Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Seize the Day and Get Rich

That's what Gandhi would want you to do. Just look at his famous quote that adorns the staircase at the school where I teach:


A carelessly hung Valentine's Day decoration and a lost "L" sure make a difference, huh? The message to "Live as if you were to die tomorrow; learn as if you were to live forever" gets quite mangled in the process! Unfortunately, a whole lot of my students are "New Russians" (newly--as in post-Communism-- extremely wealthy) to whom the quote makes perfect sense in it's altered state. Sigh. Try telling such kids to keep quiet in class, to stop taking cell phone calls in class (Their parents and friends actually call them during academic hours!), to do the work you've assigned and to treat each other and you with respect... Sigh again. Yeah, I'm *really* ready for our week-long Spring Break vacation next week. And that's after I missed almost two weeks anyhow from having pneumonia.


That sign has been making me giggle since mid-February... I finally brought in my camera today to get some pictures.

I ended up writing quite a bit more in the "Comments" section.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

lack for education among the wealthy...hmm wish I could say that it was different else where but it is the same here...students using cells in class and teachers having no rights to take them away...texting and getting answers about tests...really just growing stupider students...more dependent on things rather then brains...sorry that you have to deal with it too...happy spring break and that sign is really a good 'sign' isn't it. DebiP

garnet said...

How do the rest of the staff feel about this? Are they fighting the same battles or do they not care? I can't remember whether you teach in a Russian school or not but I'm thinking you do? Really curious about their attitudes. I guess we're blessed that we can take phones away from kids if they're in class.

Enjoy your spring break to the fullest -- and hope it will feel spring-like for you this year. Our spring break got dropped but since we had five (actually six thanks to the political problems) weeks off at Christmas and we get out a week earlier than usual I suppose I can't complain. However, about this time of year a break is really beneficial for everyone!

MoscowMom said...

I taught at really prestigious private schools in the USA before moving here, though... And it was nothing like this. The part that makes it so hard to digest is that I really, really like the director of the school--she's a wonderful, talented woman. In the end, though, the situation is what it is--and the privileged class in Russia is so different than it's contemporaries in America. When I taught in the USA, one of my students pretended to shoot me in class. He was immediately suspended. It didn't matter that the hospital where I almost delivered Katya was named after his grandfather. I think what also makes this harder to digest is that I'm teaching this year just to get back into it--for the joy of it--by the time I'm paid and pay for someone else to do in my home what I would have done myself had I not been working, I don't really make anything. That definitely lowers my tolerance... In the past, I knew that I was obtaining our health insurance for us, in addition to my salary (our only salary when Chris was in law school). All of our benefits. Now, well... I'm really struggling with this all. I'm thinking of making some changes... More on that at another time...

MoscowMom said...

Hi, Garnet & Debi--

I think the rest of the staff has just accepted it. They're glad to have their jobs. I'm the only foreigner working there... But it has to still be frustrating; some of the teachers were teaching when this country was the USSR and you NEVER would have had such behavior.

I should say that the director did simply cancel one of my classes--drop it entirely and replace it with something else--when the kids behaved very badly. It wasn't, however, one of my "core" classes--those I can't just drop. If I really complain about any particular child, he or she will be removed from the class (never would have had that at my previous schools in the USA), but if I complained about every kid that is disrespectful, I'd look like a fool and I end up with only two or three students in some classes!

I start to feel like such a failure--what is wrong with *me* that the kids behave this way--but then I see that other teachers struggle, too...I remember being shocked and so judgmental when I could other other teachers yelling through the walls or doors last fall... Now I understand.

Since I'm only there two days per week, I can't hold them to the same academic standards of a class that meets daily. I can't easily bury them in projects, tests... Every day someone is out sick...Often a third of the class is missing... And since one day is 50% of the week's lessons, we have to move at a slower pace... or do regular review (review sessions after school aren't possible). I couldn't commit to more than two days, though, since Natalia needed me home mornings,I tutor all afternoon on Monday and Friday, and I co-lead Brownies... The "two days a week" arrangement seemed ideal; I had been a stay-at-home mom for six years and I was feeling so rusty--but not ready to plunge in. I needed to get back to teaching in *some* capacity so I'd have a chance at a great job again when the time was right.

I think I keep remembering what it was like the last time I taught, when I felt such a tremendous sense of accomplishment and reward from my students' progress and our relationships. There was so, so much to make up for students' occasional misbehavior or frustration with administration. I had goosebumps at least once a day while teaching as I saw lightbulbs of understanding "go off" above students' heads.

I do hope to enjoy next week. Both girls are off, too. We've been thinking of what we want to do... Lots of blogging fodder (aqua park again, some new museums...).

MoscowMom said...

Just a little disclaimer. Chris and I know many, many WONDERFUL Russians through work and other connections; that goes without saying. It's why we're here. It's why Katya is in a Russian school.

Only *some* of the extremely wealthy Russians seem to be raising kids who have no clue about manners. And that really isn't the kids' fault... I think that's what helps me to cope with their behavior in class; didn't anyone teach them better than that?? Some of them seem pretty lonely, too...

It's too bad that one disrespectful student can have such a detrimental effect on the larger group.

As far as culture shock goes, I'm sure I'd also be experiencing it if our kids were in a Manhattan private school.

Tina in CT said...

I doubt if that degree of misbehavior and the use of cell phones would be tolerated in a good US private school. Maybe I've got my head in the sand but I hope not.

Annie said...

I don't know about the cell phones...but so much was tolerated in my children's public school...not "private" or anything - but a very high-achieving school in a university town. My son explained that in most classes he sat in the front row with the other "serious" students (and Aidan was not all THAT serious, unfortunately) while in the back, kids talked, ate, listened to their music, etc. I was amazed...but he said that it was a lot worse in the classes where the teachers spent the whole class trying to discipline those kids. I don't envy you, though! There - I figured that the discipline would have been a hold-over from the communist era. Too bad that was one of the things to go!

Annie said...

Just the sort of thing that I find endlessly amusing. Thanks for sharing! :)

Muddy said...

I'm not a good judge of what really goes on in American High Schools today as my kids are at home with me doing their schooling. I do know that my 17 yr old daughter only recently got a cell phone of her own and that is only because she is getting her license soon and I wanted her to have it when she starts driving (without me-faint!) She doesn't take it anywhere right now, not even to work when we drop her off. I have bent over backwards not to let my kids "grow up too fast" or grow up so very dependant on technology. They barely give it a second nod except to go on the computer on occasion or to play a video game on their DS. I hated that even their textbooks encouraged the use again and again (and at a very young age) to use a calculator for doing math. I rejected it beyond just letting them understand how to use one. I made them do all their problems without it until they got into High School Mathematics (algebra, trig, calculus type problems).

I think the things you describe would bother me too. I'm glad you at least have "here" in your blog to vent about it somewhat and share about a frustration you are having there with it. You give us, your readers, an eagle eye view of what life is like there as you share and I enjoy getting a taste of the culture you are experiencing first hand. Thank-You!

Elle J said...

Been reading your blog for 6 months. Found it when you made a comment on my friend's blog. Been hooked ever since. ;)

I have found lack of respect by "children" to be here in the US too. As a private piano teacher, I'm shocked what the parents allow their children to get away with in regards to lack of manners.

Sad to see that it might be a world-wide issue, huh? Some parents need to pull up their boot straps and get back to the basics of raising children with good judgment and respect.

Keep on blogging ~ love your site.

Anonymous said...

I find this conversation very strange. I have taught for 20 years in U.S. public schools with a majority Mexican, low socioeconomic, migrant, undocumented, emerging bilinguals. Although no class is perfect, I have never seen anything like you all are describing. I suggest using curriculum that is relevant to the students' lives, transformative, and critical. As Paulo Freire would say, "Teach them to read the world not just the word."

garnet said...

Thanks so much for sharing more information. I find it very interesting to read about the different circumstances -- and I do not think for a second that this is about Russians people in particular. You can get spoiled kids anywhere -- we have a hint of one or two here as we also have some students from families way, way wealthier than we could ever dream of being. If parents don't care about education -- as seen by calling their students during class -- it will really be an extra challenge to get the student to care.

I understand why you'd want to keep in touch with teaching and I hope that soon you'll be in a situation where teaching can become the joy it should be. Have a great spring break and enjoy the water parks. My kids would love that. I know of at least two in Nairobi but even in summertime it is rarely truly warm enough to enjoy them comfortably, believe it or not. There are advantages to indoor places!

Nataliya said...

Oh yes, I definitely understand. Don't feel bad, it's not your fault - this is a culture of "new Russians", and I'm afrad there is not a lot can be done to change that.

Enjoy your spring break!