It’s about to get a bit sentimental up in this piece. My wife is a special education teacher in the city and knows that some kids require touch-a hold of the hand, a gently touch on the shoulder to change direction, a squishy ball to hold when certain kids gets antsy. But here in Georgia it’s quite common for a teacher to hold a child’s chin and gently squeeze the cheeks, give a smile, and say something nice. The kids line up in front of Shorena so she can do just that; their large eyes smiling at the show of affection.
Older teachers, who at first glance might seem like a relic of the Soviet era-erect and expressionless-give a slight squeeze of the arm when the child gets it right resulting in a warm smile and red face from the student.
Each classroom has a dean, but this dean is only responsible for that class, no more than 30 students. The dean will visit homes, call parents, and ensures students are in attendance. For today’s geography lesson, the dean of the class was present and taking pictures. She is also the Russian language teacher that sat with us during the round table discussion amongst the English teachers. Like the geography teacher, although much younger, she is stern and expressionless. A young boy across from me, one of the 2 class clowns, was not paying attention as much as she liked so she walked behind him. He knew he was in for it, said something to his buddy, and turned red. She bent down behind him, gave him a hug, pulled back and gave that light smack to the back of his head telling him to behave (he giggled) and then hugged him again. She left her arm around him the rest of the lesson and the boy beamed the whole time.
This love for students is shared amongst teachers. The teachers lounge is a mosh pit of hugs, kisses, student work, gradebooks, flying sheets of paper, frantic gesturing, crescendoing voices, boiling tea, and empty cups of instant coffee. A room that should hold a dozen is bursting with 20 or so teachers bouncing between Russian and Georgian interrupted only by the bell ringer man who presses the button to sound the period. Both the principal and assistant principal are in and out as well as a steady flow of students waiting for specific teachers or handing work over or getting material for the next lesson. It’s utter madness. The only thing holding the room together is camaraderie, love of the job, and love of each other.
Today the teacher’s lounge allowed Shorena to hold court and organize our Supra tomorrow. We stepped outside to give her a good half an hour to catch up on the gossip, organize, and tell stories. It’s clear she needed that connection time after almost a week with us. She said she missed not seeing her other family.
I had wanted to create an “Ode to Georgian Teachers” with a series of pictures but I find myself too late on the draw with the camera. Moments are quick-a touch of the cheek, a pat on the head or back or even a just a warm look. It’s so clear to me that here, teachers love their students and their students love their teachers. To Shorena, her teaching is her life and her students are her family. The act of teaching, to her, is an expression of love…
We also went to a special education school which will require another post. The geography teacher started the school. Yeah, she started the school. Saved many, may kids. It’s a warm place filled with dedicated women and sheer love. No other way to say it. Shorena had to leave in the middle of the children singing and Turtle was a puddle. Maybe I even coughed a bit. In a heaping pile of gray concrete, crumbling streets, neglected post Soviet bravado, and just dirt poor conditions; where the future of its students may have been just as gray…here this place…this place is where every child can now find a rainbow.
Ok, so that’s a little cheesy. I can’t help it. You’d be a puddle too if you would’ve seen the stark contrast of this special ed school and it’s surroundings. And to know one human took the initiative to change the lives of so many. Sappy Brian OUT…