Archive for October 19, 2009

Teacher-Centered “Teachers Need to Know Everything”


PA180590I was hosted to a lovely beshparmak (means “five fingers” because you are supposed to eat it with your fingers and not with silverware) meal after church. I opted to eat the meat and pasta with liberal dose of onions using a fork. We had a long afternoon around the table with a very interesting conversation with Incar and her friend.  I don’t remember her name.  We were talking about English teaching and her father told her, “a good teacher must know everything.”  That is either very Asian, I heard this from my Chinese colleagues when I taught in China back in 1986-88 or residual Soviet mentality or maybe a combination of both.  We are living in the “Information Age” with the computer and if some of my teaching colleagues still believe that a teacher must know everything, they are creating a heavy burden to carry.  My new Kazakh friend repeated this and went on to say that if a teacher admits that they don’t know, they are a bad teacher. 

Wow, that is what we, as western teachers, are programmed to tell our students in our student-centered universities back in the U.S.  Tell your students you will get back to them with the correct information, but we have known for a long time that we can’t possibly know everything.  Perhaps that was possible in the old days of communism where it was very prescriptive about what you were allowed to say and teach. 

Today I talked to a teaching colleague friend of mine about this new insight I got yesterday. She told me about a book in Russian titled: “The Legend of Nomenclature.”  It is about a Soviet Kazakh and a Soviet Russian and a western capitalist.  I wish it were translated into English because it would probably be our “western” styled university in Almaty, Kazakhstan.


We also talked about Kazakhstan’s history and two young men came to visit as did Ainur’s two daughter’s Jamilya and Kamilya.  Turns out that Incar’s son is the driver Monday through Friday for some friends of mine. Small world, isn’t it?


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