Friday, October 07, 2005

Discipline, Kassai Úti Általános Iskola-style

So let me begin by saying this: although I don’t consider myself a disciplinarian, I think that I do a fairly- to moderately good job of keeping my students on track and (with one or two stunning exceptions) quiet. When problems arise, I’m not above asking them who their regular English teacher is and tattling on them. Often just the threat of me telling Kati néni is enough to make them shape up in a hurry (Kati, who is my contact teacher and a wonderful person, is acclaimed as the best English teacher at Kassai, but she is also known as being very, very strict, both with her own students and anyone that she might run across in the hallways after the bell has rung. I’ve “confided” to some of my classes that I’m scared of her too, and that’s the reason I can’t let them out before the bell, because Kati would yell at all of us. They all understand that).

So all that being said, today I had my 7th grade conversation class. This is one of my favorites, because despite their lamentable English, the class is only 5 boys who are all very enthusiastic and usually quite funny. Also, quite loud, which isn’t helped by the fact that we’re stuck in a little closet of a room. One boy, G., is this tiny pixie-like troublemaker who usually alternates between screeching in English and making animal noises at various decibels. Today he decided to be earsplitting. He screamed. He jumped around. I told him to sit, he scootched his chair around the room, or hopped from one chair to another. At one point, Julika néni, the porter, came into the room and told us we were being too loud. G. was quiet for 30 seconds. I threatened him with Kati néni, and he was quiet for a full minute. But then he kept going.

At the end of class, we opened the door to be greeted by one of the older teachers, who immediately lit into G. and A., another boy in the class (who was also being loud, but he’s always loud, and for the most part it was in English). Of course it was in Hungarian, but I definitely understood her say that she could hear him all the way down the hall and with both doors shut. I put my hands on my head and mimed a “what should I do with this one?” sort of thing. She marched G. and A. downstairs, me close behind. Vali néni and Editka néni (the other two English teachers) were summoned to help interrogate G. and myself. A. managed to make an escape at this point, but the rest of us (Vali, Edit, G, and self) were herded into the director’s office. She shut the doors. G. stood there, getting smaller and smaller and stiller and stiller, as the director, Edit, and Vali took turns questioning him, yelling at him, and talking over his head. What I did understand from the Hungarian: they asked what happened. He apologized. They said, yeah right. They asked what we had done in class. He answered. Edit, ever kind, asked if he found the material too hard or too easy. He said it was fine. They asked about his other classes. They talked about how poorly he’s doing in his other classes. At this point there was yelling and lots of “jaj, istenem” and throwing hands up and such. Edit turned to me and asked if it was the first time he had misbehaved. I gulped and said yes. They asked about his home life. It came out that his mother is in Italy, as a domestic worker there. He’s living with gramma. Because the conversation classes are optional, they asked if he really wanted to be taking it. He very quietly answered yes. Why? No answer. They suggested that he give it some serious thought, and sent him out.

The whole dressing-down lasted about 10 minutes, and I think it was almost more distressing to me then it was to him. After G. left, the teachers and the director talked a little more about his home life and how he didn’t seem to care about any of his classes. I feel so bad for him. I really just wanted to give him a hug and tell him not to worry about it. I think Vali sensed my agitation, because as we were both leaving the school, she walked with me a ways, talking. By the time we got to her flat and parted ways, we had gone over the whole situation and I felt a little bit better.

I guess at heart I’m not really much of a disciplinarian at all.

No comments: