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26
Нояб
2010

Teaching Fellow from Russia Receives an Education of His Own at Thomas

Ежеквартальный журнал американского Thomas College в последнем номере поместил статью о пребывании одного из преподавателей английского языка нашего колледжа в стенах, а, вернее, на кампусе этого учебного заведения. Напомним, что П. А. Коптелов провел целый семестр в качестве приглашенного преподавателя в колледже Томас. Опыт оказался успешным, и американский колледж планирует продолжить эту программу.

Осторожно: английский язык!

During the spring semester, Thomas College was home to teaching fellow Pavel Koptelov from Kotlas, Russia. Kotlas is Wateville's sister city and Koptelov's tenure at Thomas was part of a series of activities to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Kotlas-Waterville Area Sister City Connection. Kotlas city administrators and teachers from the Waterville Committee of Kotlas have visited throughout the year.

According to Tom Edwards, provost, "Having a Russian scholar such as Pavel Koptelov participate in the academic program at Thomas gives our students a great opportunity to interact with someone from another culture and another educational system."

Edwards believes the one-on-one connection is important to students. "It's one thing to read about a place in a book or on a computer. But to have that person sit down next to you to share questions, ideas and perspectives is a priceless part of anyone's education."

The Visiting Scholars program allows a recipient to participate as a senior faculty member in the Teacher Education program at Thomas. The goal is to enhance and broaden their educational experience to prepare them to play a leadership role in building their community's economic, social and educational systems. Koptelov serves on the faculty at the Kotlas Teacher Training College where he helps train teachers of English for local schools.

As an adjunct instructor of Arts and Sciences while at Thomas, he taught an undergraduate course on Intercultural Communications focusing on U.S./Russian relations. He also enrolled in graduate courses in the Master of Science in Education program, and visited area schools to share his insights on Russian life and culture.

Koptelov explained that his course included many examples that illustrated to students how Russians live. "I believe it was a valuable experience for students to encounter first-hand the differences between human cultures and world outlooks."

Koptelov's impressions of the Thomas student included noticing distinct differences between genders, which he says stands true for Russian students as well. The male students at Thomas are relaxed and easy-going and great conversationalists," he observed. "The females are diligent students and very empathetic."

What questions did Thomas students ask about Russia? "The most-asked questions were predictable," Koptelov says. "They were about the coldness and vodka, in different variants."

As a student himself, Koptelov enrolled in two graduate courses while at Thomas: Assessment in Education, taught by adjunct professor Gayla LaBreck and Brain-Based Learning with Dr. Mary Callan, adjunct professor of Education. He considers this his biggest achievement. "This was a fantastic experience to learn new things in the midst of American teachers and under the guidance of two professionals," he shared. "Thanks to these courses, I had to read a lot of specialized texts in English, and that was quite an achievement for me."

Koptelov said that he wouldn't mention whether his skills at speaking English improved while being here, but he feels that his comfort level improved as well as his reading skills. He says, "I have dedicated my life to studying the English language and the culture of English-speaking countries. Because my favorite books are classic fiction, I remember discussing author John Fowles with Dog Wallace with mutual pleasure."

Since he is a specialist in cultures, when asked about American culture Koptelov reflects, "During the era of the Iron Curtain there was a vision in the former Soviet Union of the U.S. being the Promised Land for independence-loving men. The American lifestyle was imagined as something very exotic and unattainable." He believes that since then the world has slowly come to the idea that there is no such thing as independence, only interdependence. "If nothing else, the recent financial catastrophes have turned men to this realization."

He also observed that even though he only saw a small part of the country, Americans strive to make their lives simpler. "It seems that the matter of efficiency and increasing opportunities governs the American lifestyle; not a very widespread thing in the world."

Koptelov said that having the opportunity to teach at Thomas was his most valuable experience about being in America. "It was a challenge for me to spend half-a-year in a foreign educational environment, where you cannot be absolutely sure that what you are doing is right," he said. "Now I am much more experienced both as a specialist and a person. This kind of international experience stands second to none in comparison to being a tourist."

When asked what knowledge he will take back to the Kotlas Teacher Training College from his academic experiences at Thomas, Koptelov explained that the grading system in American colleges differs tremendously from Russia. "I have already reported the differences to our faculty and administration," he says. "The approach to teaching and learning is also   more practice-oriented at Thomas, and that deserves to be explored further."

Finally, when asked what about visiting America changed his personal and professional life, Koptelov reveals, "It's too early to talk about my changed life, both personal and professional about my long-term investment, but right now I am very proud that I've made it through." He wonders where he found the courage to do it. In final summary about his experiences, he ponders an American store's slogan but cannot remember it. (It's Staples).

"That was easy!"

by Lee R. Allen

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