Thursday, January 13, 2011


Well looks like my weekly school blog has turned into a monthly one, but here is installment two.

There has been a lot going on since returning from the holiday break. First my energy went into getting the final approval for a large project to be implemented during this last semester of school. Petya and I have been working on it since last summer, but parts of it were slow in coming together. The review committee had a number of questions and the holidays slowed us down, but we got word today it has been approved and is in Washington DC waiting funding.  We will be purchasing 13 computers, Bulgarian Educational software, a printer and retraining teachers on the use of computers with a focus on how to integrate technology into daily lessons.  We will then introduce the kids to the computers. Skills will be varied for both teachers and kids as some use home computers and others have never touched one. Right now we have a couple of old computers in the library and the kids immediately run to them and start clicking away. It will be a MAJOR challenge to teach them to use the computers appropriately and to set up systems for usage, with consequences for undirected use. Getting all the teachers on the same page will be equally difficult, but my optimism and the positive impact keep me hopeful that it can be done. EXPECTATIONS: one of my favorite words and one rarely used here is the key!

Tuesday of this week we had our second International Art Exchange Award program. Twenty two students had their art work sent first to the states and then to participating schools around the world. We will receive pictures from students’ world wide in return. Once again we invited the parents, and they were excited to see their children recognized as participants in this exchange. On display were pictures from last year’s exchange. A slide show of others and a Google Earth trip to some of these locations were all a part of the program. So much more could be done with this exchange program, but the resources are in English, making it difficult for most of our teachers to take advantage of them. Just opening the eyes of the kids to a world outside their neighborhood is rewarding.
Analiya 4th grader had two entries in the exchange.
Gulishen a 3rd grader is quiet in class but scrappy with the boys during breaks!
Kuzman a 4th grader and all around good kid.

Roberto a 4th grader, a bright kid but one who has a lot to prove and someone you are always conscious of in the classroom.

Moving on: next week I want to start a special small class for the best third and fourth grade English students. Those that love the language, are in school everyday and in general show an enthusiasm for learning. We’ll only meet once a week but I hope to build their speaking confidence, strengthen their base and introduce reading. I know this is a lot for just under 20 hours. It will be fun though working with kids excited about learning and without the discipline problems. Without any support the challenge will be communicating effectively with them, but somehow we will get it done.Here are some of the kids being invited to participate for their love of learning and who will be my joy for the next few months.

Raiyna 3rd grade. Bright, delightful young lady in every way.
                                                 Lilly 3rd grade: every class has a "junior" teacher and she is it. One of the best in English!
Boris, 3rd grade. He always has that smile and somehow is able to stay out of the fray of wrestling with the other boys.
Nacko, 4th grade. An average student, but thoughtful and a hard worker. Was very excited when asked to join the class
Kraci, 4th grade: Excels at everything he does.
Ramzie 4th grade: A quiet, caring young lady who works hard always doing her best. I like to watch her think!

Elena 4th grade: I noticed her on my very first day of school. Confident, intelligent and dynamic individual.

Head-shakers in the last few weeks. There are many. The things that angers and frustrates me more than anything else is how the education of the children is the last thing considered when making decisions. Last time I mentioned several canceled classes for inane reasons. It is a constant. Petya was instructed by the school principal to shorten one of her third grade classes. The principal’s 4th grade daughter was in school and needed help with HER English homework!!  There was another incident of a document needing to be delivered to the other building immediately, and although I did the running, the person who delivered the message told the teachers Petya had to go to the directors office… class canceled. Trying to set up desks in a way that makes teaching easier…..not allowed because it makes the cleaning ladies’ work more difficult. If we change the room arrangement (from straight rows) in any way it must be returned at the end of each class. The time taken to set up and break down out of a 40 minute session is precious.  My anti-littering competition with “cleanest rooms awards” never got off the ground. Again it was because the cleaning ladies who were an integral part of it could not be convinced that the small effort of putting a sticker on the door of the clean rooms everyday for a month would make a change. Some teachers and kids worked hard during the first few weeks cleaning their rooms ever day. When the promised awards did not come……the effort slacked. This is an example of the frustrations of limited language as I could not convey my passion and expectations clearly or easily. I could explain the how but not the why convincingly.

Tsveti, a big lady with a big heart!
Ending on the positive side, as I was talking with one of my favorite teachers yesterday, conversation turned to my departure, in part because the application for another volunteer was just submitted to Peace Corps.She is a large dynamic individual with a great sense of humor. She always has the staff laughing as she regales us with stories. Her long career has been here at Naiden Gerov working with the Roma kids. She knows how to interpret their mixed language phrases, incorporates music as a critical teaching tool and has been flexible enough to let me do whatever I want in her classroom (1st grade this year) . She "gets it" commenting after every lesson, about the interactive aspect of the lesson and how that is the way kids learn.  I let her know how much I enjoy working with her. She indicated she had not worked with the previous volunteers (youth workers here more than three years ago) and did not want to work with anyone else. She said we were connected because we teach from the heart. I was touched.  There are actually a number of teachers in my school who teach from the heart and although their ways of doing things are not what I am used to or consider “good practices”,  they need to be  recognized for what they do and why they do it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You grow more special to me every day! I'm so glad we are close friends. Keep up the good work there until you have no more days left! You are making a difference in these kids lives! Estelle