I Want Teachers to Teach Good
You’ve heard from me about ABLE Camp. In a picture I included, you noticed our students sitting in chairs, generally paying attention, participating in the session at hand. That session could have been anything from teamwork to leadership to creativity to goal-setting. Riveting stuff, right? Right. The interesting things about these sessions, though, wasn’t that kids were learning about these concepts (though, to be sure, for Azerbaijani students, this is certainly a novel approach); instead, the interesting thing is that these kids were sitting and paying attention at all. Obviously, we tried to have some incentives to be on time to sessions and to participate, like avoiding extra running up the mountain in the morning. Yet, the kids behaved themselves fairly well. For anyone who has set foot in a traditional Azerbaijani classroom, they know this is not standard fare for Azerbaijani boys. I have a gaggle of Peace Corps Volunteer English teachers to back me up on this.
The difference, in my opinion, is that suddenly these students were engaged. This is not normally the case. Surely, it does help that these were students we Peace Corps Volunteers picked ourselves. We chose them for a reason, mostly that they were good kids. That probably weights the group in our favor. Yet, the other major difference is that they were engaged by the subject, by their environment, by their teachers. Our instructors are former FLEX students. They’ve been to America, exposed to better teaching methods, and we’ve trained them in a Western teaching style. Instead of getting up and talking at the students and droning on or making students memorize another English word, these guys pay attention to their ‘students’. The students interacted, participated, and paid attention. This isn’t a definitive study, but I think this gives a positive vote for Western-style teaching methods. Certainly, part of the cause is that our counselors were cool college students with a lot of charisma and smarts. But that’s because they’ve done this before or had some confidence in teaching like this. So if we do definitively say that Western-style teaching methods are the way to go, what will it take to get more Azeri teachers to adopt them?