Wednesday, November 9, 2011


The Gymnasia 1505 is one of the oldest (more than 20 years) and the most advanced secondary education institutions of Moscow. Apart from high quality general secondary education the school specializes in providing the basic knowledge in pedagogical (teachers' training) disciplines. High level of education allows the graduates to pass the exams in the universities successfully (100% result in 2010).

There are 300-400 students in the school. The Gymnasia boasts an interactive/innovative approach conducted on the base of author programs initiated bt the teachers of the Gymnasia. The school is headed by L.N. Naumov - author of a number of books on the History of Russia. One of the teachers - A.I. Molev - was warded "The Best Teacher oif the Year" in Moscow in 2010.

Meeting with the representatives of the District Department of the Ministry of Education of Russia and the principal and faculty of the Gymnasia 1259, which is a "magnet" school for the advanced study of English, Chinese, German, and French. Also joining us were the Deputy Chief of Central District Education of Moscow, Smirnitskaya Marina Vladimorovna, and Deputy Director of the Methodical Center, Cherenkov Maxim Vyacheslavovich.

Olga Semenovna Kruglova spoke extensively about the renovation of the school in central Moscow and the unique atmosphere of the school, the sense of personal competence instilled in teachers and students, and the partnership that has been created with parents, teachers, and the students in the upper school.A dynamic principal who sets high standards, Ms. Kruglova emphasizes the nurturing of intelligent, creative, and innovative thinkers have been working closely for two years in creating an experiential/inquiry-based curriculum aligned with rigorous state/federal standards where pre-primary courses are offered and every first-grader is equipped with a laptop. Took many pictures of classrooms "in action" and where lityeracy in both Russian and English was emphasized from grade 5 - 11th grade. Truly an inspiring experience where Kusnetsova Ludmila Petrovna presented a program where the goal is to keep kids (particularly boys) reading after 3rd grade and building prior knowledge through reading non-fiction. Also had a conversation about what teachers and schools nurture to make sure kids keep reading over the summer holiday.Uniforms, superb behavior, and enthusiasm for achievement were hallmarks of this school.

Also met with Voloshenko Elena Alekseevna at the Kindergarten of the Gymnasium of the Russian Museum ( I could not help but think about Culver-Stockton's Museums as Classrooms Initiative!) This kindergarten is a unique educational establishment. It is a pre-school stage of education at the Gymnasium under the auspices of the Russian State Museum. The Gymnasioum is a unique secondary school as it is a part of educational programs of one of the main galleries of Russia - The State Russian Museum, an art gallery devoted to Russian art. Education in history of art and art education is started very early from kindergarten alongside a regular pre-school education and successively elementary and secondary education.

At 7 years of age, children begin primary school after starting school at the age of 4. They start secondary at 10-11 years of age and finish secondary at age 17-18. The Russian State 90% of the school's budget with 10% the responsibility of parents. Oral literacy emphasis from 4-7 years of age - kinesthetic, musical, and games comprise much of the literacy activities as children learn communication, interactive, and beginning reading skills similar to Chicago's Reading in Motion. The fine arts are an integral/embedded component of the curriculum. I observed lessons in music, art, and oral literacy and had a great time! I'm sure my reading students see here some of the strategies I've been encouraging them to incorporate in their building of s literacy philosophy.

In his book, The Post American World (2008) Fareed Zakaria introduces the reader to a very new time frame as he writes. "This is not a book about the decline of America, but rather about the rise of everyone else." Emerging economies from Brazil to India and from Russia to China are on a steady pace to shift and diversify the full range of economic power points. Zakaria is suggesting that the United States should use its characteristic adaptability and energy to re-create its role in this new time and to thrive!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

St. Petersburg

We have arrived in St. Petersburg on the Baltic! Left Moscow in a snowstorm and have checked in to our hotel, the Angleterre across from St. Isaacs Cathedral. Tomorrow another school visit and discussion and then to The HERMITAGE!

This is a beautiful canal city which Peter the Great wanted to model after Amsterdam. It's more orderly and classical than Moscow - not so many architectural styles and Stalinesque buildings.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Finishing up Moscow

As a child, I was often scared by the Evening News where I saw Russian tanks and missiles paraded through Red Square with angry looking men standing on the top of Lenin's Tomb. Today I stood in Red Square and experienced all those fears deja vu; fortunately I was among Muscovites who welcomed us, embraced us, and celebrated the end of World War II when Marshall Zhukov led the troops through a welcome home celebration in Red Square! Took a quick turn through GUM, the government owned department store...very expensive, but fun to see that the Russians have committed themselves to capitalism!

St. Basil's is colorful and can't be missed as it continues to commemorate another military victory that IVAN the TERRIBLE celebrated by having St. Basil's built. Churches, mostly Russian Orthodox, have been re-opened; the Cathedral of Christ the King, "blown up" by Stalin, has been re-built not far from Russia's White House and the American Embassy. Our guide informed us that actually Khrushchev destroyed or closed more churches and monasteries than did Stalin! The three churches in the Kremlin - the Church of the Assumption (where all the czars were crowned); the Church of St. Michael Arcangel where the newly crowned czars paid respects in the church that is primarily a necropolis and contains magnificent icons; and the third church - very small - where they prayed for Mother Russia. All have shiny, gold onion domes that flicker like candles in the sunshine.

Had borscht for dinner; by the way, it is delicious. I guess I'll have to depend on Anda to fix me some soup when I get home! She says hers is terrific.

Spent a wonderful morning in the Tretrykov Gallery where I found probably the largest single collection of icons in all of Russia. From the 11th century through the 16th, many icons of the saints -St. Jerome holding a book (obviously a favorite of mine!); the Adoration, the Assumption, and the Nativity. The oldest known icon of St. George on one side and the Virgin and Child on the other is in the Church of St. Michael Arcangel - 11th Century. Of course, I bought a book of Russian icons and a batch of lacquered Christmas tree decorations and made a quick trip to 19th and 20th century Russian artists Savrasov, Mylavin, Quinji, and Kramskey. Bought a book of Pushkin's Fairy Tales; Tolstoy's home in Moscow for 19 years is closed for restoration, but our guide Natasha (remember Natasha and Boris??), with whom I have become enamored, promises to send me pictures and Skype!

Lavrovsky, a famous ballet star and now choreographer, celebrated 70 years last night at the Bolshoi with a flawless production of GISELLE. A packed house applauded for 30 minutes, and I don't think I got to sleep until about 3:30...a premier experience in the home of Nijinsky, Nureyev, and Baryshnikov. And I got to sit with Natasha!!

Came out of the Bolshoi to a Communist Party Rally in Theatre Square; our guide assures me that only about 20 percent of Russians vote for them. The national anthem was stirring reminding me of Doctor Zhivago and the movie, REDS.

Our school visits have been challenging and provocative; Russian schools are kept at 350-450 enrollment and have many of the same challenges we face. The secondary "gymnasium" we visited today accepts only 50% of applicants, is a 5th-11th grade building, project-based curriculum, starts English language training at 5th grade as well as German and French, and Russia's 2011 Outstanding Teacher (teaches in the building and all the lady delegates "swooned" - egads!) says: "We keep them busy; we don't have time for many of the activities that you offer in the United States!"

I, of course, asked lots of questions about aligning assessment with curricula; the integration of the fine arts (lots of music), and STEM efforts (significant!). And, of course, we asked about teacher evaluation (give them 5 years to prove themselves), length of the school day (Monday -Saturday 9-4, national testing at 9th and 11th grades with 5-6 school benchmark tests per year; we asked about testing at 5-8 and that is up to the local school. "We prepare our students so that they all do well on the 9th and 11th grade tests." After 11th grade, students go off to five years of what we call undergraduate work.

Russia claims 99% literacy, but those are UNESCO census statistics and are self reported. They are about in the same status as the United States on the PISA. (They, of course, rank very well in math and science on the PISA.)

Off to dinner and another Moscow school visit tomorrow and then a flight to St. Petersburg for the rest of our journey.

Recommendation for Reading and giving: The Three Questions written and illustrated by Jon J. Muth presented to the People of Russia with best wishes for peace and goodwill! Warm regards from the Language and Literacy Education Delegation. Very Tolstoyan... for children.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Getting Ready

Wish I could eliminate the "jitters." It's finally arrived; I'm returning to Moscow after many years and looking forward to visiting St. Petersburg and working with colleagues in literacy. See you later!