Friday, March 18, 2011

Teaching tomorrow's leaders

I teach over 90 of them. I attend dance class with anywhere from 10-25 of them depending how many show up. I live with two of them. They can be lots of fun and they can be a pain in the neck. Sometimes I get along with them great, sometimes they annoy the fire out of me.


One of the underlying influences of a culture is the attitude toward child-rearing. I had never thought about child-rearing in relation to culture before studying culture my first week here in Georgia, but it is an important part of the make up of a group of people. The way children are viewed and treated by adults affects the way they think, react to each other, respond to correction, perceive authority, and think about their future (to name only a few of the influences on them).

I certainly don't know much about being a parent since I don't have children, but I know an awful lot about being a child -- I was one for a long time. I work with them every day. And one of the best ways to be a good high school teacher is to never forget what it was like to be a teenager. 

Spending every "workday" with kids of various ages has kept my own childhood present in my mind. Thinking about my own up-bringing helps me to deal with my students -- being able to relate to them on any level about anything. My parents were (and are) great parents, and their example of child-rearing has given me a good basis to work from in managing my classroom. But what happens when the parents of the children I am teaching don't have the same thoughts on child-rearing as I do? How can the students understand what I expect of them? How do I understand what they think is or is not appropriate to do in class? How do we come to an agreement on work ethic and responsibility?

Ever since I arrived, I have been trying to get a handle on the Georgian attitude toward children. Sometimes I think they are spoiled and are allowed to do whatever they want. Sometimes I think they have a very strict up-bringing with lots of hard work. I still don't know which it is -- maybe it's both. From much of what I have seen, the spoiling comes from the mother and the strictness comes from the father. Kids often whine their way into manipulating their mothers to let them do what they want. But if the kids are out of line, I've seen many fathers pinch the perpetrator's ear and march them to wherever they are supposed to be. I am not going to question the parenting methods that I have seen, I'm just stating that they are. And teaching kids who are brought up with the idea that they can manipulate a "mother-figure" makes being a female teacher who was not raised with these dynamics a bit trying.....especially since whining is one of the things I hate most in all of creation. 

The best way I have found to combat the rampant whininess of my students is to simply not allow it. I tell them that if they whine at me I will not acknowledge them. I will not call on them. And I will not change my mind. My being consistent with what I expect from them has helped....but now and then they still fall back into their old habits of waving their hand in the air like an Atlanta Braves' fan while whining, "Teeeeeacher....pleeeeease. I answeeeeer. Teeeeeeacher......," as if they will truly die if they do not share their answer with me. I look at the whiner, shake my head, and call on another student. They love to answer questions when they know the answer, so it only takes a couple of times of being passed over for them to stop acting like two-year-olds.

But the whining is not the tough one -- it's the lack of agreement on work ethic and responsibility in regards to homework and studying that really kills me. And that is going to be tomorrow's post -- if I can formulate my thoughts on it cohesively enough by then.

The village is a place where children have a lot of freedom. They walk everywhere unaccompanied by adults -- even the first and second graders. Kids have the run of the road, their yards, and the soccer field with no adult supervision. There is nothing to fear (now that the Abkhazian conflict has died down and police patrol the village). They always make their way home when they are hungry.

Don't get the wrong idea about Georgian mothers -- they are not all push-overs. They work very hard and are deeply loved by their children. In fact, the word for "mother," (deda) is the word that everyone says as an exclamation of surprise, pain, tiredness, or amusement. Yesterday, I asked Tea why everyone says, "Deda," as an exclamation. She explained that "Deda" is most Georgian's first word. And as they grow up, their mother is the one that they want to see first if they are sad or hurt or excited about something. Mother will always listen and empathize with them.

Teaching children is tough no matter who one is or where one lives. And teaching the children of a different culture adds an extra layer of complexity to an already-hard job. I am not only overcoming simple language barriers, but also idealistic and value differences. 

No wonder I'm tired.

No comments:

Post a Comment