A Bulgarian Teacher on Teaching in India

vlstgeorgievWhile we are actively working on our next issue, we would like to introduce you to a language teacher from Bulgaria who has travelled all the way to India to teach French there.

Vladislav Georgiev has some interesting insights to share about the future of teaching, working with multicultural classes, and the development of the teaching profession.

“The role of the teacher as a researcher is very important. Teachers must learn about their students, how they study, learn and acquire knowledge and skills.”

After many years of teaching English and French in Bulgarian high schools, you decided to go abroad. Why did you choose India and what did you do there?

I attended a training course in Israel where I happened to meet the Principal of one of the best schools in India, Mr. Arun Kanpur, the Principal of the Vasant Valley School. The school belongs to the most powerful press group in Asia-India Today. Mr. Arun Kapur is a leading professional in the field of education in India. The school he runs has a lot of bright leaders and shapers of India’s future.

Mr. Arun Kanpur invited me to stay with him for some time and develop a project with him as Principal and for his NGO. I saw a great opportunity to learn new teaching techniques and share ideas with colleagues from India. The teaching staff of the Vasant Valley School has the reputation of being among the leading teaching professionals in India.

So I did not hesitate a minute and accepted his invitation to go and stay with him.

Tell us some more about your experience teaching Indian students.

Well, I got a cultural shock in India. I imagined the country to be under-developed. The shock was huge. I witnessed a modern and rapidly developing country. To my amazement the educational system there was, to some extent, better functioning than the Bulgarian one.

I taught French there. I witnessed great motivation and respect in the students. They already had good language competences. So I decided to have more colloquial and conversational classes with them. In the year 2000, the students had free access to computers and the Internet, an excellent library at the school which very few schools in Bulgaria could boast with at that time. My job proved easy.

With globalization and higher migration across borders, we find more and more international students in our classrooms. How do you as a teacher cater to students’ cultural differences in the classroom?

I am lucky as I use British textbooks by Longman Pearson’s and Cambridge University Press. Those textbooks treat topics with global human values. All units cover different aspects of our life with all the challenges people may face. These topics and units contain cultural and social aspects of global human values as friendship, tolerance, socialization and realization on the labour market. There are also topics dealing with customs and traditions in various countries giving students a great scope of cases from real life.

I try to provoke my students to discuss global issues and contemporary life. This is how we should introduce them to behavioural models and patterns, so that they reflect on how they possibly could react when they face various issues in life, so that they begin learning how to solve problems and resolve conflicts. English teaching is more than teaching them a language. It must also be about teaching life skills. My students like such discussions very much.

Let me give you an example of a topic for discussion. We often begin with a controversial statement like “It is high time we cease consider women as second rate citizens.” Usually all students have an opinion on these, and they are eager to share theirs.

It seems that you helped found a school in India. What were the most important things you learned through this experience?

Teaching is a two-way process – we teach and we are taught as well. My stay in India played an important role in my life. In fact, it changed me in a way. I became more tolerant to people from various and different ethnical and religious backgrounds. I learned that people may live happily with very few possessions. Living a simple life may lead to intellectual freedom.

How do you see the future of the teaching profession?

I am convinced that old-fashioned or traditional teaching as such is disappearing in the developed countries. The methodology of “teaching” is changing very fast. Students do not learn only and especially from teachers as it was in the past. Knowledge is everywhere. Internet contains and provides us with the common knowledge. The issues of teaching in modern times begin when we realise that learning does not consist in the information itself. What is more, there now is too much information. The issues students face are about the fast processing of that information. Teachers are increasingly like mentors, coaches, advisers and counsellors, rather than a source of information.

What is more, the advanced of technologies of today require other types of “teaching”. Some of these we have not found yet. This is where the role of the teacher as a researcher is very important. In the past, a teacher needed to pass on information and check if it was being understood. Right now, we need to find out how our students learn, what they are learning and if they are able to apply it. With all their differences, we have classes that are very rich in learning skills and levels. That is why teachers find themselves needing research and analytical skills, so that they can learn about their own students, how they study, what motivates them, how they acquire knowledge and skills. The teacher’s role as a researcher should be promoted more.