Monday, May 18, 2009

TISA: The International School of Azerbaijan


On Friday we went to The International School of Azerbaijan. TISA is a private international school of 600+ students ranging from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade. A typical classroom has students from all parts of the globe with many different accents. The student body is 34% UK, 18%USA, 15% Azeri, and 33% from 46 other nationalities. The teachers at TISA are just as diverse as the students; they come from different 16 countries. One of the best parts of the mixture of nationalities was watching the different senses of humor play out in the classroom.

I immediately felt at home in this IB World Literature class at TISA. The classroom was very similar to the way my IB classes functioned in high school. I should first explain the distinction between an IB class and a normal class. In IB classes the teacher-student relationship is more personal, because the teacher and students are on an exploration of literature together. The literature classes tend to be conversational, and the teacher is like a guide toward scholarly conversation. In this class I got the feeling of the teacher and students being a team and working toward one goal, which is how my IB classes felt. The students in this class were preparing for their IB final exams, which happen in two installments. They went over a short text individually and made any notes on the paper. Then, they talked about questions to ask themselves when analyzing a text. Next, they listened to a recording of a student analyzing a text like they will have to do for one of the exams. The students were very comfortable with each other because the class only had six students. They all had different accents, and only two girls seemed to have English as their first language. The classroom was decorated with posters about authors and literary terms. The student teacher interaction is very different in these classrooms than the Azeri classrooms I have observed. This may be because of the difference in coursework, but some are not. The students do not stand when they speak, and the class seems less formal overall. The teacher is more interested in the students opinions and perceptions.

Drama Class
This is the first drama class I have ever observed in a high school, so I did not have any prior experience. It was a great reflection of the unique opportunities available at an international school. The students were practicing a one-act play that they will perform for Pakistani refugee women. The students wrote the play about personal hygiene in a comedy style to entertain the audience. The relationship between the students and the teacher was very friendly, and on an equal playing field. The teacher acted as the director, but was continually asking for the students input. They were all working together to get the play in a good condition to perform, and seemed to be having a great time doing it. The students were close friends and casually joked with their teacher about their characters in the play. One of the most interesting aspects of the play was that they had translated it into two other languages other than English. With the collective knowledge of languages in the classroom, they were able to help each other with any language that was not their native tongue.

Humanities Middle School 6th
After visiting this classroom, I remember why I want to teach middle school. The students had the enthusiasm of a young student, but the creative ability of an older student. The assignment of the day was to give a prepared presentation about a day in ancient Rome as an assigned character. I have never seen such creative and dramatic students! The presentations were absolutely entertaining because each student put on a small production, which made every character easy to remember. I wish I had a video camera this day, so that everyone could see what great actors these students were. The girl who was presenting as the Cyclops wore a mask with one big eye, and was surrounded by sheep cutouts. During her presentation she screamed and jumped on desks in order to be the angry Cyclops that had recently been blinded. An assignment like this will be something that students will remember and be talking about for a long time. I liked this tactic for teaching because it uses many different skills. Students practiced speaking skills, creativity, acting skills, historical knowledge, and research skills. The biggest impression that I took from this class was that they were having a great time learning. I wanted to be a part of this class.

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