Colegiul National "Moise Nicoara" Arad

Pages from the diary of a commuting full teacher

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Liliana Negulescu

“Petru Rareş” School, Frumuşiţa – Galaţi

I think I came into this world much later than mentioned in my birth certificate.

Maybe I was born on a break during high school. I remember saying to my deskmate  – seeing she was upset with me for having got bad grades in Maths one more time (the situation would have brought me a resounding failure on the 1st school trimester)- there is another type of school, a different way of teaching children. She looked at me with a distinctive courtesy, specific to a young pupil educated at Honterus, the German School in Brașov. I heard her answer in my heart :  she was telling me I was inventing a new system so as to seek excuses for my Maths failures. [Some years later, having graduated Philological Studies in Bucharest, and after the ’89 Revolution I had access to the alternative I had foreseen]

           Since my early childhood I realized I did not have all the necessary data to answer the question  „I want to become a doctor”, so when they started to ask us at school which profession we had chosen I simply answered „teacher”.
For me, Td is one of the crucial experiences, after discovering that Maths is not a field I am denied (A/N- years and years I had considered Mathematics a field of knowledge that took compassion on me).
One day, while being involved in the daily housekeeping, cleaning my house from tip to toe, I heard a fragment of an interview with prof.Solomon Marcus, who was saying that „poetry has predictable results, but it is written by the use of unpredictable means”. What ?  how could my mind figure out something like that ?, I asked myself. But, it was exactly when I was thinking of flying the white feather to all the incoming class inspections and give up my unwritten paper for the advanced skills teacher qualification, that the mathematicianʼs words came back to my mind.

            While reading and writing, I discovered that in my classes I had often recalled the “nothing is random” precept. I could not say when I started telling the children that all things are connected within our Universe, and that this connection is manifested at every turn and we need to see the connection between the things/subjects around us. And with each step, little by little, they understood that the answers to the questions I was asking in class were in their hearts and they had to be brought to their little minds. That is how, one day, we started our journey towards Knowledge.

            During the lesson on the verb I had the boldness to tell them: „In the beginning was the Word…” „Continue, please – I suppose you have already heard these words”, I told them. Those who recovered quickly continued reservedly, without realizing what I wanted from them. And the lesson about the part of speech that expresses existence, etc.etc, started this way. Afterwards, we had an entire class on the verb „to be”.
Some other day, I showed them that words have their own chemistry, pretending I didnʼt know they were having difficulties in Chemistry. I had read about this in the literature of specialty and since then I couldnʼt help thinking that most of the children were too easily lost. I naively asked for their help: whatʼs with the nucleus, the electrons, you know, it is something you find out about at other subjects, too.
The children in the 6th form were most excited when hearing I was interested in what they had learned in Physics about the frame of reference, about movement etc… We were in fact studying the poem Iarna (Winter), by Vasile Alecsandri, but a propitious situation encouraged me to dare, to search for other „ways out”, to communicate with him, the child.
For me, Td is that special moment when a child is smiling after I have showed him he knows, but he doesnʼt know that he knows and I have helped him to say it, showed him how to say it.

                The children in my class are not surprised anymore when I ask them to prepare a material about horses before studying a folk ballad entitled Toma Alimos[1]. In the country side, there are still children who enjoy telling you about their horse. They are happy to see you are interested in what they know about their horse, whatʼs his name, where he drinks water from and many other things.

               On writing my humble advanced skills teacher paper, I have found only a few materials and interviews with prof. Basarab Nicolescu. I have understood that the essence of this way towards Knowledge is Love.

                I have many such fragments to share, each with its own charm. They do not succeed as if they were part of an exact scenario. They are things I „bind” so as to be understood by the 11-14 year old pupil, using only what the pupil already knows, a village child, to whom I can say „look ! Now I show you and next time youʼll know; like they have thought you to prune the grape vine – they did teach you, didnʼt they ? – yes, madam, yes, yes”. And the child is happy that I know some things about his little life beyond the four walls of the classroom; he is happy that I know grape vine must be pruned and weeded and that sometimes I know how the old ladies at the church speak; other times I bring them fresh sentences heard on the bus, live sentences that we analyze.
Iʼve got the feeling, for some time, that a different kind of school is needed and – sometimes – the gates of a world unsuspected unlock within the four walls of our classroom; it is in fact right under our eyes, on the most common page of our worn-out Romanian textbook, because there is a non-Euclidean geometry too, and a different typology.
That school – wished for by the few interviewed people whose opinions I have read – is possible. Not through a radical change, but by communication/communion and the patience to learn in order to know.

                                                                        ***

         I am amongst those who feel that a different kind of School is needed, like my colleagues from the high school in Arad (whom I have just discovered). I believe I must share with you the fact that, in a way, I have a school of mine within the four walls of the classrooms. I donʼt use precise scenarios for this. The connection between things is revealed to me, a connection I donʼt know when I have learnt to see. I only show them that everything is connected. I have understood that the transdisciplinary approach is an attitude you can achieve only if you care and if you have managed to show a child that he knows and that he comes to school in order to gain knowledge, and not to be obstructed by you – the adult.

           When I started writing my paper on „Developing critical thinking by the use of lyrical works in upper primary school” I wasnʼt even suspecting what I was about to discover. It is not appropriate to say „at the end of it”, because I have the feeling that my paper and my way have just started. I should be able to continue with a module: Literature- Mathematics- Physics- Art and Music; but for the moment I enjoy that fact that I have found other ways out and that my intuition has not deceived me.

***

A lesson sequence:

      During the class discussions I realized that they – the children – were very close to the idea that the lyrical I is something in the flesh, something that does this and that, and who could turn up around the corner. I have reached this conclusion after reading in one of their compositions „the lyrical I is waiting for his beloved”, „the lyrical I conveys…”, or even „the lyrical I presents us” [on reading such sentences I smile to myself: „as if one would say “Warner Bros presents…”. That voice who conveys, within the poem, the poetʼs feelings, emotions, impressions, ideas a.o., becomes – inside the childʼs mind – material.
What is my duty, as a learning facilitator  I say a facilitator, not a teacher, not an adult who is in the possession of literary theory information. I consider myself a facilitator of the learning about oneself, in front of the child that I put in possession of himself, before putting him in the possession of literary theory knowledge.

     There are plenty of definitions of the lyrical I in our textbooks focused on aims. I was thinking about this while preparing for my lesson with the 8th form, where we were to approach again the lyrical genre. But this time, unlike the previous years, I had had the revelation the authors of the textbook had made a good choice by using one of Nicolae Manolescuʼs sayings: „For the poet, each thing has its own personality and the lyricism is in fact the unveiling of the latent personality of things. By personality I mean the mysterious soul of things.” And I propose: „letʼs read what is written on the green strip in your textbook”

      [Summary:8th form was once the 5th form; during our classes concerning the parts of the sentence we agreed that each part of sentence has a colour and, after having discussed the adjective complement, I wrote a sentence on the blackboard, and then took out all the words, being left only with their colour ; we compared a sentence that used adjectives as epithets to a sentence that didnʼt use adjectives,  adjective complements respectively; and we stood there and wondered before the colours.
During the 6th form we commented together, fearless, upon an unprepared text, at the first sight, in front of an auditorium of guest teachers.
Te memories about the 7th grade are mostly related to the transformations a child undergoes at that age. I listened to them, I understood them, I gave them the necessary time for the changes they were going through. I heard their souls, watching them growing up, developing, I followed more often the path of their sight – towards the window- and I used all these changes to teach them new things about the parts of speech, the parts of a sentence, about reflexive pronouns, understood by the help of the reflection of light in Physics, about the object using the perspective of the chemical reactions and then, the expansion of a part of sentence by using the formula „(a + b)2 „, telling them how many beautiful new things are expecting for us in the 8th grade. „You know, children, all things are connected within our Universe.”
As I had anticipated, the 8th grade started in a miraculous way. It was them, the children from the 5th and the 6th form; in the 7th form they have become and now they are in the 8th form].
The child is reading the sentence above (without knowing he is taking the test of the first glance reading of a text – or maybe he knows but he doesnʼt tell me that- in his turn- he knows what I am aiming at with this request/thought of mine) beautifully, calmly, paying attention to the words.
After a moment of silence between two stanzas, another child utters timidly: „Madam…(it was a moment when the child showed his wonder) there is a word…latent…today in Physics weʼve had a lesson on heating…” „Iʼm all ears”, I say to him. Whispering and fuss: some take out their Physics notebooks, others say „I know the definition of latent heat”. Dumbstruck in front of the natural way they are listing the knowledge from another subject, I am not making a sound, I show them my interest only through gestures; we have our own non verbal, paraverbal language, whatever you like to call it. When I put the literary criticʼs utterance next to the definition in Physics, “a five-minute essay” was born in a notebook, an essay that amazed me on that particular moment. Rounds of applause were heard in our research community.
Td is for me like flying, a moment of rise. One catches this moment and then receives, like a bird that is waiting for the right current to fly, a blowing of the wind. One blowing. The child can feel the flight, too. He feels he exists, he feels he can use the knowledge de possesses.”And now…out text for today is…” read this attentively at home, so that at out next meeting we can explore the lyrical text. And donʼt forget what you have discovered today. Maybe at home you can find something else to add.

Td needs an assessment. Whatʼs the hurry?
And yes, when the bell rings the class answers in a sincere murmur of discontent, as if saying  – is it really necessary to bother us with the bell ? The ones in the 5th form are even nicer, saying sometimes: „Oooooh, just as it was getting more interesting!”

And here we could start a discussion about „time”.


[1] Tr. Note: Romanian folk ballad about a hero whose best friend was his horse, for the better and for the worse, illustrating the theme of manʼs deep connection with nature and its elements.

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