Tag Archives: students

Nose Picking = Socially Acceptable

Let me just plainly state that there are a plethora of differences between Moldovan kids and American kids. However, there are a few differences in particular that I never really do get used too.

Moldovan kids don’t have ANY problems picking their nose. In fact, I’ve seen some adults do it without shame as well. I was sitting next to an older woman on the bus who started picking her nose, and I looked over in astonishment. I was amazed that she was openly doing this like nothing was wrong. And you know what…Not one person gave it a second look, second thought or anything. It was just me, completely unsettled that I had to sit next to this nose picking woman. Needless to say, I was GREATLY offended. Why? Because I’m American and in America nose picking  is NOT acceptable (at least not in public).

However, I’ve taught my students about how germs are spread and how important it is to keep our hands clean and to cover our nose and mouth properly etc… And for the most part, I have seen a difference in the way my students now cover their coughs and sneezes.

But,  THE NOSE PICKING is outrageous! The part that blows me away is that it is considered socially acceptable. Kids don’t make fun of other kids because they pick their nose. They don’t get grossed out by it and move away or tell the teacher. Students are not ostracized at ALL for nose picking. In America, if a kid gets caught picking his nose in class, he’s bound to be the butt of every joke for the rest of the day. I AM NOT saying that I think this is a good thing. To be honest, I don’t think any child should be ostracized for anything. I’m simply making an observation that in Moldova… A kid won’t be bullied for digging for gold. And being the semi-germaphobe that I am…It grosses me out.

In fact, today this 6th grader named Mihai was picking his nose instead of writing down his notes. I told Mihai that it is important to have “clean hands” and not to put his hands in his nose. He laughed and continued while the girls next to him laughed as well. That’s when I realized: I’m the only person in this entire school who has a problem with nose picking.

In Moldova, it’s okay for students/people to wear the same clothes (I mean the EXACT same outfit for an entire week). I’m actually really happy that this is acceptable here considering the poverty level of most families. Kids don’t have to worry about having a big wardrobe, because most of the students have one. In fact, if you have a really cute outfit that you wear all week, it is just as cute on Friday as it was on Monday, by Moldovan standards. However, you will be made fun of if your clothes are considered dirty for one reason or another. Many times this label is a reflection of the family the students come from. A good/clean family vs. a bad/dirty family. The labeling is another blog post all on it’s own. In America, if a kid were to wear the same thing over and over again, he would also be made fun of. Or people would talk about how “poor” they were.

I would love to say these two differences point out how tolerant Moldovan students are compared to American students, but that is just not the case. It’s merely a difference in what is considered socially acceptable and what isn’t. In case you needed a re-cap. Picking your nose and wearing the same thing every day is perfectly okay in Moldova.

That is all.

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Removing the Cancer

The day started off rather mundane.

In my 2nd hour 6th grade class, only 2 students had their homework. Knowing that I had an amazing lecture planned for them, I refused to let it discourage me. After all, students not having their homework (to my dismay) is normal.

And yet, an eerie feeling swept through me as I surveyed the class.

Every hand was up in the air as the students begged for the opportunity to participate…Not normal. When it was time to take notes, every student had their notebook and proceeded to write with the utmost concentration…Not normal. To my surprise, the typically disruptive Dumitru sat attentively in his seat for the entire lesson, and then, he proceeded to show me at the end of class how he had written down every word!

“Doamnișoara Profesora,” he called, running up to me. “Look!” And I looked, unable to mask my elation I embraced Dumitru and told him how proud of him I was…NOT NORMAL!

Furthermore, Ion, a student from a “Vulnerable Family” had a notebook today. Not only did he have his notebook, but he wrote in it. Not only did Ion write in his notebook, but he participated in the group work, as the students discussed short term and long term effects of alcohol. Ion wanted to participate. So when other students complained about working with him, I harshly chastised them. I didn’t want anything ruining this sudden metamorphosis in Ion. After all, it is not normal.

By the end of the class, the students could tell me the way alcohol is processed within the body and what happens to the liver when there are elevated alcohol levels in the blood. This was supposed to be a complicated lesson…But I truly believe every student understood. Not to beat a dead horse…But this is not normal!

Fast forward to my 5th hour 6th grade class, I found the same peculiar (though appreciated) change in behavior from my students. Mihai, a boy with wandering eyes, who catches flies, and refuses to ever sit down or write, or pay attention… He had his notebook today. And like Dumitru, he wrote Every. Single. Word.  I tried to give Mihai a high five after class, but they don’t understand high 5s in Moldova.  And when I tried to show him he ran. HAHAHA! I really wanted him to know how much I appreciated his effort.

So I know you are wondering…What is this cancer I am referring to in the blog title? Well, while all the other students were behaving brilliantly, Adrian, a notoriously disruptive student, was on his worse behavior yet! In the beginning of the year, I appreciated and even welcomed Adrian’s energy. He seemed engaged, but towards the end of last semester and even now into the New Year, Adrian has changed for the worse.

“Adrian sit down! Where is your notebook? Stop hitting Dan! Write something down! I’m serious Adrian, STOP hitting Dan! Adrian, SIT DOWN! Adrian, move over here! You can’t sit there anymore!….” I repeated these phrases and so many more throughout the lecture, while my partner gave me a look that said, “Laquia, give it up already.” She is rather good at ignoring the problem.

But I couldn’t give it up. Not when all of the other students, including Dan who usually is much worse than Adrian, were behaving so well. My biggest fear was that if Adrian kept it up, Dan would soon follow and so would Mihai. It became clear to me, Adrian was the cancer in the room. I had to stop his bad energy from spreading. I tried to take the gentle approach:

Me: Adrian you used to be a really good student. Now your behavior is bad. What happened?

Adrian: I have problems. (Adrian said this with a smile on his face)

Me: What kind of problems?

Adrian: Life problems! (Adrian began to laugh hysterically)

Me: Who is your Diriginte?

The next thing I know, all the laughter stopped. My partner teacher instructed one of the good students to go get their  Diriginte a.k. homeroom teacher. By the time she came, Adrian was writing in his notebook and pleading ignorance. But after I explained to her the problem, it was clear that he was in trouble. Adrian was getting a note sent home that had to be signed by his parents.  After his Diriginte left, Adrian didn’t say a single word and even had tears in his eyes…Not Normal.

Apart of me felt guilty for admonishing him that way. I was once the problem child that was always being reprimanded. This is probably why I had been so patient with him up until this point. However, I had a truly great lesson with valuable information that I wanted the students to learn, and Adrian was the only obstacle in my way.

I’m not sure where this sudden change in behavior came from. Perhaps the theme was so relevant to their lives that everyone was interested? Either way, I don’t care. I only hope to see the same results next week…Cancer free of course.

However, we all know these things have a way of spreading.

That is all.

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Quitting The Students

Quitting is not the same as Quitting. ” My dad told me that my junior of college, right before I decided to separate myself from this organization at my school. “People quit things all the time Laquia, whether you like it or not you are replaceable.

The more I thought about it the more I agreed with him. People do quit things all the time.People quit teams, they quit jobs, companies quit employees and lay them off, people quit relationships…people literally quit things everyday.

Somehow, teachers are supposed to be different. Teacher’s aren’t supposed to quit students. Above all, they are supposed to be the ones that remain strong and steadfast. They are supposed to be the people that believe in the students the most, that show them a better way, the people that reach them. But…I am not a teacher…

Tuesday was a long day, but it became even longer once it was time to teach my last class of the day, 8th B. In general, 8th grade is a difficult age. When I was in 8th grade, I was bored in every class except English and Health. English I loved and Health was the one class that seemed somewhat useful. However, this class isn’t interested in anything my partner and I have to say. NOT EVER. On this particular day, we were discussing life goals. We wanted the students to begin thinking about their futures and the things they wanted out of life, something that is not discussed within Moldovan schools.

I watched my partner begin the lecture in spite of the chaotic classroom. How was it chaotic you might ask:

  1. Students refused to respond to questions, even when she called upon them they said “I don’t know.”
  2. Students would get up and hit each other and sit back down, only to do the same thing 3 minutes later.
  3. Paper airplanes were being thrown across the classroom. To make matters worse, they thought it was HILARIOUS when we confiscated them.
  4. ENDLESS CHATTER. The students didn’t even attempt to be respectful. They talked after we asked them not too, they talked after being yelled at. Ignoring them was to no avail because it made it impossible to think!

Thus, the classroom was chaotic.

My partner is really good about pretending like everything is normal and that we aren’t being made fools of, but me…not so much. When it was my turn to teach, the students seemed to get noisier. Instead of pushing through like my partner, I became enraged. I walked over to the group of boys who refused to stop talking and asked them if one of them wanted to teach? Of course, they said ‘no’. Before I realized what I was doing, I shouted at them “WHO WANT’S TO BE THE TEACHER? COME IN FRONT OF THE CLASS!” I absorbed their stunned faces and shouted “THEN SHUT UP!”

For five seconds, the class went silent. But then snickers filled the room from behind me and that’s when I realized that I didn’t have to be there, after all, I’m volunteering. At that moment, I said quietly (in english) “Fuck This” and then I left the building.

Here I am spending two years of my life trying to educate them on topics they would otherwise know NOTHING about, and they don’t care. It doesn’t matter what activities we do, what the topic is, they simply don’t care. And then I realize, it’s not their fault. The system is a mess. Education is not a strong value. People aren’t taught to empower themselves, change what they don’t like, or pull themselves up by the boot straps. They aren’t taught to critically think, or apply what they learn to their own life.  Health is an OPTIONAL course, and I am lead to believe that if it weren’t for PCV’s there wouldn’t be very many health programs within Moldovan schools.

After sitting and thinking, my partner calls me up and says we should ask the students if they WANT to continue with Health Education. I’m thinking…this is a joke right? Of course they don’t WANT Health Education. None of them do.

So we had a meeting. It was just us and 8th B. We gave them a choice…they didn’t make one. We told their diriginte (homeroom teacher) to talk to them about it, 3 days later they still hadn’t made a choice.

So today…we made a choice. I’m no longer teaching 8th B Health Education. Instead, I’m teaching 8th D. They are supposed to be more well-behaved class from “better families.”  To be honest, it doesn’t matter.

I learned something this week. I am a volunteer. I’m only here for 2 years. I can make this experience what I want it to be, and I don’t have to stand up in front of a class and be disrespected.

So I quit 8th B, because they don’t care and neither do I.

The good thing is that now other students will get this opportunity, which I’m looking forward to.

 

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