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From Russia with love: Russian teachers told about work in Kyrgyzstan

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From Russia with love: Russian teachers told about work in Kyrgyzstan


Sakhira Nazarova

Photo by the author

At the end of August last year, 17 teachers from the Russian Federation came to work in the Osh city, Kyrgyzstan. The strict selection had been conducted before, to choose applicants from different parts of the country. It has been the first trip abroad for many of them, and it has to last for one year. Marina Petrova, Natalia Sakharova and Marina Zaichenko, three of the teachers, shared with us about their work in schools with different languages of tuition, about things they like and those that require improvements.

There are 78 schools in Osh. More than three thousand teachers work in them. Despite the fact that qualified professionals graduate from local universities every year, there is a shortage of teachers in schools. Therefore, the project aimed to engage teachers from Russia has been especially relevant: it is planned to double the number of invited professionals for the next academic year. Reportedly, the project is intended to last 10 years. By the way, it is the third year that teachers from the Russian Federation have been working in Tajikistan

"I have a simple Russian surname: Petrova"

At some point I realized that I know everything in my native Kostroma, so I thought: why not? I had two options: Tajikistan or Kyrgyzstan; a voice within me suggested the second one, and I am very happy about it. There are many Russian-speaking people here, says Marina Petrova, a teacher with 26 years of experience. She got assigned to school No.38 with Kyrgyz language of tuition. Needless to say, there are some inconveniences she faces. For instance, it is difficult when teachers' meetings are conducted in Kyrgyz, but her colleagues, teachers of Russian, help with translation. They have never viewed her as the competitor; quite the opposite, her colleagues need the experience to be shared. One teacher of Russian came up and complained that she had clearly limited level of knowledge comparing to Marina Petrova’s one. Marina encouraged her and offered support with the promise to assist in mastering professional skills and share her curricular practices.

Marina Petrova. Photo by the author

Marina Petrova comes from a family of teachers. Since younger days she knew what her occupation would be. They tried to warn her that such work would take a lot of time and efforts, but she was not discouraged. “Challenges make you stronger! I have never regretted, even once, that I became a teacher,” she says. Marina got a degree in Russian Philology and Literature from Kostroma State University. She worked concurrently at school and at university, got experience working in the female penal colony; she also worked as an editor and got qualification of a psychologist eight years ago.

While in Osh, she teaches Russian language and literature in grades 9 to11. Before arrival, she had some fears, which was followed by the period of stress. Speaking of her first lesson, Marina perfectly remembers close attention of students: they all silently looked at the new teacher devouring every word of hers, observing her movements and gestures. They were interested in everything, Im like something exotic them; during the first month the girls used to touch my hair, the teacher recalls with a smile. She is a slender light-footed lady with natural blond hair and good posture. Pronouncing and remembering names was a challenging task, just as for all her Russian colleagues. The teacher notes the desire of students to learn new things: "In my opinion, children know Russian quite well. There are still areas for improvements, but this is what we came here for."

Application of different teaching methods sparks a greater interest in students. One of the practices that proved to be successful was involvement of high school students into research work that goes beyond the scope of the subject. Summarizing requires more in-depth study of various sources, analysis and discussions. Is Natalia Goncharova to be blamed for the death of her husband and the poet Alexander Pushkin? Conclusion of the Osh students was affirmative. Is it connected with traditional way of family life? In contrast, Russian students answer was negative.

The teacher noted that each student has a dream - to visit Russia, especially Moscow. Being asked what Russian language is needed for, one student replied that she was going to study in Kyrgyzstan, and insufficient proficiency in Russian would affect the attitude to her (they will not respect me).

According to the teacher, Russian education standards are somewhat different, so it would be recommended for parents to be more involved into school - student - parent interaction. It is useful if school is aware of what is going on in the family of each student. The bond between a teacher and students should also be strengthen through out-of-school activities.

Children of migrants need parental love and affection

Natalia Sakharova came to Osh from Ivanovo. She is a psychologist, speech therapist, and has experience working with vulnerable children from conflict zones, children with disabilities, and families with many children. She came to Osh together with her husband and works as a primary school teacher in a school with Russian language of tuition. I agreed to come here to gain new experience. The school appointed a mentor for me; my colleagues did not view me as their competitor; they warmly welcomed me into their team. I found a common ground with students parents, and they were happy that I was assigned to their class, she said.

Natalia shared that she was provided with a spacious, bright classroom, however it was not well equipped, there were no specialized speech therapy programs, number of books for practicing and other things was insufficient. She had to buy some items herself, as many families are not able to cover additional costs. By the end of the second term, textbooks were bought for nearly all subjects. Textbooks are necessary to achieve the result, believes Natalia.

Natalia Sakharova. Photo by the author

She is a young, beautiful blonde with long hair, kind and friendly, and the favorite teacher for students. She is like a mother to many of them, particularly those, whose parents migrated to work. Children of migrant workers, especially boys, perceive me as the mother figure: they help me carry my bag, accompany me, the teacher says. It is apparent that they lack female warmth and attention. Sometimes they fight for my attention. The girls draw beautiful cards with good wishes. "

The teacher inspired children to be creative; they like to make presentations about Russian writers and design them in a beautiful way. Initially children were embarrassed to speak in front of the class, but now they engage in activities, recite poetry with feeling, and do exercises to check their reading pace. Not everyone fits into the standard, but they really enjoy the competitive spirit. Natalia, encouraged children to take part in an online academic competition. Despite feeling fear and doubts at first, they enjoyed it.

Natalia Sakharova is ready to share her experience as a speech therapist, but it is difficult due to lack of time and classrooms for extracurricular activities. Some schools with Russian language of tuition have classes overloaded with students, which affects the process of learning. But Natalia is lucky - there are 26 students in her class.

A strong specialist in teaching methods is a teacher with education in communication

Russian teachers actively share experience with Osh colleagues. In January, during her winter vacation, Marina Zaichenko from Voronezh spoke about innovative methods of teaching Russian. She gave an example of using the method of six colored hats by Edward de Bono, an English psychologist and writer. This method is applied in many companies for development of critical thinking. The team is given a problematic situation, which must be considered from different perspectives. Participants are divided into groups; each group chooses one hat by color and makes a presentation for the direction indicated. The white hat presents facts without emotion. The black hat speaks on cons and doubts. The red one describes feelings of the students without substantiating their findings. The green one voices reflections from a creative perspective. The yellow hat is the antagonist of the black one, indicating all the advantages that the students liked. The blue hat has the task to sum up.

Marina Zaichenko uses her methods in International School of Kyrgyzstan (ISK), a private school where she was placed since her second degree is related to English, and English is the language of tuition in ISK. My knowledge is much needed when contrastive analysis between English and Russian is to be performed in Russian lessons. Here, we teach based on Russian textbooks, though shortened. Some children who came from ethnic schools face difficulties, especially with writing; however, they make extra efforts to overcome such difficulties. They do great job, and I help them, says the teacher.

Marina Zaichenko. Photo by the author

Marina actively engages students to participate in online academic competitions and helps them to overcome doubts: At first, children were scared, they had lack of confidence saying: What if we get the wooden spoon? I used to say that your main competitor were you yourself. You compete with yourself. They finally enjoyed participation in academic competitions. Recently, during the final lesson on Pushkin's lyrics, students recited not one, but several poems. It was so nice! I want to thank my students for their efforts.

The teacher loves her work very much. Every morning, after a long trip (the school is located in a remote community), she enters the classroom in high spirits, and is always ready to support children and assist her colleagues.

Every new day is a special one. We need to reset the files to zero and start a new every day. No matter what happened yesterday, you need to act as if there was nothing. No need to have high expectations. Today things may be different, the teacher shares her thoughts.

In addition to the degree in philology, Marina has the master's degree in intercultural communication. From the first days she clearly pronounces Kyrgyzstan, and smiles: I understood where my destination was I was going to Kyrgyzstan!

They are ready to continue their work in Osh

Some of teachers were not able to withstand changes of environment, climate, living and working conditions. Some of them went back to Russia, some got sick. Our heroines like living and working here; they are ready to continue participation in the project for the next academic year.

Photo by the author

Certain cons are balanced by significant advantages. For example, a warm climate, which was especially noticeable after the cold Russian summer of 2019. The Russians liked local fruits, organic foods, Osh cuisine. Schoolgirls taught Marina Petrova to cook the authentic pilau, and neighbors often treat her with local dishes.

Natalia Sakharova attended a Kyrgyz wedding and noted the respectful attitude of younger generation to the elders. She recalled the events on the city square, such as Independence Day, City Day, Teacher's Day, and New Year tree lighting ceremony.

But still, the Russians lack cultural attractions, so they eagerly anticipate events of the Russian-Kyrgyz Bilateral Year (2020). They are also looking forward to the celebration of Navruz, when the city will be transformed by the holiday, and almond trees will bloom on Suleiman Mountain.

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