Varying Mentality

Peace Corps / Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Maybe I’m off my rocker, but students in Ukraine today tend to have a different mindset about school than I did when I was their age (cue fade into flashback).

I had a thought-provoking chat with one of the teachers at school today after our class decided they could collectively show up ten minutes late to class. I was quite furious with this partly because I was sitting in the classroom waiting for them (they’re notoriously late to English classes and their classroom where they spend their breaks is right next door), I even checked my watch to see what time the bell rang so I could mention it when they showed up late (11:47:21 AM). So there I sat and waited for them to trek less than twenty meters to the classroom. I heard them, outside the closed-door, discussing if they should enter. I turned and looked as one of them opened the door, stuck her head in, and then pulled out to close the door. She saw me.

Then I waited. A couple of minutes later, the English teacher in charge of the class shows up (she was running late to class). I explained to her what had happened and she went off to find them. They filed into the room, ten minutes late. Then, completely out of my usual character, I started scolding them for their behavior. They had excuses, but as far as I could tell, they didn’t match up.

The lesson proceeded with their heads hung low. Then, I got to do something I’ve wanted to try as a teacher but never had the opportunity. I held the students after class. They wasted my time, I explained, so I’ll waste theirs. It’s like what my teachers used to do if we disrupted class and wasted time (if I counted the minutes my Ukrainian students disrupted class some days, teachers would be complaining about their classes not showing up at all).

Then, when we let them go, I had the chat with the teacher which I found rather thought-provoking. She explained to me how it was a Ukrainian mentality (and asked if Americans had the same) to miss a class as a group to keep the class at the same level. One person suggested that they don’t enter the class, the class agrees and thus were late.

If anyone had suggested that to me back in school, I would have laughed at them and entered the room as I was supposed to. I was at school to learn. It’s the American mentality of the individual good and I was reading how things like that are holding American schools back, among other things. Is the Ukrainian mindset better? Maybe, but that doesn’t mean I agree with it. Even after a year and a half at this, I’m still not used to things I guess.

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