Volume:1, Issue: 1

May. 1, 2009

In This Issue
A letter to the Readers
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Dear Readers, We are happy and honored to introduce the inaugural issue of THE RUSSIAN-AMERICAN EDUCATION FORUM: AN ONLINE JOURNAL. This international publication for professional educators is the child of two non-governmental parent organizations: the Moscow Publishing House, “Pedagogicheskii Poisk” (Educational Search) and the American non-profit, THE AMERUS EXCHANGE, LTD, located in Chatham, NY. The Russian publisher, Dr. Vladimir Lizinsky, approached THE AMERUS EXCHANGE with an idea and an offer to start an international educational journal online. Dr. Tatyana Tsyrlina-Spady, a Russian educator now living in the United States, and AMERUS EXCHANGE president, Jack Mc Gurgan, a retired school principal, enthusiastically agreed, and the online journal took on life.
Religion, Education, Culture: A Call for Dialogue
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The 20th century has radically undermined many beliefs from the past, especially an overall belief in virtue and in a human capacity to find and solve the most critical issues of this earth. The same crumbling of belief happened with a strong, optimistic belief in continual, positive results in education. This belief also failed long ago and was immediately replaced by gloomy and unmitigated pessimism. In 1949, shortly before his death in Paris, a famous Russian religious philosopher Sergey Frank, reflecting on contemporary European cruelty and violence “which just forty, even ten years before would be considered totally impossible,’ wrote about it then that “Recent events showed that the so-called man of culture – a cultivated European – had turned out to be a deceptive figure, an incredibly severe and morally blind savage who used his culture only to torture and murder people in a more ‘refined’ and skillful way.” Reading these lines, you would think that the philosopher remained in a deadlock of despair but he manages to overcome it and move ahead.
Education and Religion In a Close Perspective
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A person’s world outlook is one of the most important and complex results of an individual’s education. Unlike one’s attitude to the world or one’s perception of the world, this) world outlook always presupposes reflection, and it is always based on reflection on that which is rational and real. In this sense, a world outlook can be philosophical, scientific, and religious. It can combine all three types, or it could be anyone of them. Moreover, these attributes don’t necessarily contradict each other. They just have different foundations, which can either be in conflict with each other, or in agreement.
“And One Day Lasts Longer Than a Century”
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You are flowing as a river, With a strange name, And your transparent asphalt Looks like water. That’s how the poet wrote about Arbat. If you follow the flow of the ‘street stream’ and turn upstream into one of its tributaries – Starokonjushenny Alley, at the very end you will see an old four-storied building with an unusual architectural design. This is School No 59, named after N.V. Gogol. The school building, originally a classic gymnasium for boys, was erected in 1904, but the school itself was founded in 1901. The idea of creating the most progressive school in Russia goes back to the end of the 19th – beginning of the 20th century, contemporary with a new educational reform, a situation that is quite typical for our distressful motherland. The reform was supposed to be executed under the leadership of a newly appointed minister of education, Nikolay P. Bogolepov, who clearly saw and formulated the main drawbacks of the secondary school of his time
Expectations of a New Principal
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For a long time our schools have been dreaming of a new type of principal. Traditionally, principals excluded themselves from the realm of children’s moral education because there was always a vice-principal responsible for all aspects of curricular and extracurricular activities. Lately these activities have been transformed into pure entertainment. Until recently, we had to accept the fact that a principal could not dominate the sphere of education. The process of real education was left behind by the professional necessities of schooling. The necessity of caring about students was also left behind. Instead educators became involved in the process of “filling” the minds of future citizens with purely scientific information. Today, looking at the results of our carelessness over the last twenty years, we have come full circle in our understanding that moral education and character development are the primary professional responsibilities of our schools. We are back to square one.
The School Principal and Problem Management
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Faced with a lack of time, resources and information, every school principal needs to learn how to make important decisions quickly and successfully. This is an important skill even in those rare occasions when there is plenty of time, sufficient resources, and abundant information. One of the best methods for generating a variety of possible solutions for a given problem is through a “team approach.” This approach calls for the creation of a school management team of either volunteers or appointees and can include high school students, parents, and teachers who have specific skills or interests and who agree to serve on the team. Ideally, the team might include present and future school leaders or members who are interested in educational research, as well as, school department heads and other teachers.
Criteria for the Evaluation of a School Principal
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School management cannot be effective without a principal establishing an image that is attractive and charming. In his/her daily professional routine, a school principal has to deal with at least four social groups: students, teachers, maintenance staff, and parents. I might also add local community representatives. In other words, the social arena of a principal’s activities is wide and diverse. This makes it even more difficult to preserve one’s image as charming and powerful. Many school principals have realized this complexity and turned serious attention to the process of remaking their own images. A well-crafted image will definitely help any principal to re-establish himself in the school and community environment, as well as building personal relationships with teachers, children, and parents. Such an image will certainly help to reaffirm one’s professional reputation and personal authority.
Is It Easy to Be a School Principal?
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It is easy to be a school principal only on two conditions: if you love children and if you are not afraid of authorities. To love children means to trust them, to treat them as equals. When I say, equal, I do not mean equality in knowledge and experience, but rather treating students as equal human beings, whose life is ahead of them, who are smarter than we are, and who are quick-witted. My age allows me to ask a question: “What can I give them for the future?” I am asking this because our common future will be exactly the way our children will make it. Our mission is to help them think of this future but not build it for them.
A School Principal and His Team
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A few years ago, a group of teachers and vice principals from Estonia visited our school. They were a group of educators, primarily interested in pursuing a future career as school principals. Considering that I had a great deal of school principalship experience, one of the visitors asked me the question: “What qualities should a school principal possess to create a really good school? Please formulate these qualities precisely and briefly.” I answered: “To create a really good school it does not require much from a principal. One should have smart and talented people around oneself (in some ways smarter and more talented than the principal) and give them a direction. Then, all the principal’s plans will be fulfilled, even better than one expected.” Certainly, my “simple” answer was sly enough. On the one hand, in real life this short formula contains a huge amount of work for a school principal, work that is full of deep insights and that is not easy at all. On the other hand, my answer was absolutely truthful but quite vague.
Managing a School: Snapshot of a Principal's Week
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This article provides “snapshots” of a Russian school principal’s week. Included in the article are descriptions of school activities and meetings within the school and in the community. These descriptions provide a candid view of this writer’s management style. If you are not an experienced principal, prepare yourself for an exhausting whirlwind of action. Here are the entries from my diary for last week. I would like to share them with you. Let’s think of my notes as individual photographs. With that understood, dear friends, sit back and relax for you are going to have an intimate look at this principal’s photo album.
School of Practical Humanism: Program of Development for 2006-2010
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Our idea is to create an open educational environment that will challenge and support the socio-political development of all students, their parents and their teachers, as well as stimulate growth and broaden their world outlook. This task should be completed within the value system of so-called "practical humanism." When we use the term, "an open educational environment," we mean such a school culture where all four primary processes: teaching, educating, socializing, and becoming mature, are balanced and kept in harmony. Openness of the educational environment means putting the school into active cooperation with other Moscow social institutions.
About the Project
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My First Paragraph

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