Teaching and Lecturing
The Fulbright is a teaching and research Fulbright. I never had much confusion about the research part. Georgia has an amazingly ambitious set of school reforms intended to transform the schools of the nation. Improving quality, teacher competence, student performance, and equity are all key in these reforms. Reducing corruption was one clear goal. And now that I have visited a few poor schools, it is clear that this is an incredible challenge, one I hope to document. Just to give some indication of this, twenty years ago Georgia’s schools enrolled over 900,000 students. Today the number is around 600,000. There are half empty schools all over the country. That building I show in Allajara with the broken windows on the top stories should not be seen as too unusual. Why repair windows when there are whole floors of schools that are not used? I hope to return to this school to learn more, particularly as this school does or does not relate to the national reforms. Schools get money from the national government based in large part by how many students they enroll. So, as these schools loose enrollment, they loose. Anyway, while complex, I understood some of the research projects I wanted to begin. The teaching part was more confusing.
It was never clear what assignment I might take on that would be of help to Ilia State University. And I now see that I had to become something of a known entity before this part of the Fulbright would even begin to take shape. I am indebted to Siko Janishia and Kete (his wife and Ed Program Director) for being patient and letting matters evolve. Last week I was planning to teach a course in program evaluation to masters level students and a few doc students. This week I have the following email which reveals much about the state of higher education in Georgia:
As for the courses, I have advertised both of them and the situation is following. There are 35 (!) PhD students that have already asked for the registration and only 2 from the MA for the program evaluation. I have consulted with Keti and others and maybe it would be more helpful if you could have more (and also larger ?) groups for the PhD seminar if possible. As for the program evaluation, we could sacrifice that course as there is not much interest in it. Seminars for the PhD students would be more useful as there is not much to offer them in contrast to the MA students. Besides, obviously PhD students seem more motivated too.
At a lecture last week I had announced that I would teach a course in program evaluation and possibly offer a seminar in writing the doctoral dissertation. Well, the masses have spoken. I thought I might have escaped the business of helping doc students create dissertations but clearly this was not to be. I have sensed a lot of anxiety in the few doctoral student with whom I have spoken. This anxiety is all too familiar. If I could figure out how to do it, I might try to create a buddy system with UNL and ISU students. That could be interesting.
Here is a some picture of my talk last week. The woman in the light sweater is a former Muskie student who studied with Jim Guthrie at Vanderbilt last year. Behind her is Pavle who has spent time in Nebraska with Joe McNulty’s exchange efforts. Pavle has an impressive record as a person who provides teacher development in Georgia. I think he and I share an interest in project based curriculum projects. There were at least three other people in the room who had been to Nebraska on various programs. I was prepared for a freezing room. An hour after I started the room was boiling with all radiators pumping out heat full force. Hard to figure. This audience was exceedingly polite--I didn't see anyone nodding off. At UNL, a room this late at night at this temperature would have meant serious snores.