It all started like a Far East tale. It was all news and facts but it felt like a fable. I believed and I denied. China, virus, outbreak, hell. Then Italy. Various opinions. We talked about it. The countries did not respond. No one. The quiet before the storm. After the virus raised its ugly head, panic started. Chain reactions.
A move to online teaching. A shock. Our technical knowledge was not ready for this. Not the pupils’ knowledge and not even the teacher’s. But we had to do everything all at once. We were bombarded with requests from everywhere. Everywhere! The school’s administrators forwarded news and documents they have received to the teachers. It was like the leaders tried to get as far from responsibilities as they could. The teachers slowly got lost in the labyrinth of orders and expectations. The pupils on the other side were awash with the freedom of creativity and expression. Some of them were always online. They thought it was a great opportunity to get better grades. Some of them had mixed feelings. They showed up. Then they got lost. They wanted to participate, get better grades but started working somewhere, started helping at home, can’t participate, no, don’t know, don’t understand, want it but won’t do it, can’t do it but want it. And some disappeared completely. If we just think about it for a minute how much self-control and dedication is needed for a child, a teenager, a young adult to plan their own future, to do everything with the thought of a fruitful future then maybe we can also easily understand why they are trying to do everything otherwise, easier, with less energy.
I work in multiple schools. In the first few weeks, I just tried to comprehend every document the Ministry of Education forwarded to us. I printed a lot and stuck it all over my workroom. When I had time, I read those papers. It was quite interesting. So many schools and so many interpretations. It made my job more difficult. A few of the institutions did things early, a few of them reacted late. Pick the students, create virtual rooms, calm them, encourage and teach them to do everything while learning new thing on the way. This was the absolute priority.
During the second week, I thought to myself: it will get quiet. We will move on, we will do our own job. And then came the all too blurry orders. It wasn’t clear at all, so it gave space to possible explanations. Learning and teaching became secondary because everyone had to be strict, to keep everything in order and to finalize projects. Even one moment of stillness became forbidden. Schools were like police states. It was suffocating.
On the third week, I partially gave up. I simply couldn’t understand all the orders I received from the schools. I didn’t even read them. I tried to focus on teaching only. Computers and smart phones were essentials from morning to night. Family became secondary. I only wanted to meet the expectations of the schools because that is where I receive my payment. It was all that defined me. I was nervous. My preschool children were bored and my older kids were in front of the computer all the time. I just told them, no, no, not now, leave me alone. My youngest child learned this quickly and I heard the same sentences coming from him even in the summer. I am still ashamed by this.
Chat groups grew out of nothing. They simply multiplied. Unimaginable number of people in them, who could write whatever whenever they wanted. If, for some reason, I did not follow it for one or two hours, hundreds of messages waited for me and I could not distinguish the important ones from all the others. I felt sick. Both mentally and physically.
I really tried to stay positive in front of my pupils. I still encouraged and praised them. But it was hard. I knew that they weren’t doing anything. They gave stereotypical answers, they copied the homework from each other, they did not think or learn. I felt that my job was utterly useless. I knew that I was right. The only thing that motivated me was the thought that even if only 10 out of 120 pupils did what I ordered them to do, it would be still worth it. I worked 15 hours a day for those 10 pupils. I created, researched, sent texts and tests and held online classes all while knowing deep down that they did not listen to me at all. I checked their works and I collapsed.
Then it ended. I tried to balance fairly between all those fake marks. Now even the parents had their say. The good mark was not good enough, they wanted better and they overstrained the argument.
Summer arrived. Summer vacation arrived. One day, I realized that something appeared on my skin. I suspected something bad. Yes, maybe it really is trivial but I truly believed that stress can cause an autoimmune disease. I got what I deserved; why I was so stupid; I received these comments and there’s a truth in them.
I live in a developing country where everyone expects the maximum from the minimum. I wanted to meet all the expectations but I failed. I do not blame anyone. I just want to thank the state, the Ministry of Education, the leaders of the school that they taught me what is truly important.
(Translated by Miklós Fehér)
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