Archive for November 3, 2009

Great Truths: Contrition vs. Obfuscation

Yesterday I received an e-mail from a Kazakh student of mine who had read my blog several days ago, she felt true contrition.  She articulated what perhaps some of her other classmates might have felt about trying to pull a fast one over on me with submitting plagiarized papers or none at all on the due date last Friday.  The following is what she so capably wrote:

 Hello, I’ve read your bloque and I feel very ashamed because of our behavior. I didn’t hand in to you my rough draft on friday because it’s not ready. I can honestly say that it’s because of my laziness. I always think “O.K. There is a lot of time for me to do it and there is no need to hurry.” You know, I’m like Scarlett O’Hara, always tell myself that  ” I will think about it tomorrow.” And this is my main problem that I want to get rid of. But I’m not writing to you to tell about my problems. I just want to say that you are not like teachers that really don’t like their job and their students. They only want to finish their working day and get their salary. They are not passionate about their job. Unfortunately, I met such teachers during my studying in high-school.  I have an opportunity to compare you with them and I can say that you’re a really good teacher))) You are interested in what you are doing and this is the main point of being a good teacher.  Maybe I will look like a wheedler but I don’t care about it. This is just my opinion. I’m glad that i’m in your class and I will remember you as a cheerful, sociable, smart woman and my first american teacher))).

I came across this poem that helps illustrate what I do as a teacher in a supposedly “western” university here in Kazakhstan.  I’m a formalist when it comes to poetry.  Give me Emily Dickinson or Robert Frost any day.  I’m not sure who the poet is in the following poem, but I love the depth and richness of these words.  The last line helps me to soldier on.

Great truths are dearly bought, the common truths,
Such as men give and take from day to day,
Come in the common walk of easy life,
Blown by the careless wind across our way.

Great truths are greatly won, not found by chance,
Nor wafted on the breath of summer dream;
But grasped in the great struggle of the soul,
Hard buffeting with adverse wind and stream.

But in the day of conflict, fear and grief,
When the strong hand of God, put forth in might,
Plows up the subsoil of the stagnant heart,
And brings the imprisoned truth seed to the light.

Wrung from the troubled spirit, in hard hours
Of weakness, solitude, perchance of pain,
Truth springs like harvest from the well-plowed field,
And the soul feels it has not wept in vain.

What about obfuscation?  I suppose this great country of Kazakhstan will be turned around from corruption, cronyism, nepotism, bribery and the like once the GREAT TRUTHS win out.  However, I had to shake my head in disbelief when I read in a monthly newsletter from our university something that our highly esteemed leader wrote about the recent restructuring which took place this past year. 

 “…response to the crisis and the way it [our institution of higher learning] has restructured itself into a leaner, more organized institution…by showing how our strengths made restructuring possible.  The quality of education separates it from its competitors, and it was imperative throughout restructuring that quality remained unaffected…[our institution] also possesses a unique management culture based on its values of integrity, transparency, participation, and stakeholder engagement and independence in operations.  This cultural strength is very difficult to replicate and remains critical for our continued success.”

I look around my little corner of the university where I teach five different classes in English.  I certainly don’t see transparency or shared stakeholdership.  I am an American teacher who teaches writing and listening skills but I have absolutely NO job security in the department where I work!!!!

Meanwhile, some of those who are marginally qualified continue to teach classes in English but are computer illiterate.  Their students are computer literate and pulling the fast ones with plagiarized papers.  My colleagues are teacher-centered in their methodology, they know Russian and maybe Kazakh.  However, they deem me as oddball in my student-centered approach with the students.  It has been very painfully made clear to me that I don’t fit in and yet the Kazakh students want me as their foreign teacher.  I don’t get it.

(to be continued tomorrow)

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