I found that my assigned school in Karasnoyarsk has 3 emphases: STEM (science, tech, engineering and math), business (rare for Russia), and athletics (also rare). While athletics may seem to be commonplace in Russian education, evidently it is not. Most schools do not have gyms. School is to be academic. Sports are reserved as a leisure or club activity outside of school. Specialty schools (like InterLochen in the US for performing arts) may specialize in music or athletics, but combining these 'extras' with education is rare. The video questions my KC students had for Russian students involved their activities in sports and music. It appears those interests are not part of the typical Russian student's experience. While my assigned school will have limited parallels to the Hickman Mills district in the area of athletics (not music), it seems most of my TGC colleagues will be going to schools that do not.
A large component of the Teachers for Global Classroom program is to develop and research Essential Questions. As I reflect on what I am doing here and why, I am interested in gleaning what is considered 'educational success' in Russia and how that is measured. In the US, we follow the Western ideal of education including the intellect as well as physical and emotional aspects of a person. In Russia, it appears education is typically more isolated to academics. That can be a plus in terms of pure skill set, and may contribute to US scores lagging behind those of many other countries. There have been stories of the STEM schools here offering advanced physics education in middle school. One fellow related that a Russian exchange student attending her high school had a mother back in Russia concerned about how far he would fall behind in academics by spending his junior year here in the US. She emailed him physics homework, that they had to seek out university professors over here to help him complete. No one at the high school or even the local community college could touch it. However, in critical and creative thinking, US students appear to excel. The US model of educating the 'whole person' may have short term deficiencies but long term gains. I'm interested in seeing first hand whether this appears to be the case.
Language education here is mandatory from an early age. Amazingly, it appears most Russian students will be able to follow me in English. Many study a third language, perhaps German or French, but in the case of the TGC fellow pair going to a school 25 miles from the border of China, the language of choice there is naturally Mandarin. Both the US and Russia have a main language and various ethnic minorities speaking other languages, but Russia appears to have worked language study into their system of schooling earlier and more pervasively than has the US. As being bi or tri lingual has obvious social and economic benefits and has also been shown to improve mental functioning in other areas, I can't help but think language study is an area we would do well to see what their 'best practices' are and what we can learn from them. I'm incorporating this idea into my essential question.
We spent the afternoon at the Kremlin, visiting the grounds. Russian has a broken historical bell, just like the US. It just happens to be the biggest bell in the world, though. Dwarfs ours in Philadelphia. The break is more impressive too. Not some simple crack!
The armory of historical cannons, the Orthodox churches in the fortress, and the last home of the Romanovs were part of our snowy walking tour. The Kremlin museum housed Peter the Great's leather boots he likely made himself, Catherine the Great's carriages, a coronation gown display that reminded me of the Smithsonian's First Ladies' inaugural ball exhibit, the crown jewels, and yes, the Faberge eggs.
No photos allowed inside. PLEASE visit the link and see these treasures at Kremlin Museum Collections. FABULOUS!
We experienced the true ambiance of a Spring in Moscow. After yesterday's gorgeous day, today IT SNOWED! I would have been disappointed if it hadn't. Russian winters are legendary -- was great to be part of that legend. To escape the wind and wet, we walked to dinner through the subway system. It was clean, well-lit with ornate chandeliers, and technologically efficient with pass cards.
Speaking of tech efficiency, they are ahead of us here in the US in several interesting ways. First, there is no check system in Moscow. You pay for things by scanning your cell phone. This includes parking on the street. There are no unsightly meters. Instead, an online system records where you parked and if you paid via cell phone. Parking police have access to the paid database and ticket/tow you if you fail to pay or are parked illegally.
ATM's are in secure anterooms of banks. You swipe any credit card at the outside door to show identification (similar to swiping a credit card at the airport kiosk to get your boarding pass). This action unlocks the door to the anteroom housing the ATM. As you get your rubles, no one else is allowed to enter. You press a button to electronically unlock the door to exit.
Tomorrow - another day of prep in Moscow. Forecast -4 Celsius. Do the math. COOOOLD!