There is actually a significant difference between school children here in Tajikistan and school children in the U.S. These children are incredibly expressively loving of teachers and Canyon and me as guests. Every morning when we arrive at school, they run to be the first to greet us, and hug us and and shake our hands and say "Zdrahst-vwee-tyeh" or "Guten Morgen"or (more rarely) "Good Morning." They take our hands and lead us to the class rooms asking us to join their main lesson class. The second grade girls even fight with each other over who gets to hold our hands and sometimes feelings get hurt. I have observed that all the students are very respectful of the adults in particular (even to the ones they don't know), always greeting them with the Russian "Zdrahst-vwee-tyeh"and shaking their hands.
I have spoken with Tahmina about the relationships between children and teachers and she admits that while such closeness creates friendship and trust, it also leads to some difficulty in the classroom. There is not the same respectful distance between students and teachers that I experienced as a student, which means that the children are sometimes able to use the teachers to their advantage. The fourth grade, for instance, when they didn't want to do Russian work one time when Canyon and I were visiting, yelled and yelled "Flaete! Flaete!" (meaning flutes ) and the class teacher was forced to give in to their requests. Despite a few instances like this, though, classes are quite energetic and participatory as a whole leading to a very lively learning environment.
Another difference is that the children are much smaller than those in the U.S. It's especially evident in the 5th and 6th grades where there are a couple of tall girls, but the boys and some girls look like the could be in third grade. It surprised us a lot at first, but by now we have gotten to know the children and used to the way they look.
We have a variety of tasks here. In the mornings we choose which main lesson to attend and teach morning games to the 2nd grade, or sing Headstrong Horses with the 6th grade. At 10:00 there is a 20 minute break and the 6th graders ask us to play basketball or tag. The next classes, 45 minutes each, depend on the day of the week. If there is a music class in any grade, we always to to help out with flutes and singing. So far we have taught Insy Weensy Spider (to the 2nd grade) and Headstrong Horses and Down By the Sally Gardens to the older grades. Teaching English words is difficult, but the students watch our lips very closely and eventually get the basic sounds. We also participate in sport classes and have taught the 2nd grade such games as Hill-Dill, Duck Duck Goose, Octopus and Circle Around Zero. (We have a good, understanding relationship with Eliana who really appreciates our presence, and so we attend her classes often.) Today, also, we attended a drawing class in the 6th grade, and Canyon drew a Greek picture (corresponding to their Greek history main lesson) on the board for the students to copy.
Translation is still a bit difficult, but as the teachers start to understand how we can help them it becomes easier. Before the music or sport classes, we usually come up with the ideas together and then I translate to the teachers --in broken German--who then translate into Russian. (It's also worth noting that Russian is a second language for most students, so understanding is not always clear, especially in the 2nd grade.) Sometimes in the 5th and 6th grades I can just teach them directly in German and they understand without translation. The third grade teacher is also an English teacher so it's very easy with him. But the first grade teacher doesn't know any German or English so we have only visited her class once.
We, and some of the other students, eat hot lunch in the little room by the kitchen every day during the breaks. For us it costs 3 somoni (about $1) and for the students it costs 1 somoni. Barbarosa also provides other small snacks such as candy, nuts, apples, bread or khurut, which is like dried yogurt rolled into small balls (I think they taste like the smell of goats, but they are quite a treat for the locals!) The day ends at 12:00, 1:00 or 2:00, depending on the day. The Kindergartners stay until 3:00 to nap and the 5th and 6th grades also have classes on Saturdays.
We have really been enjoying meeting and working with these VERY energetic students, but I must say that I have much admiration for the teachers who teach them everyday without tiring. By 1:00 Canyon and I are usually spent, from all the hand holding, the shouting, the basketball as well as trying to communicate effectively, and we leave to teach English or learn Russian with students closer to our age.