Today .. I am fried.. pushing through to write this while Sasha and I sit in a cafe relaxing after a taxing yet another amazing day. I spent the morning beginning to pack for St. Petersburg, Ruslana and I leave tomorrow on a 9:00 am train.
I walked across the street to the shiny building looking to capture American similarities and found myself coming out of the mall more Russian, with my new red scarf and hat. I am certain the “friendly security guard” is having a great chuckle over me by now.
I went to The Body Shop, having worked there in the States. I used google translate to ask them if they also needed to “suggest” 3 things to the customer.. different culture, same standards. I made sure to follow protocol and helped the ladies out with their sales. Also drank a Pike Roast at Starbucks.
Feeling brave took an Uber to Red Sq. and visited the inside of St. Basil’s Cathedral. It was peaceful. I have never climbed a staircase like that in my life. I thought inside would look like a Catholic Church, but instead, I was meandering through relics and the artwork is just as stunning on the inside as it is outside. At first I saw no photography so I obliged. Then I saw people with cameras, so I figured it just meant no flash photography and I started to capture some of the walls. By accident I took a photo of the main relic and my flash went off. I made eyes with a small kid and said “oops” I got a little lost and found myself outside. I walked back through, but a worker came to me. He said “no photo and first floor.” I couldn’t quite understand if he was telling me to come back the same way I went in, or if I was banned. Feeling extremely satisfied with what I saw I cut my losses and headed further down Red Square. I wanted to see the Armory and diamonds but I didn’t have time.
Below I will post a few, but I seriously will need my coworker Mitchell from back home to help me set up a Flicker account for the inside.
Gym- a famous shopping establishment was also on my list and I happened on it by chance. Talk about sensory overload. I really can’t put this into words. Just like most shopping establishments it was out of this world. Fountains, cafes, pristine kiosks full of ice cream, macaroons, cotton candy. I headed to the atrium in search of a washroom and I ran into an Asian wedding shoot!
By now time was ticking. I had a talk prepared with Moscow School of Social and Economic Studies with their Dean of Faculty and Economic Education, Dr. Elena Lenskaya. Sasha was stuck in traffic, Uber was confusing and my battery was a little low from all the photos I took. So I grabbed at a taxi… getting seriously comfortable with Moscow, I guess. The city or the universe was with me. My taxi driver didn’t speak English and I had vague directions. I want to tell you that this man was a total blessing. We got on the phone with the University and made it there.. somewhat (wrong corner). Anyway, what you read is untrue.. he wasn’t scary at all. We used google voice translate and a ton of hand gestures to converse and laugh about everything from the NHL to Subaru’s. We even took a nice selfie.
When I got there I had trouble finding Konstantin who works in the department. I was on the wrong campus, very far from Red Square and my phone wasn’t working right. I almost lost it and went back to the Holiday Inn, but it all worked out. Sasha met us and we had a great conversation with Dr. Lenskaya. I am so thankful to The Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences, as they supported my visa. During the talk Lenskaya educated us on her research with a survey called TALS – an international teaching and learning survey of over 37 countries. It was fascinating. Their primary research started back in 2008 focusing on perceived training for middle school/ high school faculty. This type of adult one to one training is how they define “mentoring.”
We also addressed pay scales of teachers in Russia. I was shocked to find that teachers in remote places with large oil factories received larger salaries than teachers in large cities like Moscow. In Yamal, teachers make about 3000 and in Moscow it could be half. In the suburbs of Moscow it could be as low as 300 dollars a month.
They are working on a diversified incentive model where teachers could be paid for extra duties like activities.
What surprised me the most was our discussion on Post Soviet counties like Romania, Bulgaria and the Russian Federation’s acknowledgment of special needs in the classroom. Many times it is just overlooked and that brings up major concerns. Another concern is the demotivation of teaches which leads to the demotivation of student.
On the other hand Baltic regions like Latvia and Estonia are thriving. The reason behind this is the investment in teacher training. They also attribute success to the relations and proximity to Finland. Because the two countries are so close and the boarders are open, access to education is possible. The impact is so great, they are starting to out perform the Fins. In test scores.
Our talk also led into a great discussion on the Digital Divide, a theory I cover back at home at UMass Boston. It made me laugh as we were talking and I was taking notes on my phone and Sasha was writing them down in her notebook.
After our meeting we went to dinner at a nice cafe next to her apartment where she lives with one of her 3 daughters, an exchange student from the states, 2 dogs an a pet owl. Soon after we said goodbye … time to get prepared for St Petersburg.. after this taxing day I’m thrilled I packed before I left for the day.