I have been a teacher for more than 20 years in my home town in Romania. I teach English at Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu National College in Buzau. Out of habit, I wake up at 6am, even though my classes start later than usual on a Friday. This morning it is raining and a strong wind is blowing; our climate is one of the many things touched by the Siberian influence.
I make coffee and hot cheese sandwiches for myself and my husband. We chat about our garden: it is an obsession of mine to have at least 10 new plants each spring.
After breakfast, I pile up the materials for school, dress and leave. It is only a 10-minute walk to work. Next to my school there is a copy center where I can pay for some copies for my students. Sometimes we need to because the state does not have enough money for extra materials.
When I arrive at the school gate, I greet the civil guardian, who is hired by the municipality to maintain order. Parents and other visitors to the school show their ID and their data is written down before they can enter. I reach the teachers’ room, and chat with a fellow teacher about a recipe for zacusca (vegetable spread).
At 9:20am the first bell rings and the room begins to fill – 10 minutes later the second bell rings for class. Today I have chosen the topic of money management, as my students are in their senior year. Next summer, they will be in Bucharest or another city, and for the first time their spending will be unsupervised. They seem to know the basics – let’s hope that the practice will be as good as their understanding of the theory.
When the bell rings an hour later, I walk to another building for my remaining classes. The 5th graders (aged 10-11) are a handful – they ask tons of questions and I come out exhausted. I refill my coffee cup to recharge for the last two hours.
Next I have the 11th graders (aged 16-17). They are more mature and everything goes according to plan – except for the occasional vocabulary questions and puns they make to show off. They are a bilingual studies class and, rewardingly, are interested in my subject.
By 1:30pm I finish my regular classes and it’s time for the debate club, which I run with a colleague. We help the students to be better public speakers and prepare for the regional tournament (or national if we pass). Today only three students show up, as the rest are preparing for the county Olympiads in French and geography.
In Romania, we still have that hangover from the communist years: competition in everything. And because schools are rated on all results – entrance exams, graduation exams, Olympiads, contests at national level – our school is fighting for the best positions.
I go home at 3:30pm and have lunch alone, because my husband has already eaten. As it’s the weekend, I don’t have to think too much. I can relax and admire my plants.
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