Thursday, October 6, 2011

Ziua Profesorului (Teacher's Day)

Where do I begin? First I would like to point out that Moldovan schools are a lot different than American schools in the way that they do not have many school celebrations and holidays. In American schools there are days off every other week for some holiday or for a teacher resource day. But in contrast, for the past month I have been working we have had five days a week of school each week.

However, October 5th changed everything.

The day was ostensibly different from the beginning with the 12th form students standing outside the doors to the school clapping as teachers entered the building. Once you are inside the real fun begins as a representative from the classes you teach will approach you in your classroom and offer you a flower and a gift, along with words of encouragement. I pushed my luck by making my students say it in English and for the most part it sounded a bit like, "Congratulations for Teacher's Day. Here is a gift from the ___th grade to show our appreciation. Be happy, healthy and have many more years." But the real question is what did I get? Well an agenda, a coffee mug, a set of shot classes, and a bottle of sparkling wine with chocolates that have alcohol high on the list of ingredients. It is fairly awkward receiving alcohol as a gift from your students even if it is the 12th grade class, at least from my American perspective.

But the round of applause and being showered with gifts and flowers is only the beginning. To make the day as enjoyable as possible teachers are not expected to teach, however, the ministry of education requires that a very detailed plan be submitted that shows what lesson will be taught on which day. So the lesson still needs to be taught. To circumvent this predicament the teachers select their best pupil from the 12th grade class to be their replacement for the day. The students are given the lesson plans for all of the classes and left to fend for themselves. When I first heard about this I thought it was a great idea…then I begin to consider how the school would function on a day with 12th formers leading the classes. I pictured chaos and confusion everywhere, or at least being concealed behind closed classroom doors. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that the whole school was actually quieter than it is usually and even though I cant speak for the other classes I do know that my 12th grader replacement really did teach the lesson as we had planned them… or at least she was when I popped my head in the class room every once in a while throughout the day.

So if the teachers are not teaching, what are they doing? Eating of course. Around 2nd period all of the teachers came together for a masa (feast, but literally means table). The table was set with grapes, bananas, tangerines, salami on bread, and cake with a plate and teacup for every teacher. Little did I know this was merely a snack…

After the masa the teachers sort of lounge around the school talking in any open classrooms or congregating in the main office. Talking after a while can start to be monotonous so it was with great relief that we all welcomed the end of fifth period which apparently was the last class of the day. Next on the schedule of events was an assembly in the cafeteria/auditorium as organized by the 12th grade class. It mainly consisted of prewritten speeches and singing. What I was not prepared for was when the 12th graders left the front of the room and each one grabbed a teacher and brought them to the front of the room. I was collected by the same 12th former who taught my classes but I wasn't sure if this was pure coincidence or how it was supposed to happen. To my extreme displeasure music began to play and everyone began to waltz around the room with their new partner. I started to have a panic attack as my 12th former tried to lead me in a two step dance. *This is my nightmare*

Thankfully it was a short song and no one happened to be recording the event.

After the assembly all of the students leave and all of the teachers have another masa. This time it was a real masa. Mashed potatoes, cabbage, sausage, salad, fruit, fish, and dessert. In addition there was also juice, carbonated water, wine (homemade), and vodka (store-bought and homemade). After the meal was starting to come to a close some of the men stood up and grabbed a bottle of whatever beverage was closest and went around making sure no ones glass was empty. My host mother started to give me signs that we would be leaving soon and I was quite ready to relax at home…however, getting ready to leave is quite different than actually leaving. I had forgotten one key part of every masa that needs to be attended to before the masa can end and before anyone can go home. That is of course the hora.

If you do not know the hora is a dance conducted by a large group of people holding hands and forming a circle. It is a pretty easy dance and even though I tried to get out of it I ended up participating and I might even say that I wasn't half bad. Though you would have to be completely two footed to not be able to hora. Basically everyone takes one step to the left, three steps to the right, one to the left and so on and so forth. Depending on the the skill level of the group the steps can be more like hops and can proceed at a lightning pace with the added bonus of an occasional twist in the routine by various people emitting a sharp yepping yell and all the people in the circle proceeding to move to the center of the circle and back out again. Another key point to remember is that the hora is never really over. It just sort of pauses for a while, the music will end (after a good 6 minutes of nonstop hora-ing) and everyone will stop dancing and at first glance it will appear that everyone is ready to go home…that is until the music starts up again and everyone rejoins hands as quickly as possible and the hora resumes as before. This is repeated another three or four times depending on when someone happens to unplug the speakers before the next song starts.

Eventually I did make it home but after a such a long day I had no intentions of writing a blog post so you are reading this a day late. Now that I am reviewing the size of this blog post I know I made the right decision by waiting until today to write it.

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