Archive for November 7, 2009

Teaching our Hearts Out!

You’ve heard the expression, “He is so spiritually minded that he is no earthly good.”  I have a new spin on that regarding teaching “She is so theoretically minded that she is no pedagogically good.”  Last week I asked my writing students three questions related to student-centered vs. teacher-centered and also which teaching methodology fits them best as “digital natives.”  Many of my teaching colleagues who were born and bred in Kazakhstan under the old Soviet system had a lot of theory given to them but were not able to practice anything creatively outside of the box.  

These same teachers are having a difficult time keeping up with the 21st century in our “westernized” university in Almaty. I know that many of my colleagues are trying hard, but there are those who are not. They just gather their paycheck after punching the clock and go home to their families.  I read this in Streams in the Desert today and thought it applies to foreign teachers who are called to this diverse and challenging land of Kazakhstan.

 There is a legend of an artist who had found the secret of a wonderful red which no other artist could imitate.  The secret of his color died with him.  But after his death, an old wound was discovered over his heart.  This revealed the source of the matchless hue in his pictures.  The legend teaches that no great achievement can be made, no lofty attainment reached, nothing of much value to the world done, save at the cost of heart’s blood.

What have you observed as the major difference between your Kazakh teachers versus American or other foreign teachers?

D. – Enthusiasm.  For example, in college and h.s., teachers were not very enthusiastic.  They were not very much interested in teaching in a good quality level.  The situation is much better at our university.  Everybody wants to give us knowledge, but sometimes some teachers feel lack of skills to do it in an interesting, effective way.  Over this background, foreign teachers usually look more preferable.  It looks like they are working not for money, but for idea.  Another thing is that they probably have better education and richer experience.

R. – I think Kazakh teachers have more connections with students outside of class.  Also, during office hours, they can speak about topics which are not related to the subject that they are teaching.

K. – Of course I like foreign teachers! Why? Maybe because I am interested in the way they are teaching, in their language and in their specific behavior.  When you go to their lessons, you start to compare they way of their learning and our Kazakh teachers learning.  Of course, it is more interesting, you have a lot of useful, new information about other countries.  And what about our Kazakh teachers?  They always use info about our country, our culture, all about Kazakhstan!  We always speak about patriotism! I don’t like this.

Also, foreign teachers are more extensive, modern, focus on monitor learning, different tests, use a lot of supplementary material like short videos, movies, sounds, cases and so on.  And all this interests students in the learning.

A. – I like my classes with American teacher, because the language is more clear and understandable, also I am surprised by positive energy of this teacher, because she help me to motivate myself, she can do so many things during the class, as noone can do…Kazakh teacher is also good, but he is boring and classes is not interesting.  So, I think, that American teacher gives us more possibilities to know more and to develop ourselves like individuals.

S. – Foreign teachers are more creative, in particular Americans try to conduct numerous researches, tests including psychological tests.  Another feature they try to connect the practice to the theory.  Also, foreign teachers try to make students be interested in learning process using different creative methods.

 M. – Kazakh teachers try more to obey the rules, while foreign teachers (American) often pay more attention to learning more about the subject by students, making studying more free, actively involving students in discussions.

A.S. – I think the main difference is that our Kazakh teachers are still used to old system of education.   It is because of post Soviet Union system.  Foreign teachers use another way of teaching to involve all students in lessons.  Using modern technology during the lessons and giving a chance to choose topics by own choice – it is beneficial, because students will really be interested in the subject.  Kazakh teachers do not prepare new presentation of lessons for every class but they have ready presentations and program and they just repeat.  Moreover, taking courses from foreign teachers can improve your English.

X. – Foreign teachers relate to students as grown up people, and our Kazakh teachers want to be in the center of classes.  Foreign methods of teaching are better than ours because while in a foreigners class, I feel free and I can tell everything that I think.

Y. – I think foreign teachers are more supportive and helpful to students.  I felt that they always try to help us but here the local (Russian/Kazakh) teachers seem more strict than foreign teachers.

Z. – American teachers are more willing to help others (students) while Kazakh teachers in some cases forgot about helping others.  But at our university all the teachers are qualified and I don’t encounter differences between Kazakh and American teachers.





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