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Days in



In memory of my mother, Carol Cecelia Smith (30 June 1924 24 March 2012)


Chapter One: Introduction Chapter Two: Testing the Water Chapter Three: TeachingAn Existential Definition Chapter Four: The Browning Version Chapter Five: A Short Tour to Vardzia and Borjomi Chapter Six: Concentration Chapter Seven: Enchanted Learning Chapter Eight: Excursion Chapter Nine: Self-Paced Learning Chapter Ten: How Children Read Chapter Eleven: Drama with Class Nine Chapter Twelve: Our Revels Now are Ended List of Illustrations: Acknowledgements:

4 6 10 14 21 63 71 76 82 84 87 95 101 105

sed omnia praeclara tam difficilia quam rara sunt

'but [as regards] everything great : [it] is as difficult [to bring it about] as it is rare [to find it]' SPINOZA (1632 - 1677)

'He has obtained exactly what he deserves: no less; and certainly no more' (Andrew Crocker-Harris to Frank Hunter about Taplow) TERENCE RATTIGAN, The Browning Version (1948)

Five Days in May A Bolnisi School Portfolio1

5 century carvings at Bolnisi Sioni (Mike Woodcock)


Chapter One: Introduction To record some ongoing English educationdevelopments in a Georgian school, fluency in the maths of n or more dimensions is essential. The parameters are numerous and varied. All are in flux. Here are some of the variables: 1. The school buildings and their fittings; 2. Directions in education policy; 3. Student learning: what has been accrued; what is being targeted; 4. Timein relation to student learning especially; 5. Emotions: the network of feelings and expectations students bring to lessons; 6. Geographythe travels of the Volunteer; 7. Materials; 8. Ideas and strategies; 9. Overall goals of the program. Being invited to write a portfolio about Bolnisi Third School is rather like an oceanographer being asked to comment on individual

This essay was written in response to a request by the Teach and Learn with Georgia Project (TLG) for portfolios of volunteers school teaching experiences.

waves; but I will do my best, and restrict my observations to a period of just a five days in May, 2012. * Nothing, Rilke said, is less likely to bring us near to a work of art than criticism. Unfortunately, the same can be said of education. Seen from a distance, it is - subjectively - a confused blur of good intentions, occasional success and, overall, a territory of ambiguous remembered feelings. These may vary with day-to-day, hands-on, experience; and in due course will acquire a patina whose quality will depend on learning achievement or its absence. That same emotional field can vary with our daily classroom experiences as a teacher too: a good day will provide a sense of uplift; a bad one something approaching the dark night of the soul. It is curious why this should be the case. My explanation is that our engagement happens at a deeper level than is obvious. Students in Georgia know deep down even if they if not of an age to understand the facts where available that their country, which both they and all visitors love unreservedly, has of late suffered greatly from the disintegration of the Communist system and the events that fall precipitated. Native teachers, too, are all too aware of the catastrophic collapse in educational activity and standards which went hand in hand with this political and social upheaval.2

cf Peter Nasmyth, Georgia: In the Mountains of Poetry, 3rd Edition (Taylor and Francis 2006) p 309. Available online at

But Georgians know that their leaders have attempted to turn round the rhetorical question of a Russian in New York: Why, with a system of education five times better, do we have an economy five times worse?3 The adventure TLG volunteers are part of is an attempt to address the paradox that now the social system is maybe twenty-five times better, but the education system has become five times as bad, Teachervolunteers thus bear something of the mantle of Saint Nino...they are potentially saviours of Georgia... Chapter Two: Testing the Water

Class Eight gets under way

My five days in May actually begin on 26 April the day of my return from England, a good day for taking the temperature of the water.

Norman Stone, The Atlantic and Its Enemies: A History of the Cold War, Penguin 2011, p xiii

Before I left, I had arranged that all English classes should take place in our light-drenched, dedicated English room; equipped also with writing materials, blackboard, projection equipment and blackout curtains.

Mari, a ninth-grader, assured me the evening of my return that the lessons were progressing well; and were quiet- but I was not sure that I could expect the same conditions in Class Eight. I was pleasantly surprised. In my absence, the pupils had acquired a habit of applying themselves; and for a golden moment there was actually spontaneously a moment of complete quiet, a rare thing during English lessons in Bolnisi.

Ani is actually studying Georgian, but for a while the others are quiet...

Class Three in the same setting seemed a challenge, as these children are wedded to their classroom. But after a little fun inspecting the

gaudy covers of the MacMillan books (This one is Level Three! Wow!) they settled down, if anything, better than the Eighth class.

Ana (2nd left) showing her usual diligence; the boys in deep involvement

Teachers must circulate...

In invigilating self-paced learning, teachers must circulate as there are a variety of topics and levels all going on at once. I spent fifteen minutes with Stella (left of picture) studying words ending in double l. Wall, ball, shell. She shaded in the bricks of a wall, then wrote, wall.

It was important to her to do the bricks in different colours. (Such an attention to sometimes needless detail is a very Georgian thing.) She then found it easy to complete the exercise in which she must write in the double ls. And she found it fun. I gave her a little help on the scaling of the letters: three-quarter sized and halfsized and so on; although Stella insists of drawing the e from bottom to top perhaps influenced by her knowledge of the Georgian hard t.

The last class of the day was Class Seven. This class has been subjected to a continuous program of behaviour management over the last two terms; and for a group of young people of extraordinary energy and diversity, they do pretty well these days. Here my strategy is to control by small acts of guidance. Little by little the children have come to trust the teachers and the teachers the children; and when this process reaches certain level of empathy, a new learning dimension is reached; and one can be a great deal more permissive and flexible than originally seemed possible. Classes 5 and 7 have ventured the furthest along this route; and getting to know the children as friends has given us a new insight into their diverse personalities and learning styles. The message they need to receive is that we care deeply about them all. The picture below shows their obvious happiness and application.


Giorgi and Eka, apparently satisfied customers

Chapter Three: TeachingAn Existential Definition

Albert Einstein lecturing in 1934


I am not in favour of using the term teaching because it has lost a precise sense due to over-employment. It should therefore be either avoided or very precisely defined. While at first it would seem to suggest that there may be an identifiable activity to which it refers (i.e. something which can easily be undertaken by a teacher if the teacher so desires) this is at best a top-down, outwards-in approach which bears little authentic relationship to what one might callsubjective process: which is at the heart of our psychological and sensory life. Teaching of course lives cheek-by-jowl with another process which it implies namely, learning (in the sense of a learning process). The interaction of these two dynamics, teaching and learning, equates to quite a sophisticated psychological event, or series of events. It also seems to me that students bring to the lesson both their emotional selves and their so-far-formed mind and an attendant desire to learn. In Georgia the last seems sometimes absent. To make the argument clearer, it is perhaps useful to compare the overall classroom teaching-learning process to that of the conquest of a difficult peak by a mountaineering team. The teacher is clearly the lead mountaineer, the Hillary or the Doug Scott of the occasion, The various outcrops, overhangs and peaks of the mountain may be taken to represent the (actually infinite) English matter which should eventually, at least in some way, be encountered, grappled with and even in rare cases mastered.


Doug Scott on the South-West face of Everest

But it is not an exhaustive clambering over every inch of a mountains extent which constitutes conquest, rather a light skipping over the surface, in the process visiting many places implicated in the peaks geographical and geological description. Although the ultimate goal is mastery, to travel is more important than to arrive.

Can students be mountaineers in this scenario? I think when fully motivated, yes. They are colleagues in a collective task, cooperation in the doing of which (it is hoped) will confer upon the teacher the accolade of having successfully taught the student English; and upon the student the laurel wreath of having successfully studied it. These outcomes the implicit everyday outcomes of EFL orthodoxy are in reality far rarer than the confident tone of language textbooks would suggest.

More often students are Sherpas: essential facilitators of the task; occasional summiteers; and bearers of various burdens. Most obviously they bear the emotional burdens of having been born during the historical period in Georgia of a collapsing infrastructure, declining national confidence, and a decayed political culture. Or else they will be beneficiaries of the phoenix-like aftermath of all


that; with the many difficult questions that new-found freedom has raised.

Red Army in Tbilisi, 25 February 1921

On occasion they can bear, too, the burdens of a teachers miscalculations. Pitch a lesson at too high an intellectual level, and it is like asking them to bear packs too heavy to carry. Keep them waiting when they are ready for the trek - as may happen if one chooses material insufficiently novel or challenging - and what you get is a pack of restive, discontented Sherpas. If the teaching team is not entirely harmonious in its aim, too, the children will suffer, and the wrong peak will be ascended; and what price planting the flag of victory then? Good teaching which always involves the utmost humility - will meld the teacher and the taught, the Hillary and the Tensing, into one penetrative energy - whose summit successes will then see the blurring of all distinctions; and whose conviction may also echo in some small way the miracle of May, 1953.


Chapter Four: The Browning Version

1994 Film: Opening Scene


Hurry up were late -words with up get up show up come up go up pick up look up hurry up the words get/show/come/go/pick/look are all fine but here are used ALONE - when there is a 50-50 relationship between the meaning-value of the VERB - these are all verbs - and the thing which we are using it for. Example: Please get me the newspaper. Until we reach me the meaning is unclear, so there is a 50-50 spread of meaning between the two halves, get me and newspaper. But the words using up or similar short words of direction (e.g. out) AFTER a regular and normal VERB (e.g. get/show/come/go/pick/look) are used when there is not much extra meaning coming from the thing we are talking about (I mean in the CONTEXT) because the meaning is all in the VERB with its following POSTPOSITION (yes, post-position such as you have in Georgian). Up and down in the sentences below are post-positions. He showed up at 10 o'clock SHOWED UP =100%; nothing else She got up at 7 o'clock =100%; nothing else Come up! I am in Flat 10 - on the third floor. (Same clarification follows) Go up to Tbilisi and meet her at the airport = maybe(100-70) Gamsakhurdia's car drove UP to the spot where the bomb was. The bomb did not explode. He drove DOWN to Batumi without incident.


Milton Abbey School, Dorset, which was used for the school in the film, The Browning Version

Mr Gilbert? Yes Good Morning We thought you might have caught the earlier train, sir Think thought. Catch caught, Early, earlier. Easy, easier Yes well I did, but it was late, and getting a taxi wasnt easy

The gateway used in the film at Sherbourne School, Dorset, England

I did Did you do your homework? I did. Do you like English? I do. Can you speak Georgian? I can. Could you open the window? I could.


May I go out? You may. I might have caught the earlier train but I lost my keys. Allow me

Allow me to teach you. I need quiet. Allow me to take your bags, they are heavy. I will not allow you to stand up during the lesson.

The Historic Hall Built 1550 Destroyed by fire, rebuilt 1732 Restored 1874 Its very beautiful Great Chapel Built in the Year 13Sorry Who says this? Wilson youre late Yeah but Im not really late

I'm late, you're late, she's late, the President's late. My cat was late for a meeting of Bolnisi cats. We are very late celebrating Christmas in Georgia. They were late and were not admitted to the concert.

I dont care. Three minutes late Wilson. Cromwells. Write it down, tomorrow. Who says this? - Today. Who says this?


Oliver Cromwell, who ruled England very harshly from 1653-1658

Any boy late for Morning Prayers is given Cromwells, which is the word here for punishment. Who says this? Why? Who says this? If you ask me why its called Cromwells Ill say Y is a crooked letter and you cant make it straight. (The new American master is really asking why the boys must be punished.) Quite 'Quite' means 'I see', like Georgian gaseghebia But you also have: 'she is quite nice. Mari is quite musical. I quite like it' Dont worry sir, Youll soon get the hang of it. Don't worry - be happy Old and traditional English paying schools (especially Eton and Harrow, which was the model for the Browning Version school) use special words like 'Cromwell's',


which only the boys in these schools understand. In the same way special words are used at Oxford and Cambridge universities. For example a lady who cleans the room and makes the bed is called a 'bedder'. The man at the gate is called a Porter. But porters are originally people who carry things. It is a Latin word. Remember the word for a place like Poti or Sydney, Australia. They are ports. Places where things are carried from by sea. Get the hang of = get used to The unpleasant man (maybe he is the Porter!) is trying to suggest that Mr Gilbert will soon get used to the special language in the school Mr Gilbert new master for next term. Show him in please. Who says this? Whom is he speaking to? Where does this take place? Mr Foster, trouble with the alarm clock again, sir? Who says this? What is he trying to say? What ONE THING have you noticed about this school so far? They are all very interested in _ _ _ _ What is that word? Morning boys! Who says this? Morning, sir! Who says this? Announcements.


The inter-house boat race was won by Ironsides. And we have to thank, for the excellent organization, Mr Hunter. Who are Ironsides? There is a hidden meaning here. It relates to 'Cromwell's' (see above). Ironsides was the name for Cromwells horsemen (cf Georgian Mkhedrioni)

During the period of Cromwell there was no king. Our Soviet period

Notice the word order of this sentence. Can you say the sentence a different way? English can be like Georgian when you can say something in two directions, and it is still OK. Me var Martin. Martini var. Tomorrow 2pm cricket match. Scaeffernel boys versus First Eleven. There are eleven people in a cricket team, so it is called an 'Eleven'. Everything in England is graded and in classes, first, second, third etc. First Eleven = the best people at cricket. Second Eleven = the next best etc And tomorrow evening at 8:30 pm concert by Small Choir from Library Steps. Now, Prize Giving will be at the earlier time of 9:00 am. This is to enable Mr Fletcher time to reach the MCC squad in preparation for their match against the Australians at Lords. Mr Fletcher is a cricket player. The boys love him because he is famous. MCC is a special English organization for cricket. CC means 'cricket club'.


M stands for Marylebone, a place in London named after a 'burn' or 'bourne' (later 'bone') a small stream, that is protected by (Saint) Mary, where Lords a famous cricket ground is. Traditional opponents of England: Australia.

Cricket at the time Terence Rattigan wrote The Browning Version (1948)

Yorker for the fielding side the most desired outcome in cricket; a metaphor for what we are aiming to achieve in all the arts we undertake...?


Chapter Five: A Short Tour to Vardzia and Borjomi



Jvari Monastery, seen from the road near Mtskheta



The wide open lands on the way to Gori

More lush landscape further on


Teachers on the bus


Green Monastery (preceding page)

Monastic residences at Green Monastery (above)

Next pages:

Icon of the Resurrection: (L to R) Adam, King David, Eve, Saint John The Baptist.

Detail Eve Detail Saint John the Baptist Detail Adam, King David.




Surami Fortress

View from the top of the fortress



Sculpture at Vardzia


Vardzia: a city cut into the rock

Candles at Vardzia


Icon of Mary in Vardzia chapel

Queen Tamar wall painting in Vardzia chapel (source:


Queen Tamar (detail)


Black Virgin


Cave stairs

View from Vardzia



Borjomi typical architecture


Yellow house


Stone steps


Yellow house another view


Borjomi River (above and below)


Composers House


View from the forest

Composers House Gatehouse


Composers House Gateway; below, Restaurant


Old Kodak booth


Railway engineer sculpture awaiting unveiling.

The sculpture is by George Tsuladze and shows the Lithuanian railway engineer, Antanas VikuraitisKeturiakis ( 1864 - 1903 )


Plinth of Antanas Vikutaitis Keturakis sculpture by George Tsuladze; typical street (below)


Old wooden house; below, Old street


Much altered building


Street of dust and stones

A glimpse of George Tsuladzes brother, Irakli, at work on the installation of Georges sculpture of Antanas Vikutaitis Keturakis (next page)

Borjomi River and one of its many small bridges (next page)



Another view along the Borjomi river

New apartments; below, Iranian House, both under construction (next page)



Plans of works; another view of Iranian House (below)


Construction works (above)

Views near the park (below)


Buildings near the gates of the park (above, top and preceding page)

In the park ( also following page)



First Blue House


Second Blue House

Hotel Victoria, Borjomi


Icons on Hotel kitchen wall




Mtkvari River


Bridge over Mtkvari (previous page) - below, Promenade

Colourful Soviet period tower block

View of Mtskheta - on the way back to Tbilisi (following page)



Chapter Six: Concentration

Michelangelo: Sistine Chapel Ceiling

Concentration is at the heart of any teaching or learning process; and to understand it, a consideration of Mihly Csikszentmihlyis flow makes an excellent starting-point. Csikszentmihlyi is a positive psychologist, concerned with discovering what makes for optimum human mental functioning; in contrast to traditional psychologists, who are generally concerned with learning deficits and mental handicaps of various sorts. To analyze Georgian schools in terms of their potential and then to try to reach out to that potential is better than to lament what is not right about the situation: it is preferable to see that the glass is half-full than that it is half-empty. Csikszentmihlyi represents his findings graphically in this chart.

Csiszentmihlyis Chart of Mental States and Flow (1997)


Colours code the degree of emotion present in the state indicated. The ideal state should be one of flow(maybe pale yellow) with supporting elements of relaxation and control. However, many people who have experienced this state, such as Ayrton Senna, claim that control actually passes to the subconscious mind during the process, a peak experience when sustained flow is obvious and all-pervasive. I was already on pole, [...] and I just kept going. Suddenly I was nearly two seconds faster than anybody else, including my team- mate with the same car. And suddenly I realized that I was no longer driving the car consciously. I was driving it by a kind of instinct, only I was in a different dimension. It was like I was in a tunnel. (Ayrton Senna describing the 1988 Monaco Grand Prix). In a flow state, there is a sense of mental stimulus and relaxation at the same time, and it can arise in many fields of activity. As a teenager I remember the first time I heard Stravinskys Symphony of Psalms in a radio broadcast. When I finally stumbled down late for supper that summer evening in July 1973, I felt as if I had been absent for about a hundred years. In fact Stravinskys piece lasts a mere twenty minutes.

The Wright Brothers (1903) an early example of flow?

And Michelangelo is said to have worked on the Sistine Chapel ceiling for days at a time, so absorbed that he did not stop for food or sleep for several days in succession; whereupon he would collapse, wake up refreshed, and continue.


Csiszentmihlyi discovered that the optimum state of flow arises when there is a balanced challenge for the mind: difficult enough to be uncertain in its outcome; but easy enough toget into; also providing instantaneous feedback. Writing this portfolio, for example, has given me a typical sense of flow: the challenge is great, but the way to proceed seems at last clear to me, and the text as it assembles before my eyes provides continuous feedback and reassurance. What perhaps is more mysterious is that immersion long enough and deep enough in such a state ought to give rise to those miraculous brain-waves which make the process self-sustaining. This has a great deal of relevance to speaking a foreign language, since when it is mastered, one ultimately has no sense of speaking it. In years past, I experienced something like that with French. As with the Wright Brothers invention, it is a form of flight; only in this case, mental flight.3

Igor Stravinsky: Symphony of Psalms (1930)

This section draws on the Wikipedia article on Csiszentmihalyi's 'flow'. Retrieving the relevant musical reference from the mists of time, I see that the broadcast I heard was of the concert of the First Night of the Proms, on 20 July 1973, when Pierre Boulez conducted the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in the following program: Brahms - Ein deutsches Requiem, Op 45; Stravinsky - Symphonie de Psaumes


Bolnisi Third School: Nana Pruidze tutoring in the Seventh Class

How does such an approach using positive psychology to optimize the learning conditions for the pupils work out in the classroom? The lack at least in recent years of a culture of studyin Georgian schools ( and, sadly. in the country itself, so far as I can see)implies that the negative states of the left side of the chart may be predominant in Georgia. (I remember that I came here expecting to find people perfecting their Beethoven Sonatas or the Reti Gambit; and imagining that taxi-drivers would quote Rustaveli to me...) But there is a difference with English schools learning culture. Whereas the negative mental states (on Csiszentmihlyis chart) which one is most likely to encounter in Georgian schoolchildren would be Apathy and Boredom (for the historical reasons alluded to: a breakdown of the continuity of study in schools due to social upheavals, and a consequent loss of contact with metal stimuli at a receptive age, and so on) the English schoolchild is more likely to suffer from Anxiety and


Worry about tests. Now, Csiszentmihlyis thesis has a Mozartian beauty to it, in that it considers what happens in the free mind when it is placed under no external social or political pressure. Does this fact not recommend him most highly to the Georgians, those great intellectual independents of the Caucasus? By contrast, traditional educational systems are enslaving, in that children are required to garner knowledge in a certain pre-determined and obviously inadequate ways with a view, later, to their revising that knowledge in a mind-numbing fashion, in order to be able to function in a prescribed way in a test situation.

English children preparing for a controversial new phonicstest for 6-year-olds


Eka in complete absorption in Class Seven. The others are concentrating too...

Class Seven enjoying a small amount of flow. We must be doing something right!


The usually volcanic Class Nine awaiting a showing of The Browning Version

Nana Pruidze: a classic study in traditional tutoring. Meanwhile Anuka helps two students in the traditional Victorian pyramid learning fashion. Next page: Time for relaxation: Khatia (Class Seven) spots a new challenge (top)


Meanwhile the class has spontaneously arrived at break-out time (middle) Class Nine (Nana, Eka, Natia) acting out The Browning Version (bottom)


Chapter Seven: Enchanted Learning When I started, the materials in use in the upper classes were textbooks by Tatiana Bukia. Luckily I soon discovered a website, Enchanted Learning, which had material better suited the simple and energetic tastes of my early-adolescent pupils, especially of Class Seven. I have described elsewhere how, in the Autumn of 2011, Nana Pruidze and I solved the problem of the endemic disorder of this class - pupils of twelve to thirteen - by giving very careful attention to the signals we communicated, the timing and degree of forcefulness of our actions, and the degree to which we presented an open and frank teaching presence.4 This was in the childrens best interests. Regarding subliminal signals, it became apparent that should Nana appear too absorbed in the act of class registration, and remain seated right at the start while doing this, there would be a series of disruptions, obfuscations and distractions from the children, whose prime aim would be that of frustrating our agenda for as long as they could get away with it. Instead, Nana took to compiling her statistical information later, during some longueur; and we concentrated our initial energies - always using eye contact - on establishing control, after first taking the emotional temperature of the water. According to our findings, we calibrated the choreography of our plunging into the situation, always passing the initiative to the children to make the first move in initiating the learning experience.. To do this, we used the ploy of asking them to re-arrange desks and chairs into a different formation, ostensibly to allow pupils to be closer to the radiators. For quite a while, the pencils and crayons I provided had a way of going missing; but eventually we instituted foolproof and transparent ways for making sure that everything was present and correct. In time, we

See my article, 'Bolnisi Third School: The First Seventeen Months' (April 2012) which may be accessed on my website,


converted the students into being the prime movers in all this; and the result was that by around January of this year the classes almost ran themselves. But at the moment of fission, about seven minutes into the lesson, just beyond the desk re-arrangement, something decisive and appropriate has to happen from the teachers' side. This is really the main finding of my time so far in Bolnisi an insight which is to be found nowhere in conventional pedagogic methodology. That was where Enchanted Learning came in. The site has a large number of themes, from Art and Antarctica to Wales and the Weather, but what caught my attention was Alphabet Activities- and in particular the ten collections of pages giving words using the long and short vowels.

Enchanted Learning: Three bees sleep on the leaf; and ear, eel, eat. These colouring and filling -in pages proved a hit with the Seventh Class

This provided material for ten lessons straight away; and was repeated.


In this way the students regularly encountered around ten words a lesson (wed give them two double-sided A4 sheets) some of which like igloo- would be new to them; and thus little by little they became more confident with the look and feel (as well as sounds) of simple English words. The materials were always presented in an attractive and amusing way, and arranged according to their sonic characteristics. In early May, for the same class, I expanded my choices from this website, whose art filling-in exercises (of Hokusais wave, for example, or of friezes from the Parthenon) had already given the students some much-appreciated light relief from all the linguistic material. The creators of the website, Jeananda Col and Mitchell Spector, describe their educational philosophy as follows:

We have found that learning can be enjoyable and satisfying. Our company's mission is to produce educational materials that emphasize creativity and the pure enjoyment of learning. The underlying message of our materials is that curiosity and exploration lead to delightful learning experiences. We hope to maximize the student's creativity, learning, and enjoyment. We believe that people learn the most (and retain it the longest) when they are actively involved in educational pursuits that are clear, logical, stimulating, and fun.


Enchanted Learning: Word grid. The student has not initially realized the need to highlight the secret word (here butterfly). Below: Khatias response: dragon/flysuccessfully discovered in the grid


Khatias witty reinterpretation. Below: joining the dots; she was at first puzzled by the dogs left fore-leg, coded (a,b,c...) to avoid ambiguity


Chapter Eight: Excursion5 The first view of Svetitshkoveli Cathedral from the expressway offers an interesting parallel to the experience of viewing Gothic or Romanesque churches in England or France from a distance, for example from the train.

Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, Mtskheta

Lincoln Cathedral, England

Amiens Cathedral, France

In each case we confront a huge medieval statement of faith which has defined and brought into existence a whole urban settlement. The impression is strengthened because although Svetitiskhoveli Cathedral follows the

This chapter makes use of interesting Wikipedia material relating to Queen Tamar of Georgia


customary Georgian cross-plan design, there are spacious aisles and a narthex, giving the church huge mass; and the building is also of a great height 54 meters (Lincoln is 83 including towers and Amiens 43 without spire).

Just prior to this, Jvari on a rocky outcrop sends out a resonance that here is a special ancient place in Georgias history. On this summit, Saint Nino erected a cross, while at Svetitskhoveli, Sidonia was interred clutching Christs robe, from which her grasp could not be separated.

The landscape near here is wide and prairie-like, cut through by the Mtkvari River; before lusher, greener lands near Gori.

Gori is heralded by a huge army base, and a little earlier there is an Abkhaz resettlement camp, resembling a more sombre version of a British mobile home holiday site.

One knows that at Gori, the ghost of Stalin still lives on; and one is anxious to pass this place of ill-repute as soon as possible. I think that I am very sensitive to such atmospheres; and remember from my childhood that when our route to a Scottish holiday house and passed a lowering prison-like Victorian mental hospital in Lanarkshire, I suffered nightmares for days after, and the start of the holiday was invariably ruined.

At Surami is a well-preserved fortress, strategically situated between East and West Georgia, and known to Pliny the Elder as an important centre of power in ancient Colchis. Now it is a mere village, and when we were there, we were caught in a thunderstorm, which luckily I saw coming and thus managed to escape. The view from the fort on a clear day is quite different.


Surami Fortress, whose origins may be traced to the 12



We had earlier visited the Green Monastery in the Borjomi National Park, which may have been founded by Saint Grigol Khandzteli, a kind of Georgian Saint Bernard, who lived from 759 to 861. The part of south-west Georgia in which he was active (after a monastic education in Klarjeti, Iberia) was strategically important in the days of the Silk Road.

Saint Grigol Khandzteli


At Vardzia we heard a similar story about the international connections of Queen Tamar. She ruled a much larger territory than Georgia today; assisted in the foundation of the Black Sea kingdom of Trebizond; had important connections with Jerusalem, where she was much interested, like the Crusaders, in preserving Christian religious relics; she was the patron of Rustaveli; commissioned works of art; and sent off a military expedition into Turkey, much as Englands Queen Elizabeth had exhorted the sailors who fought the Spanish Armada at Tibury, on the River Thames near London.

Extent of Georgia in the time of Queen Tamar (1160 1213)

Monastery of the Cross in Jerusalem, a Georgian foundation th dating from the 11 century


Rustaveli presenting his work to Queen Tamar, by Mihly Zichy (1827-1906)

Vani Gospels, now in Tbilisi (13th century)

After ten minutes alone with Queen Tamars mural in the rock cave town at Vardzia I was able to take some photos which I later presented at school(see above, pp 21-34). On the return leg, I left the party at Borjomi in order to have a small adventure of my own, the photographic results of which I also showed to my students (see above, pp 35- 62).The material was well-received by the Eighth Class where Ani took the lead, reading out my captions but also shown to the Ninth. There was exactly enough material to fill a single lesson; and I think it was valuable to


remind my students although in less detail than here of the geography, history, heritage and culture of their country.

Queen Tamar portrait (wall painting at Betania Monastery, near Tbilisi). This is one of five images of Tamar extant.

Empire of Trebizond in 1300 (Pontic Greeks) At the time of this map, the Golden Horde the Mongol empire was the largest- ever empire on earth . It still holds that record.6

See Wikipedia article on 'The Golden Horde' and links


Chapter Nine: Self-Paced Learning We have come to discover the primacy of learning over teaching; and gradually are trying to inculcate a taste for study and ultimately reading in our pupils. Even some of the youngest students (aged 8) have demonstrated an innate desire to learn and to communicate the results of that learning to their teachers.

Spontaneous learning in Class Three

The allotted material during on either side of Easter was textbookbased; but by requesting pieces of paper, students privileged the artistic aspect of things over that of words, thereby turning the occasion into a drawing lesson.


I redressed the balance by getting them to label the objects drawn; and the Azerbaijanian students in particular have adopted this procedure.

Here, vividness of response and eagerness seem more important than finesse...

Meanwhile, in Class Eight, some students have made an intelligent investigation of available resources and found something that interests them at a level they are comfortable with. This enthusiasm for the learning process can be capitalized on later.


Class 8: Ani,Mzeo

Chapter Ten: How Children Read The Azerbaijani students with their images of sun, tree and cloud have demonstrated that concepts are primary. The way in which this image of the sun is drawn shows that a sense of the powerful heat of the sun is primary; next comes the image of the sun; and finally the graphical sign associated with it.

An Azerbaijanian students representation of the sun


At this point, from the teacher comes the sonic parameter, which the child will add to the nexus already built up. Thus the acts of identifying and associating the various nuclei which constitute the word that denotes a concept may be seen as the first steps on the road to reading. Since we are dealing with a foreign language, that language presents itself to the mind of a child in a peculiar and different way; although we have, I think, no clear idea of quite how this inner view may be different from that of the childs view of his own language. My guess is that Azerbaijanian students bring a particularly pure consciousness to the proto-reading act, since they are already dealing with another foreign language Georgian at school, and all around them. Another factor, seen in children in Class Seven is synesthesia.

Colouring in the words known from Dolchs list of 110 words. A synesthetic response


I gave Class Seven a page from Enchanted Learning which lists some of the Dolch words. Dolch words are defined as follows:

The Dolch Word List is a list of frequently used words compiled by Edward William Dolch PhD. The list was prepared in 1936. It was originally published in his book Problems in Reading in 1948. Dolch compiled the list based on children's books of his era. The list contains 220 "service words" that have to be easily recognized in order to achieve reading fluency in English. The compilation excludes nouns, which comprise a separate 95-word list.7

It is obvious that some of the students in Class Eight who attempted this task had strong associations with particular words and thus coloured them in different, and symbolic, colours. Students in Class Five, by contrast, have been given significant exposure to the dialogues in the MacMillan English World book, Level One; and are slowly picking up the skills of reading spontaneously, apparently based on associations of context, as well as linking the visual aspects of words (the signs that make them up) to the drawings in the book alongside.

The quotation is taken from the Wikipedia article on educator Edward William Dolch and his 'Dolch Word Lists'


Sophiko (above) and Salome (below) in action reading dialogues (Class Five)

. Chapter Eleven: Drama with Class Nine

Class Nine have become enthused with an English play which I have introduced them to, The Browning Version, in its 1994 film version. The story concerns an unfeeling Classics teacher who repents of his intellectual bullying of the pupils, after his heart is softened by a gift from one of the boys - of Robert Brownings version of The Agamemnon by Aeschylus. The play was written by Terence Rattigan in 1948, and is currently enjoying a revival in London.

In the Spring Term pupils watched all the available material from this film on YouTube. Since they liked the subject-matter and enjoyed understanding and speaking out the dialogues - for example the young students hesitant gift (Well...Taplow ?) and the schoolmasters farewell speech (I am ... sorry!) I ordered


the complete film; and an excerpt, which we have begun to look at and try to perform, may be seen above, pp 10-16.

In the first days of May, having seen the first fifteen minutes of the film earlier, we read the script (as it appears above) and although this was less well-received attempted to understand its linguistic content.

Next, I blew up the words to be spoken and pasted them onto cards. We acted the film out, and it was clear that this was a great learning device, as it drew in quite a few students at once in different roles, and gave them a challenge of which Csikszentmihly would probably approve.


Albert Finney pacing the quadrangle in Mike Figgis1994 film, The Browning Version


A weary and sighing Mr Crocker-Harris regrets the imminent loss of his position in the school. Mari catches this perfectly. Following pages: Teona as Director; Teona, Natia, Mariami; Eka, Ana; Nana, Eka, Ana, Natia; Mari; Vali; Mari; Mari,Magda and Mariami playing the Chapel scene of the Porter, Wilson and the Prefect with obvious enjoyment.






PREFECT Wilson youre late! WILSON Yeah but Im not really late PREFECT I dont care. Three minutes late, Wilson. Cromwells. Write it down, tomorrow.


Chapter Twelve: 'Our revels now are ended'

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits and Are melted into air, into thin air: And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself, Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff As dreams are made on, and our little life Is rounded with a sleep. William Shakespeare,The Tempest, Act 4 Scene 1

7th May: my five days in May are ended: and we must accept whatever floral revolution or newly-pacified territory which has come our way.


May: First job, to renew the flowers...


The time has come to retrieve the core sample from the bottom of the ocean and send the contents, with all their impurities, but possible mineral wealth, to the laboratories for analysis. I feel a huge sense of relief that I need no longer be the fly on the wall in my own documentary, and reach for that wonderful Georgian implement, the buzebis saklavi.

Learning: a delicate combination of swatting and swotting, maybe?

Freed from the need to observe and document, I immediately surge into some important new progress in reading and sounds with the Fifth Class. First I explain how they should look for vowels working together either side of a consonant, and that if they find this situation, they should then modify the two possible (adjacent but separated) sounds into a new single compromisesound, finishing it off with the enclosed consonant sound which is counter-intuitive - and preceding all that with any consonant sound coming right at the beginning of the word. Then I explain made up not of and mortar to imagine the as I have done many times before that a languages words are letters but of two types of sign, representing the bricks of the wall an image which may be conjured up if you want co-operation, in practice, of the two elements.


The Third Form also shine, since the course-correction I planned is spot-on: we had lingered a little too long on the MacMillan Workbook in the previous session; and the tonic of Enchanted Learning join-the-dots print-outs is just what the doctor ordered. I sense again a Csizszentmihlyian balance of challenge against skill; and the apparent disorder of the lesson as we pass Steve Jobs ten minute concentration barrieris no disorder but as my psychologically-sceptical younger sister once said about ObsessiveCompulsive Disorder, I think it is an order!8 The atmosphere in the school is both peaceful and cheerful this morning and my amiable colleagues twice make me Turkish coffee, and as usual I chat, stumblingly, in my very inadequate Georgian about very obvious things... The Ninth Class watch The Browning Version again and seem to be settling down at last. I agree to twenty-five minutes without stopping for the next day, with twenty minutes of analysis to follow. There is a problem in that there is some spicy language about fourteen minutes into the film which can no longer be steered around. My solution will be make a transcript of the next section, presenting that first; but to leave out the offending sections. The students will then have to make their own deductions. I have been assisted in my work here by excellent support from the TLG team; and by Nana Pruidze, Nato Elikashvili, Mzia Danielia and all the other teachers in Bolnisi Third School. I have had important discussions with Professors Ian Press and Michael Gold about Georgia; and have been privileged to meet Peter Nasmyth, a leading British expert on the country, on two occasions. Tamar Nadiradze had cheerfully provided beautiful art work for my website9 and Manana Gelashvili, a Professor at Tbilisi State University, has been a true Georgian aunt of great discretion whenever I have needed her. And although it has not impinged on this work, Vardi Tvaladze has given me a great insight into some elementary things in Georgian.

Steve Jobs' philosophy of presentations, which includes the idea of a ten-minute barrier for concentration in a typical audience, may be accessed at 9 loc cit. where my first essay about Bolnisi Third School, 'One School in Georgia' and the television report about our summer school made by Bolneli Television in July 2011 may be accessed


My joyous, serene, enthusiastic students could only be found here in Georgia.

Brainstorming with the Fifth Class. They were able to follow the logic of these examples and pronounce almost all the words many of which they had not seen before correctly.


Zauri, school caretaker, takes down the flag on Friday afternoon Following page: Brainstorming, Part Two; and the vowel wall



List of Illustrations
1 Front cover: Evening Sky, Bolnisi, Kvemo-Kartli 2 Title page: Landscape near Rachisubani, near Bolnisi, Kvemo-Kartli 3 Title page: Eurasian Hoopoe 4 Fifth century carvings at Bolnisi Sioni 5 Class Eight gets under way 6 Ani is actually studying Georgian,but for a while the others are quiet 7 Ana (second left)shows her usual diligence; boys in deep involvement 8 'Teachers must circulate' 9 Giorgi and Eka, apparently satisfied customers 10 Albert Einstein lecturing in 1934 11 Doug Scott on the South-West face of Everest 12 Red Army in Tbilisi, 25 February 1921 13 Milton Abbey School, Dorset, used for the film, The Browning Version 14 The gateway used in the film: Sherbourne School, Dorset 15 Oliver Cromwell, who ruled England very harshly from 1653-1658 16 During the period of Cromwell there was no king. Our 'Soviet' period. 17 Cricket at the time Terence Rattigan wrote The Browning Version 18 'Yorker' - for the fielding side the most desired outcome in cricket 19 Jvari Monastery, seen from the road near Mtskheta 20 Mtskheta 21 The wide open lands on the way to Gori 22 More lush landscape further on 23 Teachers on the bus 24 Green Monastery 25 Monastic Residences at Green Monastery 26-29 Icon of the Resurrection 30 Surami Fortress 31 View from the top of the fortress 32 Vardzia 33 Scupture at Vardzia 34:Vardzia: a city cut into the rock 35:Candles at Vardzia 36:Icon of Mary in Vardzia chapel 37:Queen Tamar wall-painting in Vardzia chapel 38:Queen Tamar (detail) 39:Black Virgin


40:Cave stairs 41:View from Vardzia 42:Borjomi typical architecture 43:Yellow house 44:Stone steps 45:Yellow house - another view 46 -47: Borjomi River 48:Composers'House 49:View from the forest 50:Composers' House - Gatehouse 51:Composers' House - Gateway 52:Restaurant 53:Old Kodak booth 54:Railway engineer sculpture awaiting unveiling 55:Plinth of Antanas Vikuraitis-Keturiakis sculpture, by George Tsuladze 56:Old wooden house 57:Old street 58:Much altered building 59:Street of dust and stones 60:A glimpse of Irakli Tsuladze at work on sculpture of Lithuanian railway engineer, Antanas Vikuraitis-Keturiakis 61:Borjomi River and one of its bridges 62:Another view along the Borjomi river 63:New apartments (under construction) 64:Iranian House (under construction) 65-66:Plans of works 67:Another view of Iranian House 68:Construction works 69-70:Views near park 71-73:Buildings near the gates of the park 74-76:In the park 77:First Blue House 78:Second Blue House 79:Hotel Victoria, Borjomi 80:Icons on Hotel kitchen wall 81:Railway 82:Mtkvari River 83:Bridge over Mtkvari River


84:Promenade 85:Colourful Soviet period tower block 86:View of Mtskheta - on the way back to Tbilisi 87:Michelangelo: Sistine Chapel Ceiling 88:Csiszentmihlyis Chart of Mental States and Flow (1997) 89:The Wright Brothers (1903) an early example of flow? 90:Igor Stravinsky: Symphony of Psalms (1930) 91:Bolnisi Third School: Nana Pruidze tutoring in the Seventh Class 92:English children preparing for a new phonicstest for 6-year-olds 93:Eka in complete absorption in Class Seven. 94:Class Seven enjoying a small amount of flow'. 95:Class Nine awaiting a showing of The Browning Version 96:Nana Pruidze: a classic study in traditional tutoring. 97:Time for relaxation: Khatia (Class Seven) spots a new challenge 98:Meanwhile the class has spontaneously arrived at break-out time 99:Class Nine (Nana, Eka, Natia) acting out The Browning Version 100:Enchanted Learning: These pages proved a hit with the Seventh Class 101:Enchanted Learning: Word grid. 102:Khatias response 103:Khatias witty reinterpretation of the word grid 104:Joining the dots 105:Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, Mtskheta 106:Lincoln Cathedral, England 107:Amiens Cathedral, France 108:Surami Fortress 109:Saint Grigol Khandzteli 110:Extent of Georgia in the time of Queen Tamar (1160 1213) 111:Monastery of the Cross in Jerusalem 112:Rustaveli presenting his work to Queen Tamar 113:The Vani Gospels 114:Queen Tamar portrait at Betania Monastery, near Tbilisi 115:Empire of Trebizond in 1300 116-117: Spontaneous learning in Class Three 118:Class 8 Ani,Mzeo 119:An Azerbaijani students representation of the sun 120:Colouring in the words from Dolchs list a synesthetic response 121-122: Sophiko and Salome reading dialogues 123: Albert Finney in The Browning Version


124:A weary and sighing Mr Crocker-Harris regrets the imminent loss of his position in the school(Mari) 125:Teona as Director 126:Teona, Natia, Mariami 127:Eka,Ana 128:Nana,Eka,Ana,Natia 129:Mari 130:Vali 131:Mari 132:Mari,Magda and Mariami playing the Porter,Wilson and the Prefect 133:7th May:First job,to renew the flowers... 134:The buzebis vaglave 135 and 137: Brainstorming with the Fifth Class. 136:Zauri,school caretaker,takes down the flag on Friday afternoon 136:TheVowel wall 137:Inside Back Cover: Macmillan meets Harry Potter meets Ali Baba 138:Back Cover: Bolnisi Third School



Michelangelo: Eurasian Hoopoe: Rajiv Lather, 'Flow': Oliver Beatson, Wikimedia Commons Stravinsky: Phonics: Marc Hill/Alamy;; Monday 4 July 2011,"Now they want all primary pupils to take a phonics test" Enchanted Learning: enchanted (reproduced under 'fair use' [ (para 2)] Illustrations 10-18: Wikimedia Commons [Doug Scott:] Chapter Five: Illustrations 30; 37-38: Wikimedia Commons; Illustration 85: HC Chan ( Hotel Victoria: Chapter Six: Illustration 89: Wikimedia Commons Chapter Eight: Wikimedia Commons Browning Version film clip: still from my video copy (fair use) Illustrations 121-122; 157: author/ (fair use) Remaining illustrations either acknowledged locally or by the author.