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An Interview with Maryam Hajizadeh, One of the Selected Tutors of Read with Me

Anything that I ever dreamed of as a child, I can find in Read with Me

Maryam Hajizadeh Noghab is a tutor at the Javanehaye Omid Preschool located in a small town named NoghabKhor which is a part of Ghaen in South Khorasan Province. In the First RWM Conference in November 2016, this creative tutor was selected as one of the top 10 tutors in this reading promotion program and won the Jabbar Baghtcheban Award.

Maryam Hajizadeh has participated in the RWM workshops in South Khorasan since 2013. She has successfully implemented the principles and activities of this project for her students.

Here, you can read an interview with Maryam Hajizadeh, the selected tutor of Ghaen from South Khorasan province, sharing her experiences and achievements.

Maryam Hajizadeh - Read with Me Selected Teacher and Jabbar Baghtcheban Award Winner - November 2016

– Introduce yourself.

– My name is Maryam Hajizadeh. I am 33 years old and I’m from HajiAbad village in South Khorasan. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Education Sciences.

– How would you describe the region you live in?

– The region I live in is a small town in the eastern part of the country and 25km from Ghaen with a population of about 1000. It has a cold and dry climate suitable for the cultivation of Saffron and Barberry. Our people are simple and not luxurious at all. Moreover, unemployment has become a serious issue and above all, recent droughts have made more and more people to consider immigration.

– As a responsible citizen with a degree in Education Sciences, how would you describe yourself?

– Since I work with children, I feel I can be culturally effective in my town. I educate families, friends and students in subjects such as the environment. For instance, I have always wanted to live in a town where waste is sorted in households. Unfortunately, all sorts of wastes are collected together each week. But, since I’m for segregating waste, I teach it to children. Some children collect plastic wastes around them and sell them to the garbage trucks. Of course, some parents don’t allow their children to do so because they think of it as a detraction. But I encourage this activity and tell the parents that this activity is also carried out in developed countries. I like to educate people and inform them. For instance, the teachers in our school, are not content with the new “Descriptive Evaluation” system. They believe that the grading system of the previous years was better. But I support the new system because I believe that children should study with an open mind. With this system, everybody thinks he/she is a good student and I find this important, because this way, children will study without any unnecessary concerns.

– When did you start your cooperation with the RWM project?

– I joined the program in 2013.  I don’t quite remember if it was September or October; it was the first year that Ms. Akhgari (the RWM project responsible of South Khorasan) and Ms. Ghaeni (the project leader) traveled to Ghaen and held a meeting for teachers. That’s when I got to know the project.

– What has attracted you the most in the RWM project?

– To be honest, the thing that attracted me most to this project was Ms. Akhgari, the trainer of the program in South Khorasan; she had a huge role in making us interested in the project. The first time that I saw Ms. Akhgari, I thought that she was one of those benefactors that come once and then vanish and leave us. But the fact that she never left us to do everything on our own is amazing and I’m so thankful for that. Her efforts and honesty really attracted me to the project. I thought to myself that these people have come all the way from Tehran to work for our children, so why don’t we? Why shouldn’t I do something when I’m with these children every day? Of course, there are other reasons that attracted me to the project as well because anything that I ever dreamed of as a child, I could find in Read with Me. As a child, I had read every single book in our school library. We didn’t make crafts at that time. No teacher would tell us what activities we could do with a book. These were my childhood wishes and dreams that Read with Me has fulfilled. Now that I’m implementing the project for children, I feel like I’m pursuing my own dreams. In addition, one of the habits of us, the Iranians, is that we don’t work unless someone supervises us. The fact that Ms. Akhgari calls us and follows our activities, encourages me to work harder and it gives me a great joy when someone is thinking about us from a long distance.

– How the children have changed before and after implementing the RWM project?

– Before the project, children wouldn’t speak out. In the Read with Me project, we perform plays. When children see something, it reminds them of a million other things. For instance, during the plays, when they see that a mother has punished her son, it reminds them of their own mothers and their punishments and then they can talk about it more easily. Verbally, they have improved a lot. Before the project, they didn’t talk much and they were more withdrawn and self-conscious. Apart from the children, the classroom was a little unscheduled. When I started teaching 8 years ago, I had a diploma and I hadn’t been trained. I was just given a license for teaching and had started working. Every few years, we would receive a symbolic training that we already knew. Actually, when I went to the classroom I realized that I wasn’t able to do anything. I was very confused in the classroom, so I started studying Education Sciences and at the same time, I joined the RWM project. After implementing the project, my class was more scheduled, children were happier, more active and more creative and their vocabulary knowledge had expanded. The RWM group taught us what to do in the classroom.

Maryam Hajizadeh - Read with Me Selected Teacher and Jabbar Baghtcheban Award Winner - November 2016

– According to the RWM experts, you have been very successful in implementing the project in your region and for your students. What sort of characteristics do you find in yourself for being able to perform so responsibly and successfully?

– I’m truly indebted to RWM. I learned a lot from them. The fact that I was able to perform this project is because of my tribute to the people responsible for this project that taught me a lot of things. Also, my immense interest for this activity and program was extremely effective. As I said before, I have been very interested in books and making crafts ever since my childhood. I had never made any crafts, but I really wanted to. I think that my opinions and ideas are in line with that of RWM. For example like the RWM project, I am for environmental awareness and reading promotion and I believe that children should be happy and enjoy life.

I crave learning especially in my own career field, teaching in Preschool. After my graduation from the university, since I didn’t have any access to the city, I was worried about how to get updated on new education techniques, and how to learn more about this field, until RWM was implemented in our region and it was just like another university for me. Of course, the methods of RWM was free from concerns about exams. I don’t want to boast, but I’m a responsible person. When someone assigns me to do something, I’ll definitely do it. Overall, I’m responsible and punctual.

– What do you wish for the children of our country?

– I wish health and peace for children all around the world, from Yemen to Iraq, Syria and Africa. I wish this for Iranian children too, especially for children in South Khorasan, underserved children and also for the children of my own town. I also wish for them to have an appropriate space for education. I wish that no child would ever be deprived of education because of financial problems. I wish that they all have hot water in the winter to wash their hands with. I also wish dignity for children and the abolition of corporal punishment.

– In your opinion, what was the role of the RWM experts in this project?

– All the experts were excellent and hard working. I have always been content with them. They were truly effective. If they didn’t teach us properly, we wouldn’t know what to do.

– How has this project influenced you?

– I have immersed myself in the activities of RWM. When I return home tired from work, I still find myself working with books, papers and cardboards. My children also read a lot more than they used to.

– Do you have any suggestions, plans or ideas for involving more tutors, teachers and even families in the RWM project or to encourage them to read books and promote reading for children?

– Yes! In my opinion, the best place for promoting the RWM project is the school; particularly first to fourth grade. We can send the tutors that have been trained by RWM to schools and perform the RWM project at least once a week. In the break time of my school, students from other classes come to my class, because they are interested in the activities that we do. But I have to take them all outside because I cannot manage the classroom that way. I believe that the Ministry of Education should pass a law regarding an hour of Read with Me in schools each week and tutors should be sent to schools to implement this project. I also think that a reading competition should be held in schools, towns and cities to increase the rate of reading in the country.

– What do you think you can do to encourage other tutors, teachers and families into reading and making them interested in this project?

– By establishing a library like that of the RWM project in each class of the school. Parents would be encouraged when they see their children bringing books home and reading them. I really like to do this in my school, but I don’t have enough time.

– Have you received any reactions from the parents?

Yes, I have received many different reactions from parents. For example, one of the children took a book home. Later on, her mother came to me. She seemed very happy and told me: “I took a look at this book a few times, and I never saw this baby in the background of the illustrations. But my daughter found the baby on every other page.” She showed me the picture of the baby that was playing in the corner of every page. My students had found the baby in the illustrations before I had shown it to them.

In the book “What use is a Moose?” the mother doesn’t let the boy in the story take the moose home. When I read this to my students, one of them said: “My mother doesn’t let me take my toys home let alone an animal!” After that, I found out that my student has an obsessive mother who puts his toys outside and doesn’t let him bring them home. When he took the book home and I talked to his mother, the mother agreed to let her child take a few toys home.

Last year, I lent a lot of books to children to take home. I wish I could do the same this year, but some of the books have been torn apart, and I have a few remaining.

Maryam Hajizadeh - Read with Me Selected Teacher and Jabbar Baghtcheban Award Winner - November 2016