Georgia: Reflections on Teach and Learn

Teach and Learn with Georgia (TLG) is a project established by the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia (MES) aiming to recruit 1,000 native English speakers willing to teach English at Georgian schools for the 2010-2011 academic year. The first wave of teachers arrived in Georgia in the end of July and the Georgian government expects that all 1,000 will have started by the end of 2010.

The MES hopes that not only will the teachers help improve the situation with proficiency in English throughout the country, albeit at the expense of Russian, but that they will also learn more about Georgia and promote it back home by sharing stories with their families and friends. Several have already started their own blogs, for example, and write about everything from their students to culture and cuisine.

One of them, drew's blog, says that many others in addition to existing students in Georgia's second largest city of Kutaisi are eager to learn English.

I’ve added some more teaching hours outside of school.  I made some friends at the local mall & they’re very serious about learning English.  I might start a club if I don’t get too busy with other projects I’ll be involved with.  One is Tinico’s (my main companion) English grammar text book that she, herself, wrote.  She wants me help her finish & be the editor.  I’m honored.  […]

Unlike Drew Sobota, however, not all of the teachers are located in large cities such as Kutaisi or Tbilisi, the capital, with some sent to the less well developed regions of the country. Paul Knettel, for example, arrived in Georgia in August and teaches in Zeda Etseri, a village near Zugdidi in the west of the country. Writing on Floating World, the American appears to have settled in quite easily.

I am enjoying my time here immensely. The Georgian family is wonderful and way too hospitable! I have been able to meet up with some of the other English teachers in my area (whom I trained with in Kutaisi for 1 week), and we have gone to the Black Sea for a breath-taking sunset and an invigorating swim! We also played some football (soccer for us strange American-folk) against a group of Georgians, which was a blast despite the scorching heat: so much for a cooler environment than Texas!

However, other TLG teachers do occasionally touch upon some sensitive subjects. One of them is Neal Zupancic from Slovenia who wrote on his blog, Georgia On My Mind, about attitudes towards gender and sex in what still remains a fairly traditional country. The post received more than 200 comments and initiated an intense discussion.

At orientation, the TLG staff gave us a bunch of info about dating and gender relations in Georgia. The breakdown is familiar: men are expected to be sexually experienced when they get married and women are expected to be virgins. Of course, this system cannot work without some third factor, because how are men to get experience when women are not allowed to have sex? So there must exist – or so we can theorize – some group of women who are violating the traditional rules. […]

“Dating” in Georgia is vanishingly rare. Instead, there is courtship. A man and a woman get together, they date for about two months, and then the expectation is that the man will either “do the right thing” or stop fooling around and move on. In theory every woman has a “patroni,” or male guardian, whose job it is to make sure that the men in these women’s lives “do the right thing” – in other words, propose marriage within an acceptable period of time, or leave the woman alone.


Finally, a note about talking about sex in Georgia. The subject seems to be a lot more taboo than it is in the US. Even when you talk to Georgians about dating, they are generally taken aback by the idea that anyone would talk publicly about any kind of romantic interactions between men and women. It’s pretty strange.

TLG Volunteers. From

Some of the blogs by TLG teachers can be found on Dream is Destiny [GE] as well as my own The Young Georgians. As with those blogs established by some Peace Corps Volunteers, they might well offer a unique glimpse into life in Georgia.

1 comment

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