From a Teacher's Diary

Mariet Simonyan

I have a friend Nona by name. She is the librarian of our EduComplex Tigran Hayrapetyan Reading Hall. I often go to the library on different matters. And as I know that pedagogy is one of Nona’s multiple interests, when I go into the library after classes, I always tell her about some interesting observation, incident I am inspired in or speak about or discuss a pedagogical issue with her. And Nona, this quiet and silent woman, has a wide world outlook and an ability to make healthy and unexpected judgements. It is interesting for me to be beside her because we have common interests, one of which is pedagogy.

So, this friend of mine, Nona, always blames me for my laziness. She says: “You do not write, do not tell about those pedagogical problems and your solutions to them. You do not publish them.” She says that people like me and myself are the reason why our pedagogy is developing so slowly. It does not develop because we are lazy, we do not tell, we do not share our experience with others. She says that we have the psychology of a consuming person, and that we read the notes left by the pedagogues who lived before us, their diligently written observations. We use all that in our pedagogical activity, and we, the current pedagogues, having observations of no less significance, a lot of considered issues and their solutions, leave them to be lost in everyday life. We do not think about transmitting them to the next generation. In a word, why should I extend? I will pass the shameful reproach made by Nona to my other educator friends and start my series of pedagogical notes.

Note 1

Let me tell you a recent funny story before I forget it.
So, I have planned an online discussion of the native language program with the parents during the May round-table discussions. Well, I think for sure that during this online-distance learning period, all the parents must have been present, they must have listened to  at least part of the native language lessons, and the conversation will be more specific, substantive. They will have something to say, they will have observations and suggestions. Properly, I send our author educational program on the native language to the students' e-mail addresses in advance, I instruct them to read and discuss with their parents in their families.

So, on the next day, in anticipation of an interesting, productive discussion, I join the online platform. Leaving aside the mother tongue syllabus our dear and respectful parents start discussing my lessons, saying thank you words, being thankful to me for the effectiveness and interest of my lessons. I won’t say that it wasn’t pleasant for me. It was pleasant for me, and I was thankful to the parents for their warm words.

Having been pleased and satisfied with the praises it occurs to me to make my students speak. I know my ungrateful students very well. We have been working together for three years. I don’t expect any thank you or praise words. Anyhow, let them speak, and let the parents see what they are displeased with. Are they dissatisfied because of the quantity and difficulty of my assignments, or because of my strict and demanding character? We have discussed our lessons for many times, and I know I know beforehand what they will say. Anyhow, let the parents see what lazy bones their children are, let the parents see them whimper and show their discontent, let them see how much their children do not want to work.

“Well, let’s see what our students will say about our program, about our lessons.”        

There was a stony silence, and then a student’s voice was heard: “Ms. Mariet we are very much pleased with you because you used to follow all our advice given to you during our discussions. You held our lessons in the way we asked you to. You see, our parents are also pleased, don’t you? Everything is all right.”
I wish I saw the faces of the parents…and it wouldn’t be bad to see my own face.
I perceive the banter, and I can hardly keep temper. Do you see their self-confidence? They don’t consider it to be a suggestion. They consider it to be their advice given to me, and I myself have followed their advice. And I have conducted the lessons by their advice and that’s the reason why they were effective and their parents have been pleased. And I guess, I can do nothing but be thankful to you. Am I right?

Before I can gather my thoughts to say what I think about them, a voice is heard from online platform: “Ms. Mariet, I’d like to give you another piece of advice. You have left it to our choice to write creative essays, and that’s why we do not write many creative essays. I’d rather you assigned more essays and were more consistent so that we write. Do you know what interesting thoughts we have? Were you to assign and not leave it to our choice, we would write.”    

Leaving aside the humour, I may say that something made me happy as a teacher. In other words, my discussions with the students haven’t just been formal. They have been real. In fact, in my habit of taking into account the opinion of the other person, not ignoring it, naturally, without exerting extra effort, without highlighting it specifically, I have taken into account the suggestions of my students. And it has been expressed in my actions. It has happened in such a natural way that I haven’t even noticed or thought about it. I haven’t noticed, but the students have and they have the feeling that their opinion (advice) has not been ignored. I have done what they have said (or advised me to do). And this is such a powerful factor for the formation of an individual, for the realization of the value of his/her word or opinion!

When a person feels his/her importance, when he/she knows that he/she is listened to, his/her opinion is taken into account, he/she becomes more self-confident, bold and original.

Yes, I should not forget to assign creative essays to be written. Otherwise, because of my not assigning, my students’ brilliant thoughts remain unexpressed.

Note 2

The boy comes to school with an accompanying girl. I have been teaching him for three years. He has symptoms of autism. He never has an eye contact with me, does not answer my questions, does not speak, and does not communicate. During the lessons I come up to him, ask him how he is getting on, how things are.  But this is a kind of ritual, because he either does not answer my questions or somehow answers at the insistence of the accompanying girl. Sometimes he grabs my hand as I walk by. He smiles without looking at my face. We have no other contact. His mother says that he often says my name at home.  But he does not turn to me in any way in the classroom. He works with the accompanying girl in the classroom and with his parents at home. The parents do not want the boy to use a separate set of tasks. They say confidently that he can. I find it difficult to talk about the boy's abilities, because he has not worked with me for three years already, and I have to observe him from afar and through his blog, which the boy runs dutifully, probably, with the help of his family members.

That day, as usual, I pass by the students, watching them work. I looked at the boy. He seemed to be sad and upset. I came up to him. I ask him how he is. I do not know why, I have a feeling that he has something to say. Suddenly he raises his head, looks straight into my eyes and says in a clear voice: “Where is Tatevik?” (The girl’s name is changed.) And after a pause he says: “Why hasn’t she come?” His speech was clear, with a persistent look staring at me.   

Tatevik is one of the sunny girls in the class with big eyes and her face always in a smile. Being taken by surprise, I stop.

“What”, I say feeling that grow numb. I can’t continue.

“Why hasn’t Tatevik come?”

Maybe my paralyzed state lasted long. It seems as if I heard the voice of the accompanying girl.

“Ms. Mariet, he is asking about Tatevik, his classmate Tatev.”

The boy goes on looking into my eyes persistently. He is waiting for my answer.

“Tatevik…”, I am stammering, “Tatevik has got ill.”

“Will she come tomorrow?”, continues the boy. His voice is low but clear, the gaze is eloquent. "Will Tatik come tomorrow?" The voice sounds louder and louder.

"Yes, of course," I answered confidently, "he will come tomorrow."

The boy looked away. The connection was lost. That was the end of our communication.

Why was I suddenly granted the right to answer that important question? What motivated the boy to communicate? How did the boy feel? And why do they say that people with autism do not look you in the eye, live in their world, do not communicate with you? The boy had not spoken to me for three years. In fact, he had had no important question he expected me to answer. He had had no good reason to talk to me. He hadn’t spoken because he did not want to speak.

And the students in the class are different, very different! This boy likes chattering and especially with me. "Oh, you have changed the color of your hair, it becomes you", or ․ "Today your make-up is emphasized, you are beautiful." Eh, what can I do ․․․ He is like that. I smile and thank him for his kind words. I carefully draw his attention to his task. This boy is saying in my ear, “We are going to have triplets”. What a joy! People are different, very different ․․․ One speaks openly, one whispers, the other’s silence is so eloquent. She/he is like this and he/she is like that. And this one does not talk to you, does not want to have a relationship, and does not look into your eyes, ․․․ so what of it?

The loud, vibrating voice of my lecturer, Levon Nersisyan, was heard in my ears: "They say the elephant has no memory. How do you know that? Have you ever been an elephant?” This is about the elephant. How dare they talk about people by sorting them out, developing and offering ways of interacting with them? How do you know? What common things can you find in people when you deal with an individual? After all, you are not that person, you cannot be him. He is different, like me, like you. How do you know that a person with autism sees the world this way, and therefore, you should treat him this way? I'm sorry, but those statements haven’t helped me with my pedagogical activity, they haven’t been orienting. For me there is one way of interaction that is common to all – humans, animals, plants and the whole nature. That is love. And we all need love. Needing love is common to all living beings, not only to people.  

On the online platform, a colleague of mine was presenting the number of students: “We have … students, and … out of them are students with special needs. The Internet turned red with Mr. Bleyan's anger. "You have … students, why do you single out several of them?" Why? There is no answer. Do you know what a false value system is to which we get used to? And unfortunately, none of us is insured against that. Unfortunately.

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