The state of me, November 2008

Ceyranbatan Travel Blog

 › entry 12 of 26 › view all entries

I can't really say that I have done much in the past month or so here in Azerbaijan.  As for the things I've seen, I've explored several cities around the area, hiked around a lake and I've been to Gobustan.  I'm learning the language as well as can be expected.  However, I haven't really done much yet as far as helping people, improving the conditions in the schools or anything else I have come to Azerbaijan to do. 

Right now I'm in training.  I go to school in the morning and learn Azeri, then in the afternoon I either travel to Sumgayit to work on teacher education or volunteer education, or like in the past two weeks, I get ready to teach English to the school kids.  If anything, sitting around all the time in class is making me excited to get out and start some projects or do something good.  Soon I won't just post about the cities I've been to, I'll be writing about the projects I am starting here. 

There have been some victories though.  For the past two weeks I have been teaching English to school kids aged 11-14 at the school in Ceyranbatan.  Some classes have been very good and some classes have been pathetically bad (classes in which even the teacher won't or can't discipline the students).   

To build this up, I have to note that language classes here are notorious for their use of rote memorization and memorized question-answer dialogue.  Group or pair work has been described to me as something the students have never seen before and is a completely foreign concept.  I was teaching indefinite/definite articles and asked the teacher to try and translate the idea of pairing students up, then asking them to talk to one another using the language that they just used.  I explained it very simply, but the teacher only partially understood it herself.  She tried to explain it, but even she had never really seen it before.  At first, she would ask students one by one to speak English with her (which is at least better than rote memorization, I have to admit).  Then I said "ok ok, good job, but I need all of the students to talk at the same time."  She looked at me like I was crazy and exclaimed "at the same time?!"  She translated the idea to the students and immediately the entire class was speaking to each other in English. 

"What is this?" pointing to a notebook.

"That is a notebook."

"What is this?" pointing to a pen.

"That is a pen." 

The teacher and I were amazed it actually worked!  I was so proud of the students that I started giving out stickers, which was another concept I don't think they understood.  It was very exciting. 

All in all, things are going well here in Azerbaijan.

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photo by: cbstevens