Secondary Education Activity in
Text related to March 2005 trip in black
Text related to June 2005 trip in green
In March 2005 I took part in the Secondary Education Activity as a volunteer from the International Reading Association. The trip was just as outlined by the coordinators, but it was vastly more rewarding on a professional and a personal level than I would have expected.
The International Reading Associaton, in
partnership with the American Institutes for
Research, implemented an EQUIP1
project from USAID
Before I arrived
Susana and Valentina did a great job presenting their materials. They clearly outlined the task, showed examples, collaborated with colleagues as they wrote up their own examples, and constructively commented on the examples as they were shared with the group. In addition, to knowing the content, Susana and Valentina were very competent working with colleagues, some of whom were older, and with administrators. As I listened to the instruction and comments, I was to help the presenters achieve their goals and support them if they had problems. At the end of each day, the participants completed an evaluation form, and on the next day I began the session by trying to address the questions. Many of the comments showed the usual teacher concerns, such as lack of resources, pressure to complete a curriculum, and worries about student motivation. However, most of the participants were actively engaged in the activities and showed a willingness to apply the activities in the classroom. Since there were about 300 educators in total working in 6 other clusters, the overall level of engagement and interest, even given the language differences, were evident.
SEA participants, Valentina Anastasova, in white, lower left and Susana Trendafilova, kneeling, lower right
I have been
involved in a number of professional development activities, and this was one
of the best. The trainers were excellent and the participants were very involved.
It was also stimulating to note what practices the authors of Module I selected
as best practices to be exported as aid, to paraphrase the USAID motto,
"from American educators." Macedonian secondary education is
traditional, with the teacher transmitting knowledge to the student, and
adequate. The teachers are very qualified - most have university degrees in
their disciplines - and the students are attentive in class and they attend
class. For the most part, the educational system has satisfied local needs;
however, when comparing the level of educational attainment with other
countries and when considering how
In June, the participants met after the students had left their schools. The school year was not over since the teachers had to take care of paperwork and other tasks until 1 July, but classes had been dismissed in mid- June. It was good to see some familiar faces and to note the brighter colors and lighter clothes. The teachers seemed very relaxed, but this did not detract from their commitment to the task and work. They were familiar with the schedule of the workshops and easily shifted, as needed, from groups based on schools to groups based on subject area. They earnestly discussed the topics and wrote their suggestions or plans on large sheets of paper which again, as in March, plastered the walls of the meeting room.
module focused on learning in the community. One of the activities included in
the module was techniques for interviewing. I had the opportunity to interview,
and be interviewed by, Mitko Kosev,
a vocational teacher from UC "Josif Josifovski" in Gevgelija. We both attended neighborhood primary
schools and had fond memories of our first year teachers. We both sat at desks
which were attached to the chair and had holes drilled for ink wells. Each did
well in school, albeit in different subject areas. I gather that in
The visits to
the two schools were a study in contrasts. “Goce Stojancevski” in Tetovo focuses
on training workers for the textile industry. A local textile mill used to
employ about 7,000, but now it has shrunk to just 1,000, and the future for
About 180 students, 60% male, are enrolled in double shifts. Both Macedonian and Albanian are languages of instruction. In a class on pattern making, the teacher explained that the students were practicing placing patterns on a sheet of fabric, represented by a sheet of paper, in order to economize material; on the job, this would be done by computer. The three girls in the class were engaged in the task; one said that she likes math. (A good sense of spatial relationships and comfort with mathematics, e.g. calculation of area, would enable one to do well with this task.) The principal acknowledged the problems in the local industries and the need for material resources in the school, and he mentioned the expertise the students were gaining due to their participation in national fashion shows and their marketing of some of their projects. Since Monday, 21 March was just after the first day of spring, it was designated as Ecology Day. Students and staff were cleaning the campus and buildings, and I had the chance to plant a tree. There are plans to build a new school, but everyone seems to realize that is in the distant future, and now they seem committed to making the best with the resources at hand.
DSU Dimitvar Vlahov in
We observed a cosmetology class of about 25 in which students demonstrated the application of a facial mask, and again the teacher was very well-prepared and the students participated by answering her questions and handling the materials - the facial cream, which had to be prepared from scratch, and the heated mask, which had to be used carefully - with confidence and competence. The cosmetology program has received equipment from SEA, and it has established a school company. Ecology Day was also recognized at DSU Dimitvar Vlahov, but more students were in class than were on the grounds with a tool or broom.
classes had been dismissed by the June visit, there were no school visits. On
our way to lunch in Struga, we saw kids swimming in
Mirroring the Past
As we were encouraging the spread of literacy, found ourselves in historic center for Slavic literacy, and the comments of one of my colleagues, who has a personal and informed knowledge of Slavic history, helped me realize that what USAID and the IRA were doing in some way reflected what had been done over a thousand years ago.
Macedonian is a
south Slavic language, similar to Bulgarian, which is written with the Cyrillic alphabet. I
made an attempt to learn how to decode some names and signs with this 31
character alphabet since it is regularly phonetic. (Some interference which Roman
alphabet learners might face was a confusion illustrated through the red title
at the top of the page in which what looks like the letter H is a consonant and
what looks like a backward N is a vowel.) The brothers Cyril and Methodius are cited as the originators of the pre-cursor to
this alphabet, called the Granolithic alphabet, in the 800s. In order to spread
the alphabet, and literacy throughout the Slavic world, they had to develop a
system for dissemination and at the same time maintain consistency. Monasteries
in the area of
We had an opportunity to visit one of the local mosques in Struga. From the center of town, a minaret is visible on
the right bank of the Drim, and past the open square
with a statue to Mother Teresa is a small mosque. One morning, an
English-speaking congregant opened it for us and gave a brief tour. From the
exterior, the churches, often referred to as monasteries, and mosques seem to
be constructed using similar blueprints. A square, domed structure is built out
of brick or stone; topped either with a cross or flanked with a minaret.
However, the interiors of the structures differ greatly. In the mosque, our
co-ed group was allowed on the ground floor even though the balcony was
reserved for women. The walls were painted white with beautiful Arabic
calligraphy just beneath the dome. A picture of the Ka'aba
In Struga is also an historic church dedicated to St. George. The icons make the interior even darker, but once the lights are switched on it is possible to identify Bible stories told in adjoining frescoes which line the walls. Here, also, the floor space was open and empty. Seats, designed more like supports for those standing, lined the walls, and there was a screen to separate the celebrants in the mass from the congregation.
The SEA project has a five-year timetable and in general it seeks to seeks to disseminate the instructional approaches by encouraging the participants in the large general meeting, such as the one I attended, to share the approaches with colleagues back home in their local schools. The problems faced by SEA, dissemination of a system and consistency of standards, are somewhat similar to the challenges faced by Cyril and Methodius. The brothers relied on monasteries to help train and support the literacy teachers over decades; SEA will rely on trainers going from the large meeting I attended to working with colleagues in local schools. The project will succeed as it ripples to small, and in some cases, beleaguered schools.
There is an old citadel on a rise on the left bank, and from there it is possible to see, in one direction, a cross on a hill (a controversial installation) and in the other, a minaret.
Near the frozen
clock, is a memorial to Mother Teresa, who was born in
city seems much friendlier and livelier in June. It was very green. Throughout
the city, there were fragrant lindens, plane trees, tall poplars, and flowering
horse chestnuts. The promenade by the
We spent about
five days at a resort hotel on
My swim in the Drim. The weather in June was hot and it did
not rain for the whole ten days we were in country.
The servings in Macedonian restaurants are quite large. In order for Americans to eat a satisfying meal without wasting too much food, it is advisable to multiple the courses by .8. For example, if 7 volunteers are dining out, rather than ordering 7 salads and 7 entrees, the 14 courses should be multiplied by .8 and 11 dishes ordered. This formula is still being developed, and it needs to include the "dessert anticipation variable," "distance walked multiplier" and "time-to-next meal" quotient.
June, our trip ended with a recital by students from the
is an annotated bibliography of some books for more information on
Milosevic: A Biography by Adam LeBor and Milosevic: Portrait of a Tyrant by Louise Branson Any understanding of the current situation is linked to Milosevic, but his story is still being told, especially in the Hague tribunal.
Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric
This novel is actually set in
of a Macedonian Bandit: A Californian in the Balkan
Wars by Albert Sonnichsen This first person account by a
Picture of USAID bag of grain from www.state.gov/r/pa/ ei/pix/b/sa/af/events/9292.htm
Picture of St Naum from www.manu.edu.mk/roots.htm