Assistant teacher, or police officer

By • on February 20, 2011

The target was clear – to do something with the Roma children whose families were moved out of town. Another artificially ghetto was created by the town’s municipality. The reaction to that came after 2 years: white kids would swear at the dark-skinned ones in the morning, and later in the afternoon the dark-skinned kids would beat up the white ones…Sometimes even parents joined in. Within a few months, police guards became daily visitors of the school. Since that school was not the only one in town, it started to have fewer and fewer pupils…white pupils. It was a matter of reciprocal proportions – the more dark-skinned, the less white. Soon the name of that school (one of the five existing in that town) became that of a “gypsy school.” My children were studying there.

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I met the headmaster by the school gate. She did not change a bit since she was my teacher at that same school.

Two weeks later, I became an assistant teacher for children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, a job from which everybody expected miracles – some instantly, some in a few days. The worst skeptics thought that results would arrive within a month at the latest. Ironically, nobody knew what I was supposed to do or how…

Methodical directives included a lot and nothing at the same time: I was supposed to prepare children for classes, cooperate with teachers, coordinate free-time activities, communicate with parents in their environment, assist the social officer, supervise children during classes and breaks and stand by them while they ate and along with all that to complete my university studies in order to be able to keep that position.

I was meant to do all that in 27 hours per week including some prep time. But after a week I realized I was behind and that I was working up to 45 hours for the same wage – something that went on for several years.

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I needed a month to find out that a “Roma assistant teacher” was an almost abstract term – the person should be everywhere where Roma children were. Whenever they noticed me they became quiet instantly – I could literally spread them on bread. Not even a word was needed- just one look.

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It took me about 6 months to convince only one teacher (out of all) that I needed to also work with white children in order to be effective. He was the only person who understood the reason of my work at the school. He left me some of his classes but I had to hunt after money for the activities I came up with. After that, the series of projects which I have been preparing started.

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After 2 years of effort, we had the first pupils attending a “zeroth” class (preparatory) and the number of white kids settled down. Actually, we even had newcomers.

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It took 3 years for our Gypsies to understand that I was not paid by the number of children attending my activity classes or by the number of dark-skinned children attending the school. While Gypsies were afraid of my influence on their social benefits, they knew how to damage my credit pretty well and how to hit the sensitive spot…

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48 months of my active and passionate work were required to face the first burnout – quandary and disappointment from not being able to help some children and families…Some did not want and some did not know that they needed help…

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6 years had passed when I found out that I did not want to help THERE anymore…After an unpleasant experience the feeling of safety had vanished. I could not trust people from that school any longer.

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There is a new assistant there – as passionate as I once was. I believe that the “fresh blood” will be able to push things forward. You see, I learnt two rules during the last 2 years: that working with Gypsies requires a new and more importantly a fresh person, and that it is necessary to leave before it is too late…

…in order to be able to return and work with our children, which I like so much.