Thursday, January 20, 2011

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”

This week has been such an amazing week for me. After a few weeks of doubting my purpose here and wondering if I was truly making a difference as an English teacher, and feeling completely overwhelmed, I am finally starting to feel good about what I am doing again.

At the end of last year, school was focused on the pending holidays, it became really difficult to teach and I stopped making meaningful lesson plans. Even in reading club we focused more on singing than we did on learning to read. I started to feel like a failure and even worse I began to get lazy. Well one of the things I promised myself for the New Year was to get back to effective lesson planning. Having goals for each lesson and having directed activities that utilize the newly acquired skill make a huge difference in my teaching. When I go to school unprepared, the lesson is often boring and the students hate it, and then become behavioral problems. So this year I have been back to guided lesson plans and it is making all the difference in the world.

As I have never taught before, 80 percent of my lessons and activities come from my imagination. I take a topic and brainstorm how to teach it in an interesting manner. I have discovered I have a knack for this that I never knew I had. The other 20 percent of my ideas come from an activity book that I was given by another brilliant Peace Corps volunteer. The point being, there is no real method to my madness. Well this week I went to the Peace Corps office and picked up a few books with tons of methodologies to teach ESL. I have already read through most of them, and have come away with so many ideas. I am so excited to bring these new techniques into the classroom. I feel that I have proven techniques now that will improve my teaching.

One thing that I began this new semester with my little ones is a guided positive reinforcement regiment. Every day at the beginning of class my students put a small note book on my desk with the date written on the page, we call this the sticker book. During class if the student does something well I make a note in the book and place a sticker by it. My students are so excited at the end of every class to see who got the most stickers in their books and also to receive praise. I cannot say enough about the effects of positive reinforcement on my kids. They strive to answer questions first and to participate now. Another benefit to this method is getting parents involved in their child’s education. At my parent meetings I informed the parents that this was our new class policy and that if they want to know how their child is doing in class they need only to look at their books. My children hate the idea of going home and having to show an empty sticker book to their mom, so they are working really hard.

The best part of this week for me was taking a trip to the U.S embassy. My friend’s dog had chewed my passport so I had to go fill out an application for a new one. The people at the embassy were so kind and friendly. When they found out I was a Peace Corps volunteer they told me how special I was, and even invited others over to come meet me. They asked about my work, and thanked me for what I am doing. It felt so good to be appreciated especially when it was so unexpected. After I was done with my passport application I went to the IRC in the Embassy.

At a seminar in November we had met a woman from the IRC ( English language center) who talked to us about all kinds of amazing programs that they do. They have movie nights that we are welcomed to invite our students to, they have tons of English books and movies that we can check out and use and they do monthly activities. Well a few days after the conference I noticed that my book supply was running very short. I became frantic about the future of my reading club, so I began to write letters asking for help. I wrote to ten different organizations in Yerevan asking for book donations and on a whim I also wrote the IRC. Thank God I did because they were the only ones to reply and offered 50 books to me. This week I got to pick those books up. I was so giddy when I saw a box full of old library books for my kids. I am so thankful to everyone at the IRC for such a great donation. My kids absolutely love reading club and are excited that at least for awhile we will be able to have it every week! I do still have a need for more children’s books so if anyone is interested in donating, please let me know. I am planning a city wide reading event in March to celebrate literacy and Dr. Seuss’s birthday.

Also I have decided that I now have enough books that each of my children can borrow them to practice their reading skills at home. So I brought all of the books I have into the school for storage. I was shocked when all the other teachers took so much interest in the books. I asked my counterpart what the interest was about. What she told me broke my heart…

“We don’t have books such as these here. We have a few fairy tales, but nothing with illustrations as these. They are the most beautiful books they have ever seen”

“Well what do kids read when they are little? Like what do they read for fun?” I asked, shocked.

“We don’t read a lot here, there isn’t a lot available. Children usually have one book with a few stories in it, and their school books, that is it” she explained to me.

Can you imagine what it would be like to grow up without books? Maybe this is just the book nerd in me, but I am horrified at the thought of it. Books have always been such an important part of my life. Since I was a little girl I loved to read; my favorite thing in the world was going to the library or book store. As I have said on here before, I truly believe that my love of reading is what developed my learning skills. Children who have problems reading, have problems learning. Children who don’t like to read, have problems learning. Inspiring a love of reading in a child makes all the difference in the world. To this day I love to read, and I love to learn. I know without a doubt, that if my parents had not read to me when I was a little girl and had not given me a library card and allowed me the freedom to read whatever I wanted, I would not be where I am today. I would not have gotten good grades nor been interested in learning. We are so lucky to be Americans and have privileges that we don’t even realize are privileges.

So my plan is to build the best library I can build for my school. I want to get been bag chairs, carpets and bookshelves that flow with colorful, imaginative books to be at my student’s disposal. Having new ideas and plans of ways that I can help people makes me so happy and fulfilled, it immediately helps cure the homesickness that has been brewing in me. I really want to be the best teacher I can be, but I also want my kids to have something when I leave Spitak. So if you are interested in donating books or school supplies please send me an Email I would also like to thank my aunt linda, Allison and Brian Coltin and the IRC for the donations you have already made


  1. Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.

  2. You are awesome and I am so proud of you. I hope by now you know that love and miss you so very much, you mom