Posts tagged Australia

GREAT Speakers (Part II)

PB050107Rarely do I invite guest speakers to come to talk to my university classes whom I barely know or have never met. Usually they are people I am confident will deliver a good talk to my students because I have gotten to know them in the last several years I have been teaching in Kazakhstan.  Last night was that special exception when my masters class was treated to Australian dry humor with Russell Banham speaking about his journey from Australia to working at Deloitte in Almaty, Kazakhstan.  He had sage advice to deliver concerning his work experience but also about life values.

Russell began with a question about what happened in December of 1974, long before these Kazakh students had been born.  They guessed and guessed but all were wrong.  That was the date when Russell started working for Arthur Andersen accounting firm.  If the blow-up at Enron had not happened in 2002, which impacted Russell in Brisbane, Australia, he claimed he would probably still be working for Arthur Andersen as a life-long employee.  However, what is interesting with most competitive accounting firms is that mid-50s is the age of retirement from being a partner, but you can return as a mentor consultant for the same firm.  Russell’s dry humor went right over my graduate students’ heads when he admitted, “I’m 55…I know I don’t look it.”  To me, Russell looks like a happy, knowledgeable professor with distinguished, graying hair.

Kathy, his wife, was sitting in the back of the classroom with me and we both laughed.  I believe people with dry humor need others around them that “get it,” Kathy has gotten it over 27 years now.  To live in Kazakhstan for any length of time, you NEED a sense of humor.  What was funny was that Russell, in an e-mail exchange, had initially asked me what his wife had “volunteered” him for.  Never having met him, I didn’t know if this was a stern rebuke of my not letting him in on what I expected from him or if he was simply dashing off a quick note to me. E-mail messages sometimes have a strange way of getting things more complicated with even a simple inquiry.  So I rattled off in my e-mail back to Russell all the different speakers he might know and what the titles of their talks had been: Chevron – “Change Management,” Citibank – “Effective Management,” Nestle – “Values and Principles” but I added that our speaker from Nestle had brought bars of chocolate.

PB050106Naturally, the competitive Australian which Russell no doubt is, and not wanting his organization of Deloitte to be outdone, did one better than Nestle.  Russell brought Deloitte baseball hats as a gift for each of my students. Thanks Russell!!!

We’ve had some GREAT speakers in my English Speaking and Listening class and next week we will have our final speaker of the semester with Julia Connelly talking about her passion.

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GREAT SPEAKERS in my classrooms

scott talking musicThanks to a LOT of help from my friends, I have had some very good speakers come to talk to my three different listening classes.  So far, I have had six speakers videotaped. The students are loving it!!!  These first year and graduate students have heard different accents and witnessed various styles of presenting.  Yesterday I had Scott come to talk about a favorite topic for many young people, “How to Make a Music CD.”  I don’t know how many budding musicians we have that have the same dream as Scott had ,but he was very thorough and entertaining.  I hope I see good, typed up notes from my listening students tomorrow.  video cameraThanks Scott!!!

Yesterday morning I had a former MBA student come to talk about “Women against Violence” at the AIWC (Almaty Intl. Women’s Club) meeting. Katya did a GREAT job, she was very poised in front of about 35 international women talking about something close to her heart. (bride kidnapping, human trafficking, etc.) I finally found out from Katya why this topic is such a passion for her. Her explanation will go into a later blog entry.

 Elena and classThe night before I had another woman who I recently met at AIWC come and talk about something close to her heart.  Elena was originally from Uzbekistan but has her citizenship from the U.S. and received her MBA degree there, then went to Cambridge to receive her MPA degree also.  I wanted her to talk a bit about student centered vs. teacher centered issues since she has experienced both.  Later, she had very interactive discussion with my masters students about consumer rights.

Tonight I will have Kathy Banham’s husband come and talk about his place of employment at Deloitte and what brought them both here from Australia.  I feel very blessed with all those who are coming to my aid during this tough time of tangling with students over their rough draft papers.  Some are pretty unsightly, but by next week I hope to see better final versions from ALL of them.

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Say “expatriot” and NOT “expat!!!” (sigh)

The other day I was reprimanded by a Russian speaking colleague about using the word “expat” incorrectly.  (*I* am an EXPAT!!!)  According to her, I should say “expatriot” instead.  I told her that I prefer saying something that I have been for almost 15 years in two syllables rather than in four.  I thanked her for helping me out in my native language of English. However, try to tell someone they should say “television” rather than t.v. or better to say “electronic mail” instead of “e-mail.” To me, to say the full extension of a commonly used term is absurd.  I have had many expat friends among American, British, Australian, Canadian and New Zealanders when I lived in Philippines, China, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and finally our most recent stint in Kazakhstan. ExPAT, EXpat, expat!!!  Check out dictionary.com definition of the word, it is an informal term that was started by the British but Americans have managed to make it even more slangy by using the short “a” instead of the long “a.”

 

The reason I was corrected was due to a meeting we had at the Language Center last week where I got up in front of about 50-60 of my teacher colleagues and gave three suggestions that I found useful in my teaching.  The first was how to conserve on the usage of paper.  I asked for a show of hands, “How many of you e-mail your students about their assignments?”  Five or six timidly raised their hands which means only 10% do, the others are traditionalists and just count on meeting up with their students during the scheduled class or during office hours. 

 

My second suggestion was to tell them that I was purposely raising the standards of my MBA students by having my “expat friends” come to the classroom to listen to their 7 minute speeches.  I also remarked that this is good P.R. to have the expat community aware of who our soon-to-be graduates are.  Some of these expat visitors might be future employers for our graduate students.  My third point was to have guest lecturers come to the Listening classes for the students to listen to live people rather than just taped conversations all the time.  Last semester, my students’ feedback indicated they LOVED having expat guest lecturers come to visit so they could interact with them.  I could see some teachers nodding their heads in agreement.  Again, a way of building up the reputation of our university which at this point we need some good P.R.  Er, Public Relations to be clearly understood.

 

Apparently my Russian speaking colleague was just giving me “constructive” feedback that the other Kazakh teachers thought they heard me say I was bringing my “expert friends” to my speech classes.  They misheard me talking about my having an “expert community.”  Hmmm…I already know many of these teachers don’t like to write (or read), now I’m wondering about their listening comprehension skills in English.  Perhaps they need to be working on the same material they dole out to their students in the overly redundant listening and notetaking classes. In some cases, I’m wondering how their speaking is during the classes, I think there may be more Russian spoken than is healthy for a “westernized” university. I also think my teaching colleagues are way too isolated in their own clique to realize that their English may not be as good as their students.  In any case, to my ears, “expat” sounds very different from expert.  But then again, my American friends ARE experts in their particular fields of expertise.

 

So, yesterday I blogged about an expat friend of mine Brenda.  Also, I subbed yesterday afternoon for another expat friend Nancy who went on a recruiting trip to western Kazakhstan.  Then last night I had another expat friend Julia visit my speech classes again and she brought her husband Dan this time.  I wonder what these Americans would say to someone who might try to correct them that they should call themselves “expatriots?” 

 

Sigh, sometimes the snarky comments among my peers wear me down, but my lovely students build me up.  THEY are the reason I am here in Kazakhstan.

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