Archive for March, 2011

Photos of my friends left behind (Part II)

My long flight(s) home with three pieces of luggage and one carryon was meant to carry back three and a half years worth of accumulation for both my husband and me. I paid Lufthansa $170 for the third piece and was happy that I did not have to pay Delta airlines again in Chicago another $180 for penalty of three suitcases.  I was happy that there were people who helped me all along the way. I felt like they were angels on a mission. I was especially glad my husband was there at the Minneapolis airport to carry my heavy carryon and take me to our car where it was filled with precious things from Kazakhstan. We still had a five hour trip of driving ahead of us so I didn’t get home until 2 1/2 days later. (stayed overnight with friends about an hour out of the Cities)  The past week was less torturous because of amazing friends all along the way. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I’ve said goodbye to some very precious friends in Astana, Kazakhstan so for now less words and MORE photos of those I left behind.

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Photos of my friends left behind

Last post for a while as I sit waiting in the Astana airport ready to board my Lufthansa flight. Thankful for free wifi!  I have been in Kazakhstan since fall of 2007.  My husband and I accumulated lots of things in those three and a half years so it is amazing that I was able to get it down to three suitcases and one carryon.  I sold stuff to pay for my airfare, I gave many more things away.  I will have tons of fond memories of what I experienced in this amazing country of Kazakhstan.  For now, I’ll just end with photos of my friends who I left behind in Astana.

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Photos of our St. Patrick’s Day celebration

The other day my PDP students went through the graduation ceremony and that was very formal (see yesterday’s blog). However, the next day we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with full emphasis on GREEN, meaning “go forward.”  My PDP students are now no longer my students but they are graduates with their “Certificate of Completion” after 20 weeks together. They had good news to tell me where they would be working, all will be in Astana next year.  We were tired after the excitement of the day’s activities but not too tired to party, eat and laugh.

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New Day is dawning for my PDP students

As promised here are photos from the graduation ceremony for my Professional Development program students.  An emotional time for us all.

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What Mother Teresa lived by…works in Kazakhstan

I typically would be posting photos of our Professional Development program (PDP) graduation ceremony that happened yesterday but there are many other things swirling around. So much to do, so little time.  I will do the photos tomorrow because it was quite a major event for my ten students.  Today, we will have a final St. Patrick’s Day party in our classroom and we will reminisce the good times we all had the last 20 weeks together of our course work.

For now I am posting something that was given to me from an American friend who is teaching here in Astana. I think it is appropriate given our work situation in a foreign land such as Kazakhstan. Not easy for expats to live and work in this great land, but then again it is not easy for Kazakhs and Kazakhstanis either.  These words are keepers because I KNOW it works in Kazakhstan!

This version was found written on the wall of Mother Teresa’s home for children in Calcutta:

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.

Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.

Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.

Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.

Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, other could destroy overnight.

Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.

Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten.

Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.

Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway.

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Kazakh language conflict on the ski slopes of Kazakhstan

I very rarely feature another blogger on my own blog since I have so much to write about Kazakhstan. Besides, I don’t want to lose my blog traffic to someone else who might write better than me. 8) Anyway, I’ve met a few of the other bloggers out there who focus on Kazakhstan, both in Almaty and Astana.  I’d like to meet this American(?) expat woman Clare who wrote about a little altercation she had recently on the ski slopes of southern Kazakhstan.

At least I thought part of Clare’s blog was a good followup of our conversation with Annemarie last week about Kazakh culture and what values are being taught. We discussed this very dilemma in class the other day.  See what you think should be done to re-educate the Kazakh parents of children who are snooty about knowing Kazakh language and put down their own people or foreigners who don’t know the language of this country. This also happened in western Ukraine years ago where my husband tried to speak Russian to a Ukrainian. He was rebuffed by the Ukrainian person who pretended not to hear my husband.  The Ukrainian man refused to communicate with anyone who didn’t know the Ukrainian language.

Here’s my point, how can the Kazakh people expect everyone (expats and their own people included) to drop all that they know (English or Russian) and have studied for years on end and then to know and speak Kazakh language immediately? They can’t!!! These things take time and training AND a huge dose of patience.  By the same token this is true of the current Kazakh teachers all throughout Kazakhstan. How can they know all three languages (mandated by their government to be well versed in Kazakh, Russian and English) and then know their subject material PLUS to be computer literate?

The stakes are high because most of these Kazakh teachers know that they are teaching the future of their country. They are doing the best they can with what they know, but I believe they need more professional development training and quickly!  But I digress…I think also the parents of these children need some re-education or training in teaching their children manners and civility.  Look what is currently going on in Japan with all the heartache and death and destruction of earthquake, tsunami and now nuclear complications, there is no looting of stores.  Many things may be broken, damaged or people missing in Japan, but there are morals and characters that are broken in Kazakhstan that need fixing.

Here’s what Clare wrote:

“…What was not a lot of fun was the waiting in line.  Granted, waiting in line is never fun.  However, this was a quick moving line so it was pretty painless. Or rather, it should have been pretty painless.  However, there was a group of local kids (middle school age) who felt entitled and kept cutting the line.   Not only were the skipping the line—thus making it much longer for other people—they were doing so and splitting up families or groups that were traveling together.  So, for example, I always wanted S or his brother to be there person right behind me.  I knew that if there was a problem and they were going to ram into me, either of them would have thrown themselves to the ground or done anything humanly possible to no risk injuring me or the baby.  I did not have this confidence in random strangers.  But, these kids, would try and cut in the middle.

We watched several times flabbergasted.  For the most part, I was not actually tobaggoning.  I did a few runs, but mostly I watched everyone else and took care of the stuff.  We also knew a lot of other Americans there that day: people from work, my boss and his two girls, our friends we had traveled with.  Finally, I got fed up.  The kids tried to cut inbetween S, his brother and the daughters of my boss.  Using my best Russian, I explained that there was a line and they were expected to go to the end.  They decided to cut right behind us.  Luckily, someone else (another American I know with better Russian than I) saw this happen.  He went and got the kids and marched them to the end of the line.  You know, to make sure they knew what a line looked like.

Next round, the kids cut again.  This time, they had a MOTHER with them.  She told them to pay no attention to me.  She told them to only speak to me in Kazak as I spoke Russian.  She, the mother, the supposedly responsible adult was blatantly telling her children to disrespect others and treat the system. This is the attitude in Kazakhstan that drives me absolutely nuts.  Yes, people are selfish and generally act in self interest, but refusing to stand in line, illegally parking my car in because you don’t want to park ½ a block down, and doing anything to push down another to get something first drives me nuts!

After watching this, it was hard to blame the children. This is what they are being taught.  And, it is frustrating.  It was particularly infuriating for the children in our group who also wanted to go more times, who also didn’t want to stand in line, but who had learned in kindergarten and at home to respect others.

After a while, the mother disappeared. The kids continued to push in line.  At one point, I physically put my big pregnant belly between them and cutting between my bosses kids and my husband’s family.  When one pushed his way around me, telling me that he spoke no Russian (same kid who had spoke to me in Russian an hour earlier), I picked him up and put him behind me, forcing him to wait.  I guess, in some ways, I became the bully.”

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Using Content in Kazakhstan’s Context (Part III)

Finally, the last part of the brochure explains the future goals of the Professional Development program (PDP) that we launched last fall of 2010 at our western university in Astana, Kazakhstan.  Tomorrow, we will have a closing graduation ceremony with my ten PDP students.  It will be a proud moment for them to receive their “Certificate of Completion” after working long, hard hours for 20 weeks of this program.  I hope it will continue next year.  I’ve heard rumors that those in charge want 50 teachers, maybe as many as 100 teachers to do a PDP curriculum like this.  We shall see what happens…

Furthering the Main Goals of the four courses of blended learningThe targeted students should be Orken teachers and recent graduates of pedagogical institutes from throughout Kazakshtan. Secondary schools in Kazakhstan need to be integrated with higher education goals and objectives, sadlymany secondary school graduates are not adequately prepared for the rigors ofuniversity studies in a western setting. The secondary education curriculum needsto support the goals of this University for future success of the students.Those goals as stated by the President of Kazakhstan are the use of creative solutions toproblems by innovation and using modern technologies.
This goal can only be accelerated and managed if the Kazakh teachers are givenadequate instruction on how to use multimedia programs, teacher-studentcommunication tools and social networking programs. That way the Kazakh teachers can efficiently teach English in all skills of reading, writing, speaking andlistening more effectively to young students who are receptive to this form ofinstruction that uses the self-access approach. That is why all teachers throughout Kazakhstan should be equipped with the high standards of information literacy.That was my mission from the start and to the very end for my PDP students.
Kazakh teachers need the extra training and instruction in information literacyand the use of modern technology especially. These courses were targeted to helpfacilitate the teaching of English in a meaningful manner where the burden istaken off the teacher to “know-all” and placed squarely on the students’ to haveintrinsic motivation to learn on their own independently. Because we are living inthe information age, students will have to take more responsibility for their ownlearning autonomously while the teacher becomes less teacher-centered and allowsthe classroom to be more student-centered.
However, the parents of school children need to become involved in this processas well so that the learning community is not only with teachers and students.Sometimes the parents may expect teachers to be wizards and to make their children geniuses. Teachers in Kazakhstan need to be given higher status bylearning and knowing more. Otherwise, it will be impossible for the public to beopen or ready to have specialists in the field of technology, if the teachers are notgiven adequate training and continuing education courses as the President of Kazakhstan knows is important in any company or corporation.
I believe that if you teach the teachers properly, the rest will follow. I believe the changes that are needed are those in education and that is why an achievable goal is to eventually have a Masters degree program for teachers so they are betterequipped to teach modern technologies to their students. These four courses aremerely a certificate program that can be thought of as a pilot project to eventuallyturn into an MA degree program. I believe from the caliber that I have seen inthe teachers I have worked with this past year, they are very capable. Once they learn different teaching methods and the use of information literacy, it will have a tremendous ripple effect with the Kazakh students for the ultimate good of this great country of Kazakhstan.

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