Thursday, September 10, 2009
This is my first week teaching at Tajik State Pedagogical University (aka Ped Institute or Teacher Training University). The first picture is not from the Ped Institute; it's a weekly discussion club at the Embassy-sponsored American Corner. I don't have pictures of my classes yet, but will post when I do. I'm working with 2 groups of 3rd year students, teaching grammar and "practice," which is a combination of reading, grammar, and other skills. There are 13,000 students in the university as a whole, and more than 1,000 in the English department, according to the department Dean. It doesn't seem like that many to me, but the classes are on 2 different floors, and 5th year students are gone on practicum.
The students are very friendly and generally eager to learn. When a teacher or administrator enters a classroom, the students stand until they are given permission to sit down. My classes are figuring out that this is not an American custom, so only some of them stand when I come into the room, which is fine with me. Women usually wear traditional Tajik clothing, and men almost always wear white shirts and ties. The students couldn't believe it when I told them that some American college students go to classes in their pajamas, basically--sweatshirts and sweatpants, and that male students almost never wear ties to class.
Though this is a teacher training university, most of the students I've talked to don't actually want to be teachers. They dream of careers as interpreters, translators, or local staff working for a foreign NGOs in Tajikistan. They see English as their ticket to the world--travel, studying abroad, etc. Students ask me how they can improve their English and beg me to visit their classes or help them individually. I tell them I can't be their individual tutor, but I will be helping to organize some discussion clubs they can participate in. If any of you want to come visit me, students would be THRILLED to meet more Americans. There are apparently direct flights to Dushanbe from Frankfurt and Riga, Latvia now...(hint, hint...)
I'm going camping with some new friends this weekend, so look forward to pictures of the mountains!! I can't wait.
The opinions in this blog are not the opinions of the US State Department or the English Language Fellowship Program.