Thursday, December 20, 2012

Peace Corps Armenia: Month 18: November, 2012

November was such a good month in lots of ways. Oh, there are the usual gripes about schedule changes, cold building, students absent when they should be at school, etc., but overall, looking back over the month, it was a good one.  Here are some highlights, beginning with the fact that my grant proposal for new English books for our college’s English students was funded.  No, it was not millions of dollars, not even thousands, not even $1000, but for a college without books to study English, it was BIG.    My counterpart/team teacher and I will purchase the books in January when David and I return to Armenia from our Christmas trip……just in time for our second semester.

New classroom for English classes

In addition, my college director recently designated a different classroom as the English classroom ---one on the warm side of the building ---a significant factor when the building is often colder inside than out!  We have new desks and chairs, a blackboard, nice book cases and new linoleum and paint to clean up the old space.  We are told we’ll be able to share the use of a projector/screen and maybe a computer from the adjacent computer room.  This is so much better than when I came. The students have helped us teachers to hang our English posters and other things so that the room looks more like a classroom in the U. S. than in Armenia. Students come to this classroom now for classes instead of the English teachers going to the student’s homeroom.  So much better--------now we do not   have to drag all of our stuff from room to room and if we want to suddenly talk about a subject, our teaching materials will be right there handy.

Armenian English teachers at our workshop

Also in November a group of 4 other Peace Corps volunteers and I held an English teacher’s workshop at the British Council office in Yerevan.  In attendance were teachers from in and around Yerevan. Our focus was on reading and creative writing in one session. The second was on making inexpensive games and visual aids to enhance learning .   This is an idea not used much in Armenian schools so learning to use Bingo, Jeopardy, the Memory game, and the Hokey Pokey were new to many teachers.  We hope to do a follow-up workshop or 2 in 2013 since the response was good to this first one.

Staff at Bridge of Hope in Dilijan, Armenia during Thanksgiving Day lesson by Kellianne Lauer and me
    My site mate, Kellianne, and I have been holding  an English Club/class at an organization which provides service to children with various disabilities. Therapies of all kinds are offered plus there are children in the neighborhood who just come to use the computer, play, do homework or other activities. There is very little in my town for children to do after school or on weekends.  Bridge of Hope is a safe, warm place which meets many children’s needs.   Kellianne and I work with any staff members who wish to improve their English and we’ve had up to 14 participants in our meetings twice a week.  They are mostly young women (and one man),  who know a small amount of English and want to learn more---very interesting and enthusiastic and a pleasure to work with.

Students staying close to the wood stove in their classroom  when gas not available
A negative in November occurred when the local gas company did their inspection and found my college’s gas heaters not properly vented.  (Interesting, since they were that way all last year!)  Our director closed school for several days while repairs were being done.  When we returned to find the work not complete, a few rooms were being heated with wood stoves.  Wood stoves are used a lot in Armenia despite the fact that it is illegal to cut down trees for firewood.  Go figure, somehow, people obtain ample wood but it is quite expensive, as is gas.  At the college, I’ve witnessed students burning the wood slats from old furniture but this is not an acceptable practice.  Eventually one small gas heater per classroom was repaired and school was open again.  The building is still frigid in the halls and everyone must wear a coat to stay reasonably comfortable. I hardly recall now how cold it was last year when we had snow from October 1 until into May. 
 I hope you will continue to follow life here in Armenia. Unbelievably, it will endfor us  in about 8 months! Who knows what lies ahead after our COS (closure of service)? Guess we’ll see……………………… Comments are welcomed!        Judy

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