I was born in a big village not far from Chisinau, the capital of the Republic of Moldova. My mother was a kindergarten teacher, so it was no wonder that I chose to become a teacher too. I now teach English at Gheorghe Asachi High School in Chisinau. English was my favourite subject at school – I always believed in the power of communication, particularly in today’s globalised world.
Gheorghe Asachi High School was founded in 1864: it is the oldest school in Moldova. It’s also the largest, with more than 1,800 students, and is government-funded.
The school is located in the city centre, which puts it at the heart of many social, cultural and political events. It’s a Romanian-French school, with strong ties to French-speaking countries. Many of our graduates apply to various higher education institutions in France. English is the school’s second foreign language.
I’m very proud to teach here. Gheorghe Asachi is at the forefront of promoting national values, and also has close ties with Romania. The school organises cultural celebrations and historical commemorations to mark events such as Unification Day, which is celebrated on both sides of the River Prut, in Romania, as well as the Republic of Moldova.
I get up at 5:45am every day to get to school on time. Lessons start at 8am, but teachers need to be in school by 7.45am, to open and prepare the classrooms for students. The school day is divided into two teaching shifts, because we don’t have enough classroom space for all the pupils to be taught at the same time. I work in the first shift, which finishes at 1.20pm or 2.20pm.
My favourite thing about my job is that I can involve students in interesting after-school activities. This has been especially true since 2013, when Moldova entered the eTwinning community – an online project that allows us to collaborate with colleagues from across the continent. Becoming an eTwinning ambassador and running projects with schools in other countries has helped me broaden the horizons of my career.
For example, after lessons, I run the Book Lovers’ Club, where members come together to discuss interesting books they have read, share quotes, listen to visiting authors, or have Skype conferences with our partners from other countries. For several years, we’ve collaborated with Wyedean High School in Sedbury in the UK. We’re also partnered with Kyril and Metodius High School from Asenovgrad in Bulgaria.
However, not everything is positive. Moldova’s difficult political situation means that poverty is very high. Many people emigrate to find better-paid jobs, leaving whole villages almost deserted. In Chisinau, many parents now work abroad, while their children live alone, or with grandparents. This has a negative effect on their education and upbringing. Although access to schooling is free in all state schools, every student has basic needs that have to be met for them to be able to live and study.
Another problem in my country is the extremely low salaries for teachers. Young people don’t want to join this profession, and prefer to get other jobs. This presents a huge threat to the education system; if there is no one to educate the next generation, what can we expect from the future? Education should be given a much greater importance in this part of the world. It’s the only road to a better life.
Tatiana Popa teaches English at Gheorghe Asachi High School in Chisinau. The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities (bit.ly/schoolTwinning)