Sunday, October 31, 2010

Question and Answer Session I

One of my blog readers posed a few questions for me regarding my experience here. I actually loved answering these questions (it’s fun to know people are reading my blog and itching for more information about me) and welcome any more from my curious readers. (Just keep in mind I barely have internet so it might take a while to respond to each one).

1)What would you change immediately in the country, in the host family, your students, your teachers; what drives you most crazy?

What drives me the craziest about my students and other teachers is the lack of respect that many of them seem to have. A great number of my students talk all the time, even when me or some of their peers are talking. I find this very rude, but I’ve witnessed that not only do my students this, but their parents do it too.

I went to a play put on by the sixth grade (in honor of the Georgian poet Akaki Tsereteli) and many of the students' parents were in the audience but they talked the entire time. I was kind of in shock. If you won’t stop talking to hear your own children recite their lines in a school play- when will you stop talking? It’s hard to teach children respect when their own parents don’t know what it is.

I also wish that many of my teachers could find a better way to discipline their students for not doing their homework or disrupting the class. None of the students ever get penalized for not doing their homework so there is less of an incentive to do it. What ends up happening is that only a handful of students ever do their homework and it’s challenging to move on to other lessons because students don’t fully understand the past material. So essentially, I wish my students were more self-motivated to learn on their own and that teachers could produce a better incentive to do homework.

Most of my teachers just yell at the students or call them “lazy”, which I think does more harm than good. In America, discipline revolves around positive reinforcement, but this ideology seems foreign in Georgia. I personally hate yelling, and I come off as “a soft teacher” in class for trying to discipline students otherwise.

2) What were the most important things you did not take with you to Georgia that you found out you can’t live without?

Thankfully, I can’t really think of anything that I did not take with me that I desperately need. Most of the items that I did not bring with me I was able to find here. For example, I didn’t realize that once it starts raining in Georgia- it doesn’t stop. The streets end up flooding and the town starts singing a chorus of raindrops with solos of frogs croaking. Anyway, what I’m getting at is that buying a pair of rain boots at the bazaar drastically changed my life.

The best things I brought with me that I didn’t think I’d need were a headlamp and a fancy dress. I use my headlamp practically daily and I’m surprised at how dressed up Georgians get for certain occasions.

The one thing I wish I could have here is a projector for the classroom. I like to do PowerPoint presentations for my students on various topics, but because there is no projector, students have to crowd around my laptop to see anything.

3)What would you advice to people who will be coming on future TLG programs in order to be successful?

I think the main thing that future TLG participants need to have in order to be successful is a strong sense of flexibility, open-mindedness, adventure, creativity but above all, a positive mindset.

It’s impossible to be successful here if you’re not flexible. Expecting anything and being open to ambiguity is a key trait that a participant needs to have. Plans often change and comforts from home may be few and far in between, but a flexible mindset will easily adapt to these absences.

Open-mindedness and adventure are simply necessary traits for any person traveling to a new country. Without open-mindedness it will be hard to meet and accept new people and no sense of adventure speaks for itself. Why would you come to a foreign country and not want to explore every inch of it?

Creativity and a positive mindset are mostly skills that are necessary for the classroom and one’s overall general health. Classroom resources are minimal and the language barrier is challenging- so finding creative ways to teach students and communicate with members of the community will change your entire experience.

Above all though, it’s important to be positive. It’s easy to find the challenge and frustration within any situation but looking at things positively will help a participant find meaning in their work here. Like, if the glass isn’t half full, drop a slice of lemon in it and it’ll at least be a bit closer to halfway.


  1. 1) I fully agree, unfortunately I have to admit that Georgians lack respect to each other. (The way I and you understand it.) I don't know that all just somehow seems normal and nobody gets frustrated, but I personally do. (But naturally the rural area communities are taking such things up to extreme levels too, so it's not necessarily the same everywhere) I was born here, but I can never get accustomed to this.

    Schools in general suffer from the low quality of education (except for some schools in Tbilisi or Batumi which have quite good level of education, but they are usually private and expensive schools.)

    Education reform is very slow and painful... (reform of the entire Police force from scratch was, as it looks MUCH MUCH simpler.)

    ... it takes money and time... both of these resources are limited... the constant war with Russian Federation does not help this either.

    In general the level of society is pretty low, especially in remote areas (Like Samtredia... )


    "I use my headlamp practically daily and I’m surprised at how dressed up Georgians get for certain occasions. " - really? I always thought that their fashion taste horrifically sucked. Except for certain areas of some major cities.

    "The one thing I wish I could have here is a projector for the classroom. I like to do PowerPoint presentations for my students on various topics, but because there is no projector, students have to crowd around my laptop to see anything."

    - Don't you have some curator or somebody at the ministry of education? (Some guy or a girl that... well is somehow "responsible" that some Georgian crocodiles don't eat our unexperienced Gaijiin people from the west...) You could at least suggest them that you need a projector. I would not put my bet on it, but I would try emailing them at least in your place.

    If you need any goods in general, nearly everything you can buy in states you can probably get in Tbilisi or Batumi (At Populi or Goodwill super/hypermarkets...)

    3) I agree. (But I don't understand why would anyone want to teach kinds anything in Samtredia. Yeah you can hate me or call me cynical if you want, thank god I'm not a teacher.)

    Anyway, good luck.

  2. Michelle,

    First of all, thank you very much for answering these questions. It would be really interesting and beneficial to gather your and other folks answers and try to adopt recommendations into practice. Hope it will happen.

    As far as about your observations - you've described it perfectly, especially important I think is mentioning of positive reinforcement. If this concept is non-existent in Georgia it does not mean that it can not be implemented - you just need support from other teachers to carry it thru.

    Your comment about lack of respect in society in general is quite sad reality. Unfortunately, you can't change adults - they are broken beyond repair but there is chance for kids. This is why what you do is so important.

    I will have three other questions for you when your contract will be close to the end.

    Meanwhile good luck in your endeavor - you should know that there are a lot of people who read your blog and support you.