Saturday, March 22, 2008

A Gun in my Classroom

It was March 14th, Friday, and the kids were just calming down after the midday assembly (honestly, who the hell decided that an assembly was needed in the middle of the day? Why not either beginning, or end? But no, it was smack dab between 5th and 6th lessons...). The assembly had consisted of the entire school gathering in the courtyard to listen to some supposedly-stirring-but-terribly-boring speeches and presentations about March 15th (a holiday in Hungary, commemorating another failed revolution).

So it was the 6th lesson, I'm trying to cram a full lesson into a shortened 30-minute period, and I look up to see 14 pairs of eyes on me, and two heads bent over something else in the back. "Boys," I say, not even remotely sternly. "What is that?"

Their heads come up, their hands as well, and in their hands, a gun.

I had a flash of instinct fear, my breath hissed in, but I managed to ask calmly (somewhat idiotically), "Is that a gun?"

"Uh-huh," was the unconcerned answer.

"Is it real?" my voice going up just a slight bit.

The student gave me a somewhat withering look, popped the gun open, and showed me... I don't know, I can't see across classrooms. He was either showing me an empty chamber, or that the gun was fake, or... I honestly don't know.

"Okay," I dismissed him, "Just put it away."

But the interesting thing is: the whole situation, after my initial instinctive fear, was oddly normal. I wouldn't have been at all surprised if it had been a real gun. I can easily imagine, especially since this was March 14th, that some history teacher asked a student to bring the gun in as part of a lesson. It was just such a glaring cultural difference... fake or real, this student would have been suspended or expelled from an American school. In the safety of my Hungarian school, I was barely fazed.