Our last day with our Russian students was very delightful. They got into a lot of discussions that were quite interesting. Many times it was the examples we used that they wanted to talk about. They are very interested in how things are done in the U.S. They asked how we like President Bush and they all thought the Iraq war was a good thing. They also are extremely concerned about Muslims. One person even said we need to get rid of all the Muslims and the only way to do that is to fight because that is all they know. She said if you try to do anything peacefully they will just kill you. I know they have much more contact with Muslims than we do but they are very hostile toward them.
After class several of the students dressed in their native costumes and sang songs for us. They also brought some cookies for everyone. They took many pictures and just wanted to stay and talk with us. They all kept asking when we would be back and begged us to come next year. After our rather tough start, they turned out to be very enjoyable students. They continued to say “Thank you for the lesson” after each class. They were most appreciative.
The difference in teaching the graduates and the undergraduates is even more apparent to us now than when we started with the undergraduates. Neither group of undergraduates was nearly as engaged with the material as were the graduates. As we have reflected on it, we think it was because the graduates had not only completed their bachelor degree, they had also had several years of social work experience. The Helping Process and the skills provided them with a framework on which to tie their experience. We think they also feel more of a sense of urgency, “Wow, this is something we can use tomorrow!”
It also seems strange to us that in all three groups, it was in the discussion around scientific evaluation that they realized social work was more than saving souls. It happened again yesterday with the Russian undergraduates. With each group it has occurred at the same place; at the point we start pushing them to come up with measurable objectives. We introduce writing objectives in the third step of the process, planning; but with these students it has not happened there. When we revisit objectives in the evaluation step, it is there that they begin to question the ways they have been thinking about the primary purpose of social work. We are anxious to discuss this with our colleagues who teach this course when we get back. It is interesting that it has happened three times. One student yesterday commented, “I have lots of questions about the way I have been thinking about social work.” Another said, “Thank you for helping me think differently about social work. I have learned so much from your teaching.” This came from students that we didn’t think were paying a lot of attention. I (Preston) think that what I thought was distraction was really a lot of reflection. (What more could any teacher ask for.) Have we just been missing out and this happens to other teachers in the U.S; or are these students really different? It is certainly no question that they seem genuinely appreciative of our effort to teach them.
The family had a special dinner for us Thursday night with a delicious rice dish with pineapple and chicken in the rice, sushi, eggplant rolls. Inna also made brownies and we had ice cream. It was all very good.
Friday morning we got up at 4 am to go to the airport. We got there to find out that our plane had been cancelled and we couldn’t get out until Saturday morning at 5:45. They claimed there was a problem with the plane. It sort of reminded us of American Eagle from Dallas to Waco. We were already dreading the long flight and now we will probably be in left over seats; maybe not even together. We have been told by several people that Delta uses old equipment on this route. We fly to Frankfurt, Germany and then to Atlanta and on to DFW. We have to be at the airport at 3:45 Saturday morning. Our internal clocks should be really a mess by the time we get home!
Alex is planning activities for us today since we have a stay over. He is going to take us on a tour of an underground winery this afternoon. That should be interesting and we also have fun with him.
So here’s hoping we get to come home tomorrow, but don’t look for us at Lakeshore Sunday morning!!!
We’ll see all of you soon!