Wednesday, January 9, 2013

January 9, 2013

The second day of the winter break professional development session was a hit with more than 70 teachers in attendance. Joel, the Peace Corps volunteer, got lost on the way to the venue, and Gulnara asked me to do something with his audience until he got there. I had none of my usual teaching materials with me, so I just asked the teachers to take two minutes to reflect on what had been the most remarkable event in their lives. One of them mentioned winning a chance to go the Netherlands for further professional development and then Natalia spoke about her father, who had come from Germany, and she started to choke with tears as the emotions overtook her. At the point, I was busy helping Joel get the laptop and projector ready to go and missed the point of her message.

Asel followed Joel and did an excellent job of demonstrating how to teach basic vocabulary by employing a method I had never heard of: MPF which asks teachers to present meaning first followed by the pronunciation of the word and finally the form or spelling. The teachers had a chance to evaluate the lesson and break it down step by step so they could see the value of presenting new vocabulary in this new way. I was very impressed with her professional demeanor; the pace in which the material was presented and how the teachers were so engaged every step of the way.

Joel, Asia and I went to same cafeteria I’d gone to the day before so we could have a quick lunch as I was presenting right after the lunch break. I had plov and salad along with a glass of juice. When I returned to the school, I found out that the classrooms had been locked so that neither Elvira nor I could prepare ahead of time and Gulnara was still at lunch. She came exactly at 1:30 which was when our sessions were supposed to have started. I was a bit furious as it took another five minutes to get the laptop started and the handouts in order.

It seems as if no one here knows how to do back-to-back handouts in the order one designates so participants can just flip from one page to the next. I had requested six handouts to be printed sequentially, but instead got six piles of papers with some of them printed on both sides and some not. I should have known by now that unless I do it myself, it will not be done right.

I felt that the attendees at my session got shortchanged since I had to hurry through the PowerPoint presentation in order to have time for some of the listening activities demonstrating stress, linking, blending, contractions and the like. Then it was time to move on to the other classroom and do it all over again. This time I had a chance to pair the teachers using the homophone cards and they had never heard the term “homophones’ in their lives. I had to say that I was shocked since the English language has so many homophones that students need to be explicitly taught about them so they recognize the difference when listening.

We got wonderful feedback from the teachers indicating how appreciative they were of all the presentations they had attended and the handouts they had received in mine. Most of them promised they’d be implementing all or some of the techniques they had been exposed to during the sessions.

Nurila, one of the presenters on Tuesday, insisted on receiving feedback right then and there and we sat for a few minutes so I could refresh my memory with my notes and tell her what she had done well and where there was room for improvement. We were interrupted by Gulnara who informed me my presence was needed in the break room to discuss Forum business.

Willoughby, Elvira, Gulnara and I sat down to discuss the pre-conference schedule for the CATEC 2013 conference. There seems to be some friction between the two Gulnaras with Lingua apparently trying to assert more control over what Forum can and can’t do. I didn’t want to get in the middle of that dispute and simply stated that we needed to focus on the selection of participants and the program for the all-day event.
We were able to come up with a tentative agenda that included four presentations for the day, tentative presenters, sources of entertainment for an evening program and possible sources of revenue between now and then. We also discussed the closing ceremony for tomorrow’s session, the handing out of certificates and the fact that I’ll be responsible for taking all the photos.

Willoughby and I walked together as far as the Narodni supermarket and then said goodbye. We plan on getting together on Sunday so we can discuss how best to run the speaking club as both the Forum sessions and the Kyrgyz National University utilizing the tons of materials I’ve accumulated already.

I bought lagman soup to go and had it at home while catching up with the news. After crafting the announcement for the book club and sending it to Willoughby for review, I simply went to bed exhausted.

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