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.


Te said...

Hi Emily, I've been reading your blog for awhile now and thought I should say hello (I have this guilty lurker feeling). I found your blog on the ExPat Blog directory, after doing a search for ESL teaching blogs. Teaching English is in my plans somewhere in the next couple of years, and reading your blog is certainly informing! Anyhow, do you mind if I add a link to your blog on mine?

Brieggy said...

Updates? Updates? Please feed my insatiable curiosity!

Mike said...

Dear Emily,

Hope you are well. I just came across your blog. Great stuff! I am writing to you because my partner and I are launching a website that will be populated with cross-cultural information about every country in the world. We will be looking to the web community to help do this with all the information being available for free. I was wondering if you and/or members from your community may be able to help us out with the Hungary pages. We would love your input. Let me know if you would be open to this and I'll send along a brief questionnaire. Please also feel free to check out the website and become a member, it's free!

Here is a link to the site:

Thank you for your time!


Michael Landers
Director - Culture Crossing