(written ~2 weeks ago)

I have been writing posts and not publishing them because I figure none of you really care to hear about the dregs of language so-called educators who constitute the KFU Russian department. I am being neither arrogant nor facetious when I say that I, even without speaking fluent Russian, could teach the grammar class better than the professor we have. Heck, so could you — show up on time and know what page we left off on, and you’re already in the lead. No Cyrillic necessary.

Russian pedagogy sometimes appears to have missed the fact that the 80s, and 90s ever happened (to be fair, many Russians would like to forget that those decades ever happened in general), so there’s a lot of “go home and memorize this list,” whereas a modern language classroom might say “go home and read through this list,” but the memorization would be seen as a byproduct of use rather than of studying. The point of classtime, then, is to create opportunities for the students to use the words so they form the sensory associations that allaow for long-term retention.

Of course, there are those who try to do better, but it’s tough when you have 0 dollars for materials (it’s a good day if there’s chalk) and you don’t have your own classroom (i.e. no decorations or technology, no rearranging the classroom into a non-lecture format). Kadria khanym, my Tatar professor, is one of the few who try to overcome that (in Tatar, you address women by their first name plus the honorific “khanym” (Mrs.) or “tutash” (Miss). It makes me feel like I’m still in the South and reminds me how charmed Nathan’s Cherepovets boss was when he started calling her “Miss Lyudmila” instead of Lyudmila Stepanovna, a practice which quickly spread to the entire staff). Even though we’re limited to the one book that everyone was required to buy (printing worksheets is frowned upon because paper is expensive) and she hasn’t completely shaken the educational philosophy she was trained in, she does make a huge effort to get us talking from the beginning and to innovate where circumstances allow.

Case in point: When we were practicing numbers on Monday, she gave out her actual phone number and asked us to write it down. Then she called on random students to call her right there, causing the good students very little stress, and the less good students an awkward conversation in front of the entire class.

Practical. Creative. Devious. I like it.