Observations of an American journalist in Azerbaijan, Russia and USA.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
What it takes to become a teacher here
One of my favorite parts of this class is talking about story ideas. It’s interesting for me – to see how students think about the news. I also learn about their world as they suggest ideas for articles. Many of the ideas that students suggested were good. Many were vague and not feasible. By the end of class, however, we had nine solid topics for articles. If five students follow through and actually write a decent article, I will be very pleased. My experience so far has been that students are reasonably good about coming up with ideas. Completing the work and writing the article, however, is another story.
As often happens, I get little glimpses of my students’ lives as they describe the issues that are close to their heart. One interesting exchange came today as a student started describing how she wanted to do an article about unemployment. I said this subject was too broad, and we started to talk in more detail about what was on her mind. As it turned out, she is trained as a teacher, and only works as a journalist as a hobby. Needless to say, she receives almost no money for the articles that she writes. Why is she not working as a teacher? She doesn’t work as a teacher because she cannot afford the $1,000 bribe that is needed to get a teaching position. So, she is barely employed as a writer for a local newspaper. I think it is more accurate to say she is unemployed. And this is a subject that is close to her heart.
As we talked, I suggested some ways to write about the subject. As we are now entering August, it is timely to think about school and teachers. What is needed to become a teacher in this city? That is the story as we left it this afternoon. I hope that she can write this story. It is an important subject that touches on a number of different areas. The education system. Corruption. Protection of corruption by high officials. I didn’t tell her this, but I expect that she knows – that if she actually writes this article and it is published under her name, she will never get a job as a teacher.
Actually, maybe we should talk about this, just in case this fact hadn’t occurred to her already. On the other hand, it looks like she’ll never work as a teacher in any case!
After work, I took a taxi ride to the nearby village of Fazil, where archeologists have been excavating an underground labyrinth. A new museum is dedicated to the archeological project, but the museum was closed when we arrived. The labyrinth, of course, was underground and invisible to us. Some sheep grazed on the mounds, presumably unaware of the site's historical significance.