A day in the life of ... Teodora Cimpean

20th December 2013 at 00:00
Working in a special school in Transylvania, Romania, keeps this teacher on her toes all day. Few of the students' parents encourage them to value their education, so it can be an uphill struggle

I wake up just before 6.30am and turn off the alarm because my three-year-old son is still asleep. I have 30 minutes to myself. I listen to the news on the radio for a few moments, but there's no time to linger.

My six-year-old daughter wakes up in the room next door, and my mother gets her ready for school while I take care of my son. I consider myself lucky to have my parents around to help me, especially in the mornings. Although my son is half asleep, he notices that I have prepared a different T-shirt for today and asks for the one with the green dinosaur. There's no point in arguing - he always wins.

On my journey to work, I see some familiar faces and smile at them. When I arrive at CSEI special school in Alba Iulia, someone runs to open the door for me before I even get to it. Most of the students are happy to see me, even if it's just to say hello.

Before long, it's time for my first class. They are the noisiest. It has been more than two months since the start of this school year, and they still haven't got used to it. The first thing they say is: "We're not going to write anything today, are we?" I smile and carry on. Most of the children have mild or moderate disabilities: dyslexia, dysgraphia, speech disorders. Many have behaviour-related problems and have been expelled from other schools.

Sometimes the lesson is compromised from the very beginning because of some unsettled feud between them. It is not always easy to calm them down. And then they ask for something to write with because their pens and pencils have somehow vanished into thin air. About halfway through the lesson, someone suddenly remembers a funny thing that happened the other day and they feel the urge to tell the rest of the class about it. But eventually, even the most reluctant children will have written a few words. I use posters and coloured pencils because we don't have English textbooks for students with special educational needs.

Each class has 10 to 15 students and sometimes brothers and sisters learn together. I'm fully aware of the problems they have at home because I talk to the principals of their previous schools. Very few of the students have parents who encourage them to pursue education. This is a big issue, especially for girls of Roma ethnicity, who sometimes drop out of school without any basic skills. We try to explain to them the benefits of having a degree or at least basic qualifications, but they don't seem to understand. It is frustrating to watch them pay no attention.

After my classes, I spend a couple of hours doing work for our multilateral school partnership and preparing lessons for tomorrow. Being a mother of two is also a full-time job and I have very little time for myself. Late in the evening, I read or listen to podcasts to improve my skills.

At the end of the day, I'm tired but happy. It's not easy being a teacher but I can't imagine doing anything else. Practice makes perfect, and tomorrow is always a chance for me to prove that theory.

YOUR DAY

Do you want to tell the world's teachers about your working day, the unique circumstances in which you teach or the brilliance of your class? If so, email richard.vaughan@tes.co.uk

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