by Gary: Today I had my first experience in a Georgian classroom. We visited Buckswood School for the day, attending a grade 4, 5, and 6 Nature (what they call science) class, and a grade 6 math class. It was total immersion as the class was instructed in Georgian. The teacher, however, keeping with the theme of true Georgian hospitality, tailored her lesson to make it familiar mathematically even if the language barrier became a struggle. A review of Geometry was the topic of discussion to allow us the visuals necessary to follow along, and we were provided with a fluent English speaking high school student to fill in any blanks.
Keeping within the topics of my research, I was first to note the use of materials and/or manipulatives to assist in the lesson. The students had supplied their own cut outs of geometric shapes to assist with the lesson and the room we were in was complete with a version of a smart board that I hadn’t seen before. The projector simply displayed to the wall and the stylus did all the work from there. The teacher was highly proficient with the use of this technology and the students had no difficulty during their turns with it either.
Productive struggle was the other focus of my research and observations and turned out to be a great choice. The teacher took the part more as a moderator while the students eagerly and aggressively assisted each other to come up with answers and equations to solve problems. When prompted to answer directly, hands were raised and the students would stand as they addressed the teacher with their responses. They were engaged and focused.
The manner in which these students were participating was for themselves and not merely for recognition or praise. That type of feedback was not offered. They behaved like intellectuals in solving problems in a manner that seemed far beyond their age.
I was impressed. This is a perfect model of how I wish for my future classrooms to run.
Midway through the day we were treated to the same school lunch in the dining hall that all of their students had that day: buckwheat, sausage (which looked like a hot dog!), vegetable soup, honey rolls, and strawberry juice. Their school lunches are homemade each day by the kitchen staff, complete with a baker and separate brick building that is the bakery.
Today we visited with the principals of the two schools we will be working in all next week. The first school is just a 10 minute walk from our apartments, in the heart of Tbilisi. It is the Lepl Experimental School. It houses about 2,600 students from grades 1-12. (We were not able to take pictures of this school yet. Stay tuned next week for those.) The students walk to school because they live in the surrounding neighborhoods. We learned that at this school the 1st graders had already finished school for the summer, and that the second graders had recently moved up to third grade. We met several of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade teachers who were excited to have us bring some math and science to their students next week.
We also visited the Buckswood International School. This school is located about a 20 minute drive from Tbilisi, in the hills surrounding the city. The students take buses to and from this school. It houses just 500 students in grades preK-12. We saw several classrooms, including a science lab pictured here. The elementary students at this school take some interesting classes, including one called Nature where they learn about their surrounding environment, and Logic, which includes learning the game of chess!
We had our first education-related meeting on Monday, with Natia (far left in picture), Head of National Curriculum Department at the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia (pic below). She was excited about our anticipated STEM work and has helped us set up meetings with two schools in Tbilisi. Here is some of what we learned about education in Georgia:
We'd like to thank the young followers of our blog. They come from Mrs. Holt's first grade class in Raynham, MA, and Mrs. Kunkle's kindergarten class in Plymouth, MA. Mrs. Holt's class put together a slide show of what their classroom looks like for Mrs. Glen to show the Georgian students: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDnCJc4sbo0. Mrs. Kunkle's class learned about the location and flag of Georgia from Mr. Parmenter, one of the BSU students on the trip.