Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Russian teacher's wisdom

Valentina is not your typical substitute teacher.

She fills in for other teachers, but she is actually quite experienced and the author of our textbook.

Today I had planned to do a presentation that was originally due Monday. Somehow our presentations have a habit of being postponed. This time, my classmate had agreed to help, and even brought her elephant prop (long story).

But when we walked into class, there was Valentina, instead of our regular teacher. And she quickly got down to business. She has a great sense of humor, and I enjoy her teaching style.

Here is one Valentina-ism:

She was putting the word “bench” into context. +/-

“In St. Petersburg, the mayor ordered that metal benches be put in at the bus stops. They used to be wooden, but now they’re metal. The first reason is that no one sits on metal. This way, they keep moving instead of loitering. The second reason is that no one will be able to break them.”

Meanwhile, we had a 10-minute break and Valentina and I were alone in the room.

“What church do you attend?” she asked. I can’t remember when I told her that I attend church.
“It’s a Russian Protestant church,” I said.
“We meet in one of the rooms of the Christian university. We don’t have our own building.”

After that, we had a moment of confusion. She asked how my church differed from a regular Protestant church; I said it didn’t. She asked why we couldn’t just meet in the same building as other Protestants, who do have a building. I described our weekly meetings and tried to explain that we have a common faith, but still have separate fellowships. To me it seems odd that Orthodox believers can just pop in to any Orthodox church when they feel a need to attend. It makes Protestantism sound more rigid that we are bound to a certain time and place. To me, the relationships are obviously important, as well as the idea of accountability. If you attend different congregations, who will know how you’re really doing spiritually?

But still, it made me think.


  1. V.........................November 12, 2009 at 7:06 AM

    Fascinating. I read this post with an utter amazement. Thank you.

  2. V.........................November 12, 2009 at 7:08 AM

    More posts like this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Dear Elizabeth,
    I am trying to do some research on the russian education system for a project i am involved with. You seem to be somewhat of an expert! would you be prepared to answer a few questions over the email?

    If so drop me a line on

    I look forward to hearing from you




Just added word verification to reduce spam. Nothing personal!

You’re welcome to leave a link to your own blog here if it's relevant to this blog.

Please make sure that your comments are 1) relevant and 2) respectful (i.e. no cuss words, attacks on individuals).

5 years later

 After my latest  weird dream sequence , I found my mind wandering to an alternate scenario where our church never split up . I did the math...