Where we were yesterday, where we are today
A good teacher is not necessarily someone who knows the subject the best, but the one who can make sense of that subject well, who can make that subject appealing for student
Azerbaijan Teachers Development Centre
After a year of painstaking research and analysis of the resources available for teachers’ professional development, ATDC, a novel, one-of-a-kind organisation (for Azerbaijan) started its activity in September 2014, and has taken the teaching community by storm. Sponsored by The European Azerbaijan Society, it offers training for local teachers in modern methods of education, preparing educators to advance the profession of education through research in the science and art of teaching and learning, the application of proven strategies and the effective uses of technology, according to its Training Information Booklet.
Its wide range of training sessions provide an ongoing professional development for teachers, being a pedagogically based set of courses focused on teaching and learning and making changes in the classroom, says Graeme Pollock, Director of ATDC.
Just in time for their input, the eight original trainers, who started their important mission two years ago, join us after their morning briefing. The room lights up like Christmas from the enormous energy they exude. All young, highly educated, truly loving their job, experienced in current pedagogy and educational practices, united by one aim and belief that they can and are changing the future. Sitting around the desk, all of them talk enthusiastically about what they love about their job and how crucial the existence of such an organization is for young Azerbaijan.
I think we are doing a very important job currently. As the whole educational system has undergone massive changes because of the technological revolution, we have to learn everything new and deliver it to our teachers so they can use it in their practice, because the majority [of teachers] are still teaching the old way, and need a lot of support and help actually. We are those helpers to them. Our role in the educational system is very important, says Chinara Nur, one of the teacher trainers.
Next to her is Gulaya Sadigova, who prior to joining ATDC worked in different international schools. Gulaya expressed her thoughts very poetically:
I love my job because if you think about it, we are training teachers. That means we are somehow touching the future of our children.
Teachers of all ages and varying experience learn how to successfully engage children in learning and present them with new information.
During their sessions, the number of teachers is limited to 20 so teachers get maximum benefit. The duration is usually 1.5 hours and up to four sessions may be offered in any one day.
Change doesn’t happen overnight, it might take maybe five more years and it’s ok with us. It does take time.
Antonina Rakhmatova, a teacher trainer and a child psychologist with experience working in international kindergartens, schools and summer camps, believes educational psychology is very important. She says that it is still a foreign concept that not everyone learns in the same way and it is our job to show to both teachers and children how we learn so we can help each other.
The Planning and Preparation module is designed to address (but is not limited to) the essentials of lesson planning, organising classroom assessments for improved learning, creating one’s own (custom) lesson plans. Each training session is based on strategies that trainers follow, which then provide evidence that those activities do cause change in the classrooms.
After our training we go and observe how they [the teachers] implement our teaching. We don’t work for a week or for a session; we really follow up and regularly check. It’s improving, adds Vafa. We have to believe that what we do will change the way our educational system works, says Chinara.
Effective Teaching includes sessions addressing the development of professional relationships between children and adults, behaviour management, child development, involving and interacting with families and supporting teaching and learning.
This is just a small summary of the training sessions currently taking place. Additional ones are constantly being added to the website (www.azteachers.az).
We can’t change the people, but we can give them a reason to change, says Chinara.
The biggest issue – lack of funding
We are not lecturing teachers, training are very practical, interactive, discussion-based. It is something they can take and use in their classes. It’s not something abstract. We always plan ahead and think what can work in local schools, says Antonina.
I remember, during my time in different educational institutions, that there were teachers who knew their subject well and teachers who knew how to teach well, and somehow the latter was more often favoured over the former. The difference between the teachers was not the subject they taught, although we can all agree that Maths is rarely anybody’s favourite, but rather the way they were approaching the students with their subject.
A good teacher is not necessarily someone who knows the subject the best, but the one who can make sense of that subject well, who can make that subject appealing for students. We learn the best when we like what we learn, when we want to open the book at home and understand, says Raul Rzayev, a second year student from Azerbaijan State Oil and Industry University
I used to think that the only professionals that required continued studies were medical practitioners. They study as long as they live, and pay a high price for any mistake. But going back to the thought stated earlier, teachers really are on a par with doctors and their development is equally crucial and should not stop. Even though the mistakes of teachers are less noticeable immediately, the price we pay for them later in life is just as high.
It is thrilling to witness the enthusiasm of youth at ATDC and their eagerness to contribute to a new chapter in the development of Azerbaijani education.