The main school in which we are working in Baku City, the private school, is absolutely beautiful. "The floors were clean. The children were polite, engaged, and active. The teachers we met seemed passionate about the subjects they teach. Even the cafeteria food was delicious, and that is definitely a rare occurrence anywhere." (Beech, J., May 13, 2009) It is even more grandiose than the private schools in America that I have seen. There are several buildings, including a separate one for kindergarten and one for the administration. This school seems to focus more on the needs of the students; the kindergarten has playground equipment and separate nap time space, there are tennis courts and soccer fields for when the older kids get a break from school, and students can run in the hallways. It is a much more relaxed setting, aside from in the actual classroom which seems to be just strict enough that the students are very well-behaved and respectful of instructional time. The teachers were a great deal younger than I was expecting and everyone was genuinely helpful. I hope if Azeri teachers visit our schools we could show the same courtesy. "I feel a little funny because most people know all about American culture, but I do not know much about Azerbaijan. Luckily, many of the teachers seemed excited to meet us." (Manci, C., May 13, 2009) They all made us feel very welcome, which is comforting in a large new city. "Gulya, the head of the department of language, was asking me about my opinions on education theories about learning foreign language"...Gulya was interested in "some innovative teaching strategies, so I hope I have something to bring." (Manci, C., May 13, 2009) The director of the school specifically asked us to give constructive criticism and feedback at the end of our stay here; he seemed to truly respect our opinions and wants their school to be the best it can be.
My peers and I each observed five different classes today. Here I will provide a composite portrait of a typical classroom at Heydər Əliyev Adına Müasir Təhsil Kompleksi. "Some of the differences I noted in the school were that the students were allowed to run from class to class, but were very behaved in the classroom. Since the students stay at school all day, they do many extracurricular activities in the school such as dance, music, and art." (Manci, C., May 13, 2009) Classes began and ended with a traditional greeting in which the students stood up and greeted the teacher and the teacher greeted the students and asked of their well being, and then the students responded. "Since classes were very small students got a lot of individual attention. The classrooms were spacious and the windows were open. The walls had a few posters and a picture of the president. I noticed that every time a student answered a question the student would stand to speak." (Manci, C., May 13, 2009)
The classes were very lively and there was a high level of interaction between teachers and students. Teachers used many different interactive activities during the lessons, such as picture association activities, greetings, rhymes, and songs. "All of the students were eager to answer, and raised their hands every time there was a question posed. They were practically falling out of their seats to be noticed, so that they would be called on. The lesson was very interactive, and the format allowed them to speak a lot. They started by reading three useless inventions that they made up for homework, which was silly so they had a good time. Then, they watched a video about the way people lived in the past. The video included a sing-along song, and the second time the students sang with it. I thought that this was a great way for them to practice pronunciation, because they were mimicking the singer of the song. Finally, they played a game like Taboo. They drew a word from a hat and had to explain it, and they got a point for a correct answer. The class was pleasurable to observe because the students were so excited about learning." (Manci, C., May 13, 2009) I enjoyed watching these engaging lessons; I believe when students interact with each other and their teachers, it allows more to be learned. "I was very impressed with this school and really look forward to meeting more of the teachers and students who experience this place in their lives daily." (Beech, J., May 13, 2009)