I just finished three classes – 8th grade and two 6th grade classes – and realized I’ll have to find a way to start from the very beginning without losing my place in the textbook. These kids don’t know anything that’s not by rote. By the time they graduate, most good jobs will require good English – it’s a country-wide initiative that’s understaffed and incredibly ambitious. But I do want these kids to have opportunity. The job market here in Budarin is manual labor. Their fathers and brothers are in the position that an injury will make them unemployable. One of the teacher’s husbands was working in the field yesterday (they’re harvesting wheat here right now) and tried to fix his combine. It cut all his fingers off. I don’t know if he can drive anymore.
Anyway, these kids learn everything in school by rote and therefore nothing is functional. A student who has been in English class for 4 years could not answer “What is your name?”; the question had to be translated for her. So, I’m frustrated, because the other teachers do not want to address this issue of the students not really knowing anything. The theory here is that students’ performance is the result of their teacher’s performance. It’s not so much in this case – it’s a matter of systematic problems. These are some of the best teachers in the school by Kazakh standards. Teachers are taught to lecture, even to kids in 3rd grade (who look about 4 years old here). They don’t seem to learn about how people learn in teachers’ school. The kids are not used to any homework, testing, or any sort of interaction in English in class. Okay, I’m done. But all this means that I have to start over. Also, people stand behind you and stare when you’re writing at the computer. I’d better watch out when these kids’ English improves.