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Thursday, June 14, 2012

~Inglisuri Maswavlebeli...Teaching in Georgia

Being an Inglisuri Maswavlebeli (English teacher) is indeed an interesting experience. I work as a co-teacher with local English teachers teaching 1st - 6th grade. My main responsibility as a co-teacher is to assist with improving listening and speaking skills among students as well as teachers. There is no English classroom, so we go to each class. I work about 20 hours a week with 45-minute classes; teachers do not exceed 30 hours.

Memorization is a popular style of learning in Georgia that I believe dates back to the Soviet times. In my opinion, this is not an effective teaching style because the children are still unable to comprehend the text. Over the past few months, I've tried to introduce my co-teachers to other techniques that are likely more beneficial for the students such as reading comprehension, composition, class presentations, songs and games. It's great that my co-teachers are open to my comments and activities; however, my awkward class schedule doesn't allow me to be consistent at all.

My co-teachers and I do not do any lesson planning, which is a problem that I attempted to change without any success. If I intend to teach a lesson, I show them my lesson plan beforehand and try to explain how it helps me. Simply giving a verbal explanation of the lesson without providing any written information or examples is not helpful, yet students are expected to understand right away. In my lessons, I do the complete opposite to make sure students understand and explain to my co-teachers my reason for teaching in such a way. At the end of the day, all I can do is my best and hope that some things that I have shared will help them to broaden their teaching styles.

The students are very friendly and super excited to see me to say Hello and Goodbye. I must get those two words a thousand times a day on the way to school, in class, walking the halls, and returning home. Classroom management is not a problem, and my students are well-behaved for the most part. Of course there are times when they get a little noisy but kids will be kids. The only thing I have had to work on is children raising their hands and waiting until acknowledged to answer questions, which they have caught on to quickly since I don't acknowledge those calling to me or not raising their hands. I try to engage the entire class in lessons whereas my co-teachers usually pay more attention to the top students; they have gotten better at this.

As expected, some of my classes are ahead of others, and there is a wide distribution of their level of skills. Once the lessons are interactive and fun, they are attentive and participate. Homework given is mostly memorization and translation of text versus actual assignments. However, most students usually don't do homework anyway or copy from their classmates. There is no disciplinary action for cheating or sharing answers that I am aware of. I sometimes give simple assignments, rewarding those that complete them correctly with smiley faces/stars, and doing homework reviews where students are asked to explain their answer choices.

Although my school doesn't look the best in terms of infrastructure, I have found that there is a good supply of resources available. Some teacher's textbook guides are available, blackboards are usable, chalk is available, and there is a computer lab with working computers and Internet access most of the time. My school director also provided some English books from the school library that I could use in class. Overall, the school staff and administration are hospitable and supportive.

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