Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Cross-Cultural Reflections on Professor's Day

October 5 in Moldova is "Ziua Profesorului", or Teacher's Day.  (Yes, the word for teacher in Moldovan is profesor.  As an American, it's great to be called Mr. Professor.)

What this firstly means is that I get lots of roses, sometimes gifts, many congratulations, and listen to many poems and a lot of prose about "The Nobel Profession."  Seriously, what could make one feel better?  (Okay, maybe societies that didn't continually cut teacher's pay, combine classes into ever larger unmanageable melees, and parents that didn't pull kids out of school to harvest...but at the superficial level, what could make one feel better?)

Secondly, at my school the way they run things is that the older students teach class that day, which means I don't have to prepare lessons, and instead get to sit back and watch students teach my subject.  Then I get some food and permission to go home early.  Awesome!

Though less stressful than my typical day of exercising as much magnanimity as I can muster while herding cats teaching the world's future leaders, it's no intellectual free-ride.  In fact, approached analytically, it is one of the best pedagogical learning experiences ever.

It's surprising how quickly as a teacher one can become caught up in the perspective from the front of the classroom.  Going back to sit in the kids' seat immediately renders teaching methods, personal styles, and subject specific information in a new light.  After watching an 11th grader teach nutrition using some techniques I myself used last year, it is clear I definitely have a lot more thinking to do about my methods before attempting that subject again.

Finally, there was this very intriguing cross-cultural nugget from the end of the day.  A group of my 9th graders had to arrange the following values in order of importance: education, family, health, career, citizenship, religion, liberty, and economic security.  This is what they came up with:
  1. Family
  2. Health
  3. Citizenship
  4. Religion
  5. Education
  6. Career
  7. Liberty
  8. Economic Security
In the notes scribbled to myself, I wondered:
  • How would we as Americans arrange this list?
  • How would I list Moldovan values based on behavior?
  • How would American values be ranked if based on behavior?
It's one of the most felicitous activities for cross-cultural understanding there is, so I'm curious to hear readers' opinions.  Thoughts?