector and had brought the handouts for our warm up activity. We started out with only eight teachers while others called to say they were lost as the university occupies several buildings scattered on different streets. Gulnara had to leave after she introduced me and wasn’t present when the teachers confessed they didn’t know anything about the topic Gulnara had asked me to present first: classroom management for college professors. They could not even come up with a definition of what classroom management meant.

I was at a loss at first, but decided to forge ahead and show them what kind of activities, scenarios and questions I had prepared for them in order to determine their teaching style and possible ways to avert discipline problems in the classroom. I then discovered that the teachers had never heard of Bloom’s Taxonomy and wanted to learn more about that. I promised to make that the topic of our session on Thursday. At 4:10, some of the teachers indicated they had classes to teach and couldn’t stay until the 4:30 closing time stipulated in the flyer. Gulnara came in at this time and took over from there.

When I relayed what had just taken place, Gulnara only laughed and said the teachers needed to know about classroom management even when she had not survey them to determine what they wanted to learn, which is methodology for the most part. She indicated that I was a “treasure” to them and that anything I could bring to the sessions would be welcome.

I happened to mention then that I had been unable to register for Russian classes or find a private tutor, and asked her if she knew anyone. She promptly got on the telephone and arranged to meet with a professor of Russian at a university nearby in front of the Philharmonic Hall building in just ten minutes. I met Nurkys, a middle age woman smartly attired in a two-piece suit, and she offered to give me the first class for free to see if I liked her style. We would discuss schedule and cost after that. I’m fortunate to live just a few blocks from her house, so that works to both our advantage. 

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