|Teachers hard at work in faculty seminar on conflict management and communication|
“Congratulations on Teacher’s Day”. These are the words which greeted me on October 5 as I entered Dilijan State College where I am a TEFL (teacher of English as a foreign language). Throughout the day, teachers greeted each other in the same way, smiling and sometimes offering a kiss on the cheek. Students brought roses to their teachers and the mood was definitely high on Teacher’s Day in Armenia.
OCTOBER 5, 2011
Although Teacher’s Day is officially designated as October 5th, I discovered that it is a day which over flows into another—and another—and another—similar to some people’s birthday which is celebrated before the date, on the date and afterward---to keep the feeling of celebration as long as possible.
The day after Teacher’s Day, excitement filled the air because that evening there was to be a special dinner at one of Dilijan ‘s most interesting restaurants, Getap—named after the word for” bank of the river”. I received a special invitation from both my counterpart and the college Director. I had not originally planned to attend, not yet feeling as if I deserved any special recognition as a teacher. I also knew the dinner was paid for by a fund composed of money taken from each teacher’s salary, and I had not contributed to that fund since I receive no salary as a Peace Corps volunteer. However, with 2 invitations extended to me by important people at the college, I decided to attend. I’m so glad that I did!
|Getap Restaurant, Dilijan , Armenia|
What an evening it turned out to be! A large number of the teachers and staff along with a few spouses, joined in the fun and enjoyed food and drink all served lavishly in the restaurant’s banquet dining room. The college director and several faculty members raised their glasses offering toasts to the faculty, students, previous director and teachers, women, to various individuals in attendance, to the people of Armenia, and especially to the spirit of working as a team for the sake of the students at the college. Laughter and conversation and, yes---music and dancing filled the evening. I hesitated to dance, but one of the senior faculty members, the librarian and Hayeren teacher, signaled that I should join in the fun. I did. It was great! And, it was interesting to see the surprise on the faces of my new colleagues when I stepped onto the dance floor. They know my command of their language is limited, but did not know how I love music and dancing. Music is a powerful common denominator no matter what country one is in or what language is spoken.
|Armenian Khorovats (barbecue) -- a most popular entree for parties and any large dinners|
Following another course of khorovats, toasts, and strong Armenian coffee, my college director and her husband led the way onto the dance floor for the final period of dancing. As I joined in and looked around the floor at people I barely knew, they were all smiling, swaying with the great Armenian music and executing the graceful hand movements naturally and perfectly. In this momentary surreal experience, I could not help but think of my favorite movie, “Dirty Dancing” with Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. No, there was no “dirty dancing” at this Armenian teacher’s event, but there was a similar mood of warmth and happiness which one felt in the final scenes of that movie. At the end of “Dirty Dancing”, the guests at a summer resort are all dancing happily together. Patrick Swayze won his girl’s hand and Jennifer Grey stood behind her man in the face of her irate father. Smiles are on the faces of everyone, even those who were in deep conflict throughout the dramatic movie. As the movie ends, all is well and good. Similarly, as the dinner ended at Getap, all was well and good for the teachers at my college, and I was so pleased to have been a part of that evening.
Amazingly, the next day the celebration of Teacher’s Day continued at Dilijan State College with the reading of a congratulatory message from our town’s mayor and the sharing of candy and champagne sent from his office. Even though in the U.S., Teacher Appreciation Day is celebrated with small events honoring teachers, maybe the U. S. could learn about larger ways for educators to recognize themselves as part of the cultural exchange the Peace Corps fosters through its Goal #3.