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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Working Hard to Make a Difference

Just as I thought the initial frustrations of being in Turkestan would
consume me, I had the best day at school. I have been met with many
of the frustrations that PCVs always encounter. I knew I would
encounter different teaching styles, different perceptions of being
prepared, different lesson plans, etc, but I couldn’t do anything to
prepare myself for these differences- who knows what you will find
once at site?
The three teachers I am working with all speak English very well, but
we are all concerned with how little the students can speak.
Everyone, even the students, is aware of this problem. However, a
young, single, energetic, new PC volunteer doesn’t always fit in with
the status quo of teachers in Kazakhstan. The teachers and I were
taught by drastically different techniques in completely different
worlds. I was also trained very differently than they were, in a
crash course of lesson plans, practicum, and basically learning a lot
of ways to make class fun! They were mostly taught grammar and give
lectures. Two of the three also have families and currently one’s
mother is very ill. You might be able to see where frustrations can
come from all sides!
I started actually teaching lessons on Friday the 19th of November.
As a prerequisite to teaching lessons, I must plan the lesson with the
teacher. This is very important to Peace Corps, and of course (for
all of you who even remotely know me!) planning is very important to
me! Finding time to plan is difficult, especially when the teachers
are used to mostly winging it using the textbook. I had to convince
them to meet at least two days before the lesson because it is very
hard to find fun activities and prepare them the night before the
lesson. I had to keep nagging the poor teachers to meet with me. We
had to plan at least 4 or 5 lessons in one or two sittings, which is
grueling. Usually we are planning after already giving 3 or 4 lessons
that day. Yesterday, I was pretty sure the two teachers I was working
with were about to call Peace Corps and ask them to take me back.
I was starting to get nervous about the situation. I didn’t want to
have to ask to meet every five minutes and was afraid that they would
start to hate me for it. Then…today my counterpart got to school a
solid 20 minutes before she usually does, told a friend she couldn’t
talk because she had to lesson plan, and we stayed at school to plan
until 6pm. She took on an additional lesson to tutor struggling
students and our lessons went really well today! The students actually
thanked us at the end for a “really interesting lesson.” I was the
second person at school today and Gulshat and I were the last ones
out. I left the house in the dark this morning and returned in the
dark, but it was definitely the pick-me-up I needed.
Of course, I am not naïve enough to imagine that everyday will feel
this good or be as successful. However, I think we will make progress
if all of us persist, remain motivated, and force each other to be
disciplined! (I sound like a damn inspirational tape people listen to
in their cars during traffic jams.) I can’t even imagine how tiring
this process will be, though. I hope we see results in the students so
that the teachers (and I!) are convinced that the extra work is worth
it! I am going to need to bring back some of that youthful energy
from years past and find a way to manage without my standard 8
(extremely large) cups of coffee.

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