Turkish Teachers Become Immersed in American Education System

Image Nearly 6,000 miles away from their home, some of Turkey’s brightest teachers sat inside a UND classroom Tuesday to talk about the best ways to teach struggling students. The group of 19 young teachers is here under a federal grant allowing them to hone their English as a Foreign Language teaching skills by learning from local educators.

The Teaching Excellence and Achievement summer program grant — the only one in the nation — required teachers have one to three years of experience. Teachers were chosen from throughout the country by the Turkish Ministry of National Education based on merit.

Five weeks into the six-week program, they’ve so far visited with teachers in the Grand Forks School District, attended a workshop at the Concordia Language Camps in Bemidji, stayed with a host family and taken classes from UND faculty on teaching techniques and technology. But they will also tour western North Dakota and American Indian historical sites, as well as travel on their own to any city in the United States.

For Derya Taskin, 24, a public high school teacher in Kayseri, the program has expanded her teaching background.

“What was interesting for me is, I was teaching English but I didn’t have an idea about the culture or the language I was teaching,” she said. “(Now) instead of just teaching the grammar and English, I will also be able to teach the culture, talk about the traditions.”

Compare and contrast

In a discussion outside of class, cultural comparisons between the two countries came up frequently among teachers. Expectations are higher for Turkish students, and some noted the difference prominently in math — algebra is usually taught at ninth grade there, and physics can be taught before college — and English language classes are mandatory for students at fourth grade, they said. A typical day will have 13 lessons, and some students attend classes after school they pay for.

Turkish students also start on their general career path after 10th grade, and take an intense university entrance exam their senior year. More than a million students take the exam and 500,000 are accepted into universities. Those who are successful enough pay just $150 for a six-month term, said Ferhat Bayik, 28, a secondary school teacher in Afyonkarahisar.

“Higher education, especially in our society, is supported,” said Osman Yavasca, 28, a K-12 private school teacher in the country’s capital, Ankara. “We are discussing to make it totally free, even the $150.”

While the use of technology continues to grow and become more standard in American classrooms, the range of accessibility in Turkey is wide — private schools, for instance, have computers and smart boards while some schools don’t have one computer, said Dr. Anne Walker, associate professor of English language learner education at UND.

“For the student-centered activities, maybe (the United States is) most dependent on technology,” said Taskin, who is part of a committee promoting technology use in the classroom. “I don’t see many differences between Turkey and America; the only difference is technology and this makes a big difference.”

Student drug use and bullying are not issues like they are in the United States, they said.

“I am working for almost two years, and I have never witnessed a bullying problem in my school,” said Taskin.

After talking last week with a local superintendent, who said there were no major current issues the district was facing, Oznur Akyilmaz, 26, a secondary school teacher in Gaziantep, felt her home country is still finding its way.

“I think that in Turkey, they are still in the process of putting the pieces together of the puzzle in education,” she said. “But here, it is all done. The system is completed, it’s OK, but we have some more things to learn.”

Walker discussed on Tuesday methods for teachers to handle antsy children, or ones who have ADHD and learning disabilities. For all of the differences between the two countries, some things never change. When she asked the class how many of their students were disorganized, Akyilmaz replied, “most of them.” (Jennifer Johnson, Grand Forks Herald)
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07