Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Dream Smasher

As a volunteer at Ivan Franko National University I teach conversational English in the department of translation studies.  This is a fun and rewarding endeavor.  I love meeting all of the students and interacting with people who are passionate about language.  This has helped me tremendously in my quest to learn Ukrainian as well as to establish myself as part of the larger community here in Lviv.

Yesterday I was asked to sit in on exams.  It is clearly a great honor for me to be recognized in this way by the head of the department.  She is a deeply respected figure in the academic community.  You can read of her many accomplishments in the fields of translation and linguistics.  She has suffered greatly in her illustrious academic career and the Ukrainian language owes much to her life's work.  Her department is above reproach in an academic world where bribes are considered par for the course.  

It was difficult to be part of the panel judging students' accomplishment for the semester.  Clearly I am not qualified to give grades, and my function was simply to listen, learn, and correct common mistakes.  But still, sitting on the imposing panel of honored lecturers was rather difficult.  I'm a nice person.  I like being nice.  I like having fun and laughing loudly.  This was a very serious task and no one took it lightly.

For the entirety of my time in Ukraine I have listened to students share and complain about their exams.  I have nodded my head, but after being present for the exams I have tremendous empathy for the students.  They are expected to perform on a rather high level, and if they falter even once they must be able to answer any question posed to them.

It was emotionally exhausting to watch these young students try to prove that they had learned what they had learned.  You can excel at every task for the entire semester and get confused during the exam and be forced to repeat the course the following semester.

I am thankful to understand the hell that our students must trudge through every semester.  I hope that I am never asked to lead them through it again.    

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