Distilled wisdom from students’ grandparents

The other day I subbed for a Kazakh teacher who went to Turkmenistan to recruit students for our university.  I was MORE than happy to take the two 70 minute classes in order to follow the speaking-listening textbook, but also to find out the level of the students’ writing.  As a seasoned writing teacher, I asked them to write for me in 30 minutes anything they remember about what their grandparents had told them about the past.  I purposely kept it open and vague so that I would find out what was MOST important to them in relating what their grandparents had told them about Kazakhstan’s past.  Some wrote on more recent events such as the rebellion of Dec. 16, 1986 but others went back as far as Genghis Khan.  Most wrote about the cruelties during WWII and the forced Soviet collectivization and only a few said they didn’t have any memories due to having no grandparents or coming from a different country.  In any case, these were some of the surprise quotes I cherish from these Kazakh students:

 “P.S. I was so surprised with such an exercise from your side.  But it is so important that you do, moreover, I think it is really great, useful and deep.  Thank you. Honestly, it touched me…”

“I do believe that today’s people should thank their grandparents for everything they did to make us live happily as we do now.”

“My granny tells this story with tears in her eyes.  She says that the main thing that she learned during her life is that you should help people in need and they will not turn their backs on you when you need it.”

“It is very nice of you to be interested in our country…Sorry for not writing widely of that story, I am just not good at re-telling stories…”

“‘It was very, very hard time.  But people survived because they hoped’ once said my grandmother.”

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