Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Days Three and Four: Tbiisi

Yesterday was so packed with adventure, I had NO time to post an update! There is so much to say, but I am going to try to give you just my favorite highlights so this doesn't turn into a 200 page book (which I WILL write one day!)

On Monday, Tiko gave us an overview of the Georgian education system. It is surreal to think that it wasn't all that long ago that Georgia was a part of the Soviet Union. Because of this, many classrooms still resemble the traditional classrooms of the Soviet period (i.e. teacher in front of class, students silent and in rows, rote memorization, etc.) This is beginning to change with the new education reforms, but the change has not happened overnight. What was MOST surprising to me was that students who want to go to university (which most parents want for their children) must attend private tutoring sessions after school. Because regular school day classes are not leveled (Honors, AP, etc.) and classes have between 25-30 students with very little, if any, technology, teachers do not differentiate for different styles of learners, and do not provide students with one-on-one assistance. Their school days are shorter than ours (from about 9am-2pm with no lunch break,) so the vast majority of teachers tutor from 3pm until late evening (Tiko tutors until 9pm!) Students may see several tutors every day. If their parents cannot afford tutors, it is very difficult for students to adequately prepare for the university entrance exams, so parents take out loans and/or work extra hours at their own jobs to provide their children with these private tutors. Education is extremely important to Georgians and it is clear that they prioritize it over anything else (there are no after school clubs or activities.)
7th grade Classroom in Tbilisi

On Monday, we also got to speak to some representatives from Teacher's House, which is responsible for Teachers' Professional Development. I was fortunate enough to ask these women about my research topic which is technology integration in the classroom. While they explained to me that technology use is slowly increasing in the schools, it is mainly limited to a computer class that the students take in their elementary years, instead of being integrated in every subject area. There is only one computer lab (if that) in every school, but there are usually not enough computers for a single class, the computers are old and in disrepair, or the teachers lack adequate training to implement technology effectively. Most classrooms still have chalkboards, and there are usually only one or two projectors in each school. There is a new emphasis on STEM education in Georgia, so there is a lot of hope that technology integration will continue to improve.

The Georgia Cohort at the Open-Air Museum!
18th century Georgian home
Our tour guide <3
















Corn and wine storage




Finally on Monday, we got to visit the Open Air Museum of Georgian History. It was so fascinating to hear about life in the 18th century from our kind Georgian guide, and walk though old houses from the time period. The other teachers and I have decided to make a little visual quiz for all of our students with all of the pictures we took. Students will have to guess the purpose of each item Georgians used (and in some cases, still do!) Stay tuned for the quiz!

Exterior of K-12 school in Tbilisi



By far, the best experience I have had so far on this trip was today's visit to Public School 52 in Tbilisi. All schools in Georgia are K-12, although the older students and younger students are usually on opposite sides of the building. When entering the building, it was obvious that the school was going through renovations. There was graffiti (look closely for American references in the pictures below,) as well as dilapidated corridors and staircases.

Some areas of the building had already been renovated and were very nice, especially in the primary grades area. The teachers, administrators and students were so excited for us to be there and a photographer followed us around the building, so we felt like celebrities! We were lucky enough to observe a 7th grade English class who showed us some of the activities and games they played to learn English. We even got to play a "speed dating" game with the students where we sat in rows facing each other, asking and answering questions about ourselves. I was very impressed with the students' ability to understand me and respond correctly in English! When we visited the elementary classrooms, the students were so eager to show off their English skills by counting to 10, singing their ABC's and saying "Hello, my name is___." Students stand when an adult enters the room, and they also stand when they are called on to answer a question. They also raise their hands, holding up two fingers only.

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A little one showing off his skills :)

Getting to know the students!
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7th grader leading class review on careers in English!

My favorite picture! They were so happy to see us!

Brand new computer lab that is rarely used
Unfortunately, the brand new computer lab was not in use because it only had 12 computers and all the classes have between 25-30 students. Because teachers move from classroom to classroom instead of students at the secondary level, the rooms are sparsely decorated, and only contain a chalk board and student desks.  I don't know what I would do without my projector, Smartboard and student Chromebooks!!




Ministry of Education


We also were fortunate enough to visit with officials in the Ministry of Education today on the topic of inclusion. While inclusion is a fairly new concept in Georgia, they have clearly come a long way in trying to ensure that EVERY child receive an education. Unfortunately, they are facing many challenges and it was humbling when the officials asked us to share our thoughts and experiences on special education and inclusion. They have a long road ahead of them, but it certainly seems like great strides are being made in this area of education.


We ended the day with a panel discussion at "Women's Fund" where representatives from several Gender Equity organizations shared their challenges and success stories related to equal treatment for women and girls. While girls are encouraged to get good educations and even to go to university, this is not translating into career opportunities. Most highly skilled jobs go to men, and when women do choose to have careers, they make less than men in every field. When one "young feminist" was asked how society defined the "perfect Georgian woman" she answered, "In one word? Obedient." Mariam, a 17-year-old civic activist, has even had parents show up to her gender equality meetings to pull their daughters out for being a part of something so controversial. I left this meeting so inspired by what these young women were doing to influence the change they want to see in their communities. These women are proof of how quickly things are changing for women in Georgia.
Teen civic activist, Mariam

So...this was quite a long post. What experience that I shared resonates the most with you, and what is your opinion on the topic? (i.e. education system, women's status in society, etc. OR comment on a video or picture!) Look forward to seeing lots of comments from my super intelligent students! :)





18 comments:

  1. i really enjoyed the pictures of the place the graphics on the building are really cool. You look like your having lots of fun can't wait to hear all about it when you get back

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    1. Yes, Skylar. I thought they were interesting too. We found out that some of the not nice things that were said were because the students were protesting the firing of their principal.

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  2. That sounds really cool Mrs. Morales, I hope to hear more exciting things about your trip soon.
    - Katelyn Kennard

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    1. Thanks, Katelyn...don't worry, you will!

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  3. It looks like you are really having a lot of fun! I wish I were a student in Georgia now because though they have little to no technology it looks almost like they are learning better and they seem to have better behavior. I personally think us students with technology are beginning to lose all of the respect that people once had and we are losing interest in learning. I wish you could take me with you. I hope you are having a lot of fun! See you when you get back! Bye Mrs. Morales!

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    1. Cory, interesting opinion. Most students and teachers here really want more technology, but it is important to have a balance! Students here need to be able to compete for jobs with kids like you one day, so they need tech skills. I wish I could take you all with me too! Maybe next time :)

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  4. I really like the pictures that you took. They are really cool. The scenery in Georgia is really beautiful. I was looking at the picture of the classroom and it was set up in a interesting way. I feel that we should do that, too. It would be cool to follow ways of Georgian people. Everybody really misses you and we cant wait tell we get back.

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    1. Gavin, yes we can definitely learn a lot from the Georgian people. We will definitely be playing the game I saw in the 7th grade Georgian classroom when I get back!

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  5. The schools in Georgia are so different from here! Both the inside and the outside of it. I like the way the classrooms look and I think it would be cool to have some classes like that. The scenery in Georgia is really cool and so is the corn and wine storage. We don't have those here and that seems like a pretty cool idea.

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  6. All the people you are meeting look so nice. It sounds like you are having so much fun. What you are documenting is very interesting on how their schools are set up compared to ours. That computer lab looks really cool compared to ours. We can't wait for you to come back and tell us all about it.

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  7. This looks like a lot of fun. I was wondering if any of the kids there speak English. If they do how well do they speak it? Why are the schools such a mess on the outside? Are they better on the inside?

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  8. Everyone you are meeting seem so nice! I wish I could meet them, the classrooms there look really cool and everyone seems to be intrigued in learning which is good. I love how the classes look outside as well the graffiti is awesome. The new computer lab looks so cool. Can't wait to hear more about it.

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  9. I loved all of the photos you took! Especially all of the ones of the Georgian home!The scenery looks magnificent! I cannot wait to hear about all of your other adventures. I hope you are having fun!

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  10. What a unique way to learn about another country. every minute of your trip is so fascinating!

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  11. Once again, I love all the photos that you took, but one that struck me the most was the one that showed you standing with another woman. After reading the caption, I was even happier as I can see another example of women working for equality, which I've been seeing more and more of.

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  12. It looks like your having a great time, everyone seems nice there. I think its very interesting to see what everything looks like there, like there computer lab doesn't look like ours.

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  13. There towns look like ours with the wall art. :)

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  14. These are some really cool pictures, all the people seem friendly! I think it would be awesome to visit one day. Hope you are enjoying your troop!

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