Armenian Volunteer Corps

Welcome to the Armenian Volunteer Corps (AVC) blog. Here our volunteers and alumni reflect on their experiences living and volunteering in Armenia. For more information about our programs, visit our website, follow us on Facebook or drop us an email: .

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Teaching and Learning

Zepur Simonian

In seven weeks, I have learned and grown so much more about life than for the past twenty-one years. I have witnessed three car accidents – one fatal, one badly injured, and one o.k. (so he seemed). I have met the very poor and also some quite the rich. I have encountered the best people in the world, and perhaps the worst scums of this earth. I have experienced very euphoric days – days when I want to share my happiness – and days when I just question the purpose of my life – wanting to dwell on my lonely thoughts. Pretty much my Armenian experience has been whiplash after whiplash after whiplash, but for some odd reason, I have never ever wanted to leave Armenia. In fact, I feel like there is this magnetic force that literally pulls my heart out and places it on my sleeves. I become so vulnerable and so emotional about Armenia, and for what? Honestly, I have asked myself – why do I care so much about this country when it does not even really belong to me? But of all things Armenia possesses - scenery, culture, corruption - Armenia’s youth is the only thing that keeps me sane, hopeful, and makes me want to live here for quite a while. In fact, my interaction with Armenia’s youth has changed my negative perception of Armenia and it has completely changed my life’s priorities. For this reason, I hope to use this one and only blog of mine to encourage volunteers to teach the youth. Teach them anything, and when you teach, you not only help the future leaders of Armenia (I don’t care if this sounds cheesy, but it’s the truth), but you also learn from them and become a better person.

Currently I teach 12-16 year old students how to write a five paragraph academic essay in Armenian. This may not sound exciting, but honestly, it is just as important, if not more than volunteering in NGOs or other facilities for research, etc. And I know I could say this because I also work for an NGO and am currently writing a research paper about channels of communication between NGOs and the government. For this paper, I interviewed NGOs and government officials, and my hope does not rest in civil society – my hope in Armenia’s future rests in the youth. Unfortunately, these brilliant minds need teachers.

Imagine if American high school students were never taught to write an academic paper. How in the world will they succeed in college? More importantly, how in the world will they succeed in life? Writing, other than oral communication, is by far the most important and powerful skill in life, and imagine, these children only know how to write creative essays. Essays, that will not bring forth scholastic achievement. Besides the fact that they lack the concept of academic writing, the biggest problem is that they have beautiful minds – very philosophical and profound – but they cannot effectively express their thoughts because they lack organization and they are told how to write and what to write. Their minds are subjugated to think and to write a certain way when writing is having the freedom to express thoughts on a paper.

Consequently, freedom was their main topic. Students were given two poems, by Michael Nalbandian and Medzarentz, and they were asked to write an essay about the poems’ connections, their definition of freedom, and the importance of freedom. Knowing that these kids lacked any understanding of a five paragraph essay, I created a word cluster diagram, an outline, and gave a detailed explanation of each section’s structure and purpose. (Oh, and most importantly, these kids love to plagiarize, and I know that this is a problem for college students, so if we as volunteers teach them now how to avoid plagiarism, then we can solve cheating in education and perhaps, it can transfer to their lives in general). Anyway, these students have come a long way – imagine a twelve year old boy keeping up with a sixteen year old girl. These students could not even write a thesis. I made them write their theses at least four times – each paragraph three times. At one point, they were about to give up. But today, they have a fully structured five paragraph essay. These children are absolutely brilliant, and they are the only reason I look forward to going to work. Armenia has so so so much potential – I cannot say it enough – but that potential exists in the youth. And by the youth I mean pre-schoolers to thirty year olds max.

We volunteers are obviously accomplished people, but we have reached this point in life because of the education we received from our teachers. Yes, other people and environments have influenced us as well, but imagine if we did not have teachers who cared about us – who showed us a path – who taught us to recycle, reuse, reduce – who showed us the difference between right and wrong – who reprimanded us for our wrongs and praised our rights – who taught us dance, music, art – who taught us sports – who shared with us a marketplace of ideas. Imagine not having competent teachers. Imagine living in America and reading papers that are filled with grammatical errors and disorganization. Imagine living in the streets – fooling around in the summer because there was not a school or a program that would keep you out of the streets. We are who we are because of our education, and sadly, Armenia is losing its education and brilliant, talented minds are suffering. Armenia is experiencing, or so it seems, severe brain drain. For this reason, I just hope my overly cheesy thoughts encourage volunteers to teach the youth in any way possible.

Zepur volunteers with Professionals for Civil Society.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home