Monday, January 11, 2010

Teachers' Meetings

11 January 2010

I’m bringing up this topic more, I think, because I simply feel like writing after a nice dinner at a friend’s house. Especially on rougher days, going "guesting", as we say, at someone’s home can really brighten things up. Not that today was bad. I just felt like saying that.

The semester started out well today. I had three classes with a couple teachers, one of which, Mrs. Ruziya, is a nice, young, woman with whom I’ve barely started out. The administration at my school suggested I start working with a couple young teachers to help them along, and I’m glad to be doing it. They’re nice and appreciative, and we can get some work done.

I had three classes today, although I was supposed to have four, but one was cancelled due to the teachers’ meeting at noon, which I’ll talk about in a minute. They were fine. I asked the students about what they did for New Year’s and where they spent it. Most said they were at home, like many Azerbaijanis, and I wouldn’t’ve minded that myself, had I been able to stay in Qumlaq and not had a meeting in Baku on December thirty-first.

The last class I taught with Mrs. Ruziya today was a "two-in-one", which are always fun. Sometimes, a teacher is ill or just can’t come to class for whatever reason, so they put class ‘A’ and class ‘B’ together at one time. Seeing as you’re with a teacher that doesn’t normally teach the "other half" of the class (And you yourself may not normally teach that other half, either.), an interesting lesson ensues. The extra kids may not have a clue what you’re talking about, which either results in you explaining, perhaps futilely, the material or just going on without them. I mean, the former is probably better, but what are you gonna do with thirty students, half on one page, the other half on another, in one space, not to mention with a teacher that isn’t used to teaching them?

Another thing that gets me are these kids that kinna "show up" every now and then. I may not have seen a young man for two weeks, and then, boom, there he is again, strapped in and ready to learn. I’ve even had my primary counterpart, Mrs. Adilə, call on a kid and ask, "Who are you?" since he’s only around once in a blue moon, or may have only showed up one time ever. It’s this lax stance toward education that gets me when I think about it. When I picture myself growing up, I can’t imagine being in a school where kids just kinna "come and go", or lessons get rescheduled due to…whatever…and I end up finishing the day a class short because I didn’t know. But like most things in life, I’ve adapted to it, as all folks must do, and it’s become "normal" for me. Why should I complain, anyway? This isn’t America. This isn’t the American education system (which has issues too, eh?). I come from one place that does its thing and now live in another place that does another thing. And while I may stop, think, and throw a fit about how different it can be here, I’m not gonna be so ridiculous as to declare one thing "bad" and the other thing "good". I gotta live in the context of my situation. I gotta accept it and provide what I can. This isn’t a fatalistic, "Oh well, I tried" attitude, either. I’m just saying you gotta understand where you are.

And one part of Azerbaijani education, which you got everywhere else, too, are teachers’ meetings. Yep, they don’t skip out on those, either, though I’m not always a full participant. In fact, I’m never a full participant, because, a lot of the time, I don’t know what they’re talking about. I just awkwardly sit there, with a sincere look on my face, nodding when I think something important’s been said. Though I can speak conversational Azerbaijani okay, I can’t understand "meeting Azerbaijani" much at all, which might explain why I left today’s get together early.

Basically, what happens is all the teachers gather in the teachers’ room. Some chairs get moved into the center of the room to accommodate everybody. When everyone’s seated, the director comes in, and when he enters the room, all the teachers lift their rumps out of their chairs and kinna rearrange themselves slightly, out of respect. This may sound kinna weird, but you may know what I mean if you saw it, and I know every Peace Corps volunteer is familiar with this kind of "respectful rump rearranging", or "R.R.R." for short.

As far as what happens next, your guess is as good as mine. Today, I think Fəxrəddin Müəllimi (our director) was talking about the results of recent state testing. Seeing as this had just about nothing to do with me, I left before everyone else, which I don’t regret too much (In fact, I’d say I regret not leaving earlier.). One day Charlie went to a teachers’ meeting, and after he left, I asked him, "How was it?" and he said, "I learned we’re no longer supposed to grade in pencil." I’m sure he was relieved.

I don’t know. I guess this just kinna goes back to the differences between two places. Number one, there’s a language barrier. Number two, they’re talking about stuff that doesn’t apply to me so much. And yet, I still feel I should be there. You know, I wanna be part of the group. And even though I cut out early today, at least I got to check it out. Perhaps that’s the moral of this story. Check it out. Check it all out. You never know what you may see.

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