Saturday, October 31, 2009

In Search of Sukhomlinsky: What did I Find?

It is already two weeks since I returned from Ukraine. It has taken me a little while to catch up with my work and family, but I am now ready to look back and reflect on my trip and what it achieved. When I left for Ukraine I was hoping to get some idea of the content of archives in Pavlysh and Kyiv, without having a clear idea of the nature of those archives. I now have a much clearer picture. I was hoping to meet with people who remembered Sukhomlinsky, and to get first hand impressions from them. I spent several hours with Sukhomlinsky’s daughter, including a five hour car trip to Pavlysh, and also met with two former students and a former colleague (all working at the school) while in Pavlysh. Finally I was hoping to get some idea of how much interest in Sukhomlinsky’s work endures nearly forty years after his death. I found several valuable sources of information on this topic. The following notes may serve as something of a road map for others interested in researching Sukhomlinsky’s legacy.

The archive in Pavlysh occupies part of the original school building, built in 1910, including that part which was the living quarters for Sukhomlinsky and his family. Its official name is the Sukhomlinsky State Memorial Education Museum, and its director is Zoya Yurievna Tkachenko. She runs it as a “living museum”, and teachers access the materials readily in an attempt to better understand Sukhomlinsky’s legacy. They are able to borrow books from Sukhomlinsky’s personal library and to refer to discussions recorded in the minutes of staff meetings. The museum’s collection currently includes 6690 books in Sukhomlinsky’s family library, 3154 photographs, 46 notebooks containing lesson analyses, 22 notebooks containing staff meeting minutes, 4 notebooks on psychological seminars, 12 notebooks containing the principal’s planning notes, 23 notebooks of school planning, 325 pages of weekly planning notes for extracurricular activities, 11 handwritten journals on pedagogical thought, 4 books of a manuscript anthology on ethics, 2 volumes of creative writing exemplars written by Sukhomlinsky, 207 volumes of books written by Sukhomlinsky, 38 volumes of students’ creative writing, 4 volumes of lesson plans, 222 miscellaneous objects and a growing collection of materials on Sukhomlinsky in the contemporary world (including some video material). Most of the school records are in the Ukrainian language, and most of the published books are in Russian.

The State Archives in Kyiv also hold a very substantial collection of Sukhomlinsky materials (Collection No. 5097, materials dating from 1944-1981). I studied the list of materials held in the collection, a 187 page document, with each page typically listing about ten groups of items (eg a folder containing letters from overseas, or from parents during certain years). The Sukhomlinsky collection at the State Archives includes his own published works, including journal and newspaper articles and unpublished articles, documents from his working life, personal correspondence, overseas editions of Sukhomlinsky’s works, and books written about Sukhomlinsky. I was able to inspect only a very small sample of these materials, as only ten items can be normally ordered on any one day. I also had to pay (about $3 per page) for the privilege of photographing material of special interest (such as a single letter from Australia). The State Archives are compelled to charge these fees in order to raise adequate funds for their daily operation.

A third archive is held in the Sukhomlinsky Collection at the Sukhomlinsky State Education Library, run by the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences. This library has a website at, and a huge amount of information on Sukhomlinsky is accessible via this website to readers of Ukrainian. This information includes comprehensive bibliographies of published material on Sukhomlinsky. The collection itself contains lots of archival material (3393 documents, photographs and video items) donated by Sukhomlinsky’s family. I concentrated on scanning photographs at this site, as I was looking for material to enliven my website and future publications. Materials at the Sukhomlinsky collection are on view in a reading room, and more easily accessed than materials at the State Archives. There was no charge for photographing these materials.

Apart from very valuable conversations with Sukhomlinsky’s daughter, Olga Vasilievna Sukhomlins’ka, in Pavlysh I met with two former students of Sukhomlinsky and one former colleague. Lyudmila Stepanovna Evtushenko was as student at the school during the 1960s. She showed me around the school grounds and told me about the creation of the various facilities there. Lidiya Nikolaevna Suprunyuk was a student at the school. She was studying in year 9 when Sukhomlinsky died, and delivered an oration at his funeral on behalf of the students. She took me to Sukhomlinsky’s grave to lay some flowers, and told me of her recollections of him. She said she never heard him raise his voice, that he new all 500 students in the school by name, and stood at the entrance greeting them as they arrived each morning. She said he never let pass the opportunity to give some words of encouragement. He was often to be seen in the school grounds amongst a group of students, kindling enthusiasm for some activity or other. Her strongest memory from her school days was of being chosen to attend an agricultural expo in Moscow.

The other person I met who was able to share her first hand impressions of Sukhomlinsky was Raisa Nikitichna Grishina, who is still teaching Ukrainian language at the school. She arrived as a beginning teacher in 1968, and worked under Sukhomlinsky’s direction for the last two years of his life. Because Ukrainian language was Sukhomlinksky’s own subject, and because Raisa Nikitichna was also involved in extramural activities which Sukhomlinsky directed, she had quite a lot of contact with him. She also said she never heard him raise his voice with a student or teacher. She often chatted with him at his home of an evening, and assisted after school with activities he organised, including evening activities for senior students. Such activities might take the form of a musical evening devoted to a particular composer, followed by games, dancing, or a quiz session. She said he continued to work with a preschool group of 6 year old children once a week till he died. She also said he had a fondness for the writer Zabolotsky, and liked to quote his words: “Don’t let the soul be lazy” (“Ne pozvolyai dushe lenit’sya”). It was clear from my contacts that a tremendous respect for Sukhomlinsky lives on in the community that surrounds the school.

In trying to assess the extent to which Sukhomlinsky’s ideas live on in the 21st century, I discovered some interesting facts. Local interest in Ukraine is supported by the activities of the Ukrainian Sukhomlinsky Association, headed by Aleksandra Yakovlevna Savchenko, a senior member of the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences, and former deputy minister for education. The Association works on several levels, organising annual conferences, which attract more interest each year. Members of the Association also prepare materials for trainee teachers, run experimental schools, kindergartens, colleges and tertiary centres. They contribute materials to textbooks, and carry on publishing work, including the preparation of bibliographies. They liaise with other Sukhomlinsky associations in Russia and China.

In Russia there is particularly strong interest in the Urals, centred round the city of Erenburg, where a former student of Sukhomlinsky’s, Valentina Grigorievna Ryndak, is carrying out a lot of research and promotional work. There is also great interest in China. I have collected a lot of material about Ryndak’s work, and the interest in China, but have not had time to read it all. I will be studying this material over the coming months, and preparing an article entitled “Sukhomlinsky in the 21st Century”, where I will discuss my findings in detail.

All in all, the ten days spent in Ukraine has provided a great stimulus to my interest in Sukhomlinsky, and enough material to work on for several years. As well as my article, I plan to edit video footage I have collected, and add subtitles, so that I can make presentations to English speaking audiences. I also have first editions of “My Heart I Give to Children” and “Pavlysh Secondary School”, which I will continue to translate as time is available.

This will probably be my final posting to this blog. I invite anyone interested to follow developments at my website on Sukhomlinsky at or , where I will be posting more material over the coming months. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to follow my journey.

Best wishes,

Alan Cockerill

Friday, October 16, 2009

On the way home - Vienna Airport

I am at the Vienna Airport and have just uploaded three photographs from Wednesday and Thursday. Although I have many photographs of children from the Ukrainian College and Pavlysh Secondary School, I have refrained from putting them on the internet, in line with Australian schools policy not to display children's photos on the internet without parental permission. I will share these with students and friends when I get back to Australia, in less public settings. At the Ukrainian College they have a competition for the girl with the longest hair, and I have a picture of the girl who won this year.

It was very rainy today, and I did not get to make a tour of city sights in Kiev. For most of the way to Vienna I was flying above a thick layer of cloud, but this was also very beautiful. It was around sunset, and as we were chasing the sun at a fairly high latitude the sunset continued for nearly the whole trip (2 hours). When we flew over the Carpathian Mountains the cloud cleared a little, and I could see lots of snow on the ground.

Now I have a five hour stopover in Vienna, and then a flight of ten hours or so to Bangkok. A five hour stopover in Bangkok will be followed by another flight of close to ten hours, and I should arrive in Sydney around 8 am on Sunday morning. This will probably be my last post until after I arrive back in Australia. In a few days I may make another post including some reflections on the trip.

State Archives, Sukhomlinsky Library and Sukhomlinsky College

During the past two days I have been very busy at the State Archives, the Sukhomlinsky Library and the Sukhomlinsky College. At the State Archives I photographed some very interesting documents from Sukhomlinsky's personal correspondence and notebooks. I found one letter from Australia (about 1960) and several letters from Akio Sugiyama, a Japanese scholar translating Sukhomlinsky's books (in English). I was surprised to find that Sukhomlinsky received many letters from prisoners, and visited a centre for juvenile criminals.

At the Sukhomlinsky Library, attached to the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences, there is a special Sukhomlinsky collection, contain many photographs and documents donated by Sukhomlinsky's wife and daughter. There I scanned many photographs.

Yesterday I also visited the Sukhomlinsky Ukrainian College, an experimental government school with about 900 students, who come from all over Kyiv. I was very impressed with the school, and took lots of photographs there as well.

Today I am returning to Australia. It will be a long flight (about 33 hours with stopovers) and I will not arrive till Sunday morning. I am looking forward to sharing my impressions with students, colleagues, family and friends when I return. Today I will also be seeing some of the sights of Kyiv, and should get some interesting photographs of the city.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Visiting the State Archives in Kiev

Today I went to the Central State Archives to see what was there. I was able to read through a list of their materials on Sukhomlinsky, and I have ordered some of them to look at tomorrow. The archives contain thousands of manuscripts, letters and published works, so I will only be able to look at a small proportion of it. I have ordered a selection of Sukhomlinsky's correspondence and notebooks. The list of correspondence is huge, including many thousands of letters from teachers, students, parents and even prisoners. I have chosen samples of these from his final years, and also family correspondence, and some correspondence with people overseas. I have also ordered some notes made for a trip to Cuba and East Germany. I will only have time for the briefest sampling of the huge collection.

Tomorrow I will also be visiting the Sukhomlinsky Collection at a library attached to the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences. This collection includes photographs, and access will be easier than at the state archives, which are very strictly controlled. I will be able to photograph materials free of charge, whereas at the state archives there is a charge for each resource photographed.

I was taken to the state archives by one of Olga Vasilievna’s post-graduate students (Tanya), who is writing a doctoral dissertation. She was very helpful, and even ordered resources for me to look at under her name, as there is a limit of 10 resources which can be ordered at a time by one person. On the way to the archives I took some photographs from a corner of Sevastopol Square, including the imposing grey building of the police academy, and some beautiful autumn leaves in a park on the square. Tanya didn’t want me to photograph her, so I cannot show a picture of her.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Unpublished Material

I have had two interesting conversations with Sukhomlinsky’s daughter, Olga Vasilievna, about the extent of unpublished material held in the archives. It turns out that much of the material I believed to be unpublished has in fact been published. Some of it was simply published under a different name than that which appears in letters he wrote before his death. For example he refers to Parts 2 and 3 of “My Heart I Give to Children”. Part 2 was published under the title “The Birth of a Citizen”, and Part 3 was published under the title “Letters to My Son”. Other material has been published quite recently. I was very interested in a book dedicated to children with learning difficulties, and Olga Vasilievna has given me a recent publication containing material dedicated to that theme. Olga Vasilievna herself has been very active in seeing that her father’s work is published in Ukraine.

This means that I need spend less time examining unpublished material, and can spend more time learning about efforts to put Sukhomlinsky’s ideas into practice in the 21st Century. I plan to write an article dedicated to this theme during the coming months. Currently the main regions where Sukhomlinsky’s ideas are very much alive appear to be in Ukraine, Russia and the former Soviet republics, and in China, where there is great interest.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pavlysh to Kyiv

On Sunday I completed my work at the Sukhomlinsky Memorial Museum, scanning about another 700 pages of material. I also said goodbye to the director of the museum, Zoya Yurievna Tkachenko, and to the local director of education, Aleksandr Vladimirovich.

I got up about 5.30 this morning (Monday) and was driven by Pavel Ivanovich (who has driven me to the museum each day) to Kremenchuk, to catch the train to Kyiv. We were accompanied by the principal of Pavlysh Secondary School, Valentina Fedorovna Derkach, who saw me off and gave me some sandwiches for the journey. Valentina Fedorovna has been giving me breakfast and lunch each day in her office.

Everyone at Pavlysh has been very helpful, and it has been an unforgettable five days.

I was met at Kyiv Railway Station by Professor Pustovit, and I had lunch with him and with Sukhomlinsky’s daughter. I am having a rest this afternoon, and found that I can connect to the internet by WiFi at the Academy’s guest quarters, so I am managing to post quite a bit of material today. I am also putting up more photographs. You may need to scroll to the bottom of the page to see them. Thank you Paul for integrating some of the photographs with the text.

The next few days will be spent at archives in Kyiv, visiting a school here based on Sukhomlinky’s educational philosophy, and meeting others who are promoting his ideas. Best wishes to everyone who has been following this blog. In another week I will be back at work in Australia, where I will show my students many more pictures from my trip.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Work in Pavlysh

I have been extremely busy over the past two days, collecting material to help me with my research into the life and work of Vasily Sukhomlinsky. I have also met with students from the school here, attending a year 9 geography class, where I answered lots of questions about myself and about Australia, meeting with members of the student club attached to the Sukhomlinsky museum, and attending a concert given by children in the primary school. I have a mass of photographs, and even hours of filmed material, some of it dating from when Sukhomlinsky was alive.

I have learnt that there are still many teachers and researchers in Ukraine and Russia who are interested in Sukhomlinsky’s work, and try to learn from his experience. I have also learnt that there is huge interest in Sukhomlinsky’s work in China, and many Chinese scholars have come to the school here to learn about him. There are many schools in China trying to implement Sukhomlinsky’s ideas.

I was overjoyed today to be able to copy hours of video footage to my laptop. It includes footage of Sukhomlinsky himself working with children and discussing his ideas, and also later footage of many former students talking about their memories of the school. When I get back to Australia I will try to organise an evening when I can show some of this footage to people who are interested. Everything I have seen has reinforced my opinion that Sukhomlinsky was a remarkable educator who deserves to be much better known in English speaking countries.