IMG 2128

Me in the summer of 2013 aboard a yacht in Nikolaev.

In November 2013 I was teaching at "Park-School" in Kiev, Ukraine. I got a job there teaching English for several reasons:

1) I am dissatisfied with my job at teaching English in the evenings to adults, as it is doing the same thing again and again, over a number of years. It has become a limit to my personal growth,  instead of being an energizer it used to be in the beginning. I remember coming back home full of the energy which the students gave me in the process of teaching. Now, I have become like a clown in Charlie Chaplin's movie "The Limelight", i.e. not funny anymore, growing into a feeling of self-dignity. The number of my English students have started declining, perhaps due to my less than excellent teaching. That's like a comic who is not funny anymore: his audience has left him.

2) The second reason for getting this job was a search for an alternative education for my son V., who is now almost 8 years old. We live separately with his mom. She has sent him to a regular Ukrainian school, and, in a law-like fashion, both he and she have grown to hate that school. Why? One reason, I hear, is the despicable teacher. "She kills me", said the mom. I suppose another reason is the official state program which the teachers are supposed to be implementing in school. It is lifeless, as I have found out, teaching at the "Park-School".

The "Park-School " has initially attracted my attention about 2 years ago, when I was looking for an alternative schooling for my son. I was looking through an Internet page discussing unusual schools around the world, and came up against "Park School", in Kiev, as an alternative. So, I went to the presentation, which was given by its director, Yaroslav K. and his aide, Alexandra B. at the "Free School" in Kiev, again, another alternative attempt at education.

I remember 2 things about that presentation: 1) the director with his aid were late by about 1/2 hour. For me this was not satisfactory, as I have found time to attend their presentation in my busy schedule. 2) I was critical of the director, asking him several questions. One of these included the cost of attendance. The very low price which he agreed to was around $200 per month, or something in that region. At the current prices, this is about 1700 hrivnas. As I was teaching in November 2013, the tuition was 3000 hrivnas, plus such expenses as transportation (more than 400 hr. per month) and breakfast and lunch (more than 600 per month). Now, if you keep in mind that a porter at my apartment building makes around 1000 hrivnas per month, and a worker perhaps 2-3 thousand, then you understand that the public which is able to afford the tuition at "Park School" is no ordinary people, but thieves, and their descendants, who have acquired their property and position through the process of stealing from the state (former USSR) and now engage in some "business". At least I, as an independent English teacher, would not be able to pay such a tuition for my son.

The process of education is described at Wikipedia as students not going to classes, but choosing "studios". However, the dominating reality is the state form of education, and the need for students to pass state exams, in order to go on to higher forms of official education, such as universities. The parents demand this of the director, and director imposes the state program on teachers. The result is that all genuine interest which a student and a teacher may have in the beginning is smothered, like a fire not given air to breath.

I remember coming to the school the first day and taking my small class of 8-9 year olds outside. I asked them: "what do you like doing?" They told me: "climbing trees". So, I tried to give them direct experience, while calling things in English: "tree", "tree climbing", etc. I was naive. I should have prepared the students in class, giving them vocabulary, and then should have taken them outside. But I was eager to try my scheme of "object-oriented education", by which I mean creating objects, going places, and learning in the process. In other words: the task of a teacher, in line with thinking of John Dewey, is to provide an experience, in the course of which the students can start asking questions. It is not to "teach" in the sense of telling about an experience; rather, it is to provide the experience first hand, and then to talk about it.

My excitement did not last long. The students and I are too used to the idea that "class" means going to a class, to a room, and sitting down, and (they actually like this!) writing things, not even speaking. At the end of the first week the director told me that he heard that I was not following the state program, but rather playing games (in English), singing songs (in English), or watching cartoons (such as "Mowgli", kids love animals!). "This will not do", I was told, and given boring textbooks to "implement". Thus died most of my creative energies.

At weekends, I was torn by doubts: why do I need to go teaching to the school? I need the time in the morning to do my studies. Instead, I would be leaving my home at 8 and coming back at 4.30 (and that is teaching only part-time! Other teachers would come back home at 7 p.m., or even later). "First things first", is a good English proverb guiding the energies of such great men of Winston Churchill.

Of course, there were positive sides to teaching at "Park School", such as going outside in the morning, meeting new people, or familiar people, such as my wonderful colleagues, women teachers. But this cannot outweigh: 1) the fact that no genuine teaching process takes place there; 2) I could not pursue my research with a clear head. Coming back home tired from noise created by children, their energy, and tired from computer, from which I was trying to fish some material to make the boring textbook presentations a little more colorful, I could hardly study again with computer. 3) Stability? Well, it is #1 excuse for people killing themselves slowly.


My son wrote today, on a piece of blue paper which he was using to make a Christmas decoration:


This is a very deep statement, both correct and incorrect. "Work" is bad for it is opposite of "free creativity".

"Work" is for robots and machines. "Free creativity" is for humans.

Creative process is not always something clean and easy. For example, the process of building a yacht is difficult, harmful to health, and expensive. However, when it is done as a free creative process, when no person is standing over you with a "big stick", then it becomes engaging and fun. Similar for all other things.

How can we start making a transition from "work" to "free creativity"? Stop looking for "work", stop "working", stop "studying", in order to pass "examinations", etc.

We need to start doing that which we really like, developing our curiosity, ability to ask questions and seek answers to them.

But here we will come up against a hostile external world, with its capitalism and/or bureaucratic system of relations. This world needs to be smashed, through a revolution. But this revolution will not be started by the people who "work" (i.e. "workers"), but by the free creators.

And so, after consultations with the mom of V., I quit the job at the "Park School", seeing it as no real alternative to state-imposed imbecility called "education". I mean: when I ask kids "what do you like doing?" if an 11-13 year olds tell me "watching TV", or "playing computer games", something is wrong with their education, for they have found no creative venues for their energies and curiosity. Just the opposite: some of them develop desire for gossip, which, by the way, is what's practiced in their free time by the "teachers". 

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.