Friday, May 15, 2009

Small Town Politics

Four teachers at Brediceanu are retiring at the end of this school year, and they hosted a farewell party this afternoon in the school canteen. I happened to arrive a little late, went over to the 'men's table' and said hello to all the fellas. I went right down the line, greeting Mr. Muresan, Mr. Kina, Mr. Bancu and several other teachers.

The mayor was also there, so of course I wanted to make a point to pay my respects. Extending my hand to him I smiled and said, "Domnul primar! Ce mai faceti?" He looked up at me with a grim expression and refused to extend his hand to me. Instead, he shook his finger, saying "N-am ce discuta cu tine." I was not expecting this in the least, and was shocked that he didn't want to talk to me at all. I didn't understand what the issue was, but it was clear he wasn't in any disposition to explain. So, confused and hurt, I took back my hand and moved down a couple chairs to sit with Mr. Bancu, who offered me some wine and told a joke or two.

While I was sitting with Mr. Bancu, the mayor (who was only 4-5 feet away, mind you) went on talking with his cronies. I could hear him loudly repeating the word nesimtit (which basically means 'ill-mannered') and I knew it was in reference to me. It was quite humiliating, but I did my best to smile and ignore it.

Later on I discovered what this mess was all about. Another teacher who had apparently witnessed my exchange with the mayor explained to me that he was very upset about the grade I had given his granddaughter. She's one of my 6th graders. I had given her a 9 last semester because that's what she happened to deserve. Evidently, however, it didn't matter what she actually deserved. It's just expected that someone with important connections should get a 10.

I'm sorry that the Mayor took such offense; I had never intended to hurt anyone. The thing is, I give grades according to merit, not political connections. This may not be the way things are normally done around here, but it's simply not something I'm willing to compromise.


Lola said...

And you shouldn't compromise.
He's the nesimtit. Shameful attitude.
I'm really sorry you had to deal with this.

Dookie said...

God I'm happy I left that country.

Never ever ever looking back.

amalia said...

This was gross. And also remainds me why I left the country and it is hard, very hard.

He was horrible and I am revolted.

George said...

Way to go Mike! Romanian politicians don't like very much when it doesn't go their way... and it's more upsetting to them when they can't really do anything about it ;)

For you and your commenters, I'm sorry about your bad experiences but it's not everywhere like that. In our little city all profs (3 that I had) were treated with respect and there were no such issues.

Too bad though I wish you guys had a better experience.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mike, You did exactly what you should , and keep sticking to your principles. You would think that this type of person and politician should be extinct after 20 years of democracy. I hope it would not take another 20 before his kind is really gone

Andrei N. said...

Were there any other comments on this "situation" (the mark for the grand-daughter) before meeting the mayor?

Why do you think the mayor acted like that?

What is your opinion on the teaching act the romanian teachers do and the learning system in Romania?

Good luck!

Fr. Chris Terhes said...

Bravo Mike!

These mayors think they are gods.

One mayor recently marched as a Nazi general during a fashion show.

Other mayor in Maramures is pushing some land that belonged to the Jewish holocaust victims upon the Greek-Catholic community. Check here:

You did what was right. Bravo again.

Mike Nork said...

Hi Andrei,

To answer your first question, no, no one made any mention of the mark to me before 'faza asta cu primarul.' In fact, the teacher with whom I shared that class gave the same student an 8. So if the mayor was upset with me, I can only imagine how upset he must have been with her. Although, it has also occurred to me that perhaps he got confused and thought it was me who gave the 8. I don't know; I haven't talked to him since the incident. In fact, if he's the type of guy who gets so heated over such things, I'm not sure trying to reason with him would do much good.

I recently read the comments you and others have made about this situation on, and I agree that the story seems somewhat cut and dry. It's hard to tell the whole story in 300 words. But, I wrote only what I knew at the time (I found out about my counterpart giving the 8 afterwards). As to why the mayor acted the way he did, I can't say for sure. I suppose we'd have to ask him. However, I know I'm not the only one who's had run-ins like this with the man. He's known for his short temper and he has a certain way of rubbing people the wrong way.

You asked me to comment on the education system in Romania. I don't by any means pretend to have a full grasp of how things work in this country. And, of course, I can only speak from what I've seen and experienced (which certainly cannot speak for all of Romania). But in any case, it seems to me that the education system is too rigid in some ways and too lenient in others. For example, the strict reliance on paperwork seems archaic and actually gets in the way of productivity (this is the digital age after all). Furthermore, the fact that politics interfere in school affairs make me feel a bit uneasy (the new director of our school was a political appointee, and some question his ability to run an educational institution). Also, I'm not really convinced of the necessity of the inspectorat. The whole concept is a bit too centralized for my liking. In fact, it seems to hinder real progress more than it helps. The whole system doesn't seem to leave the teachers much room to innovate. Moreover, there seems to be a general lack of discipline. Students can (and do) get away with quite a lot.

Basically, those are my two cents on education in Romania. But, I don't want you to think I see it as all negative. There are a number of things that I like about the Romanian system. For example, the foreign languages program seems top-notch. Also, I appreciate the way students and teachers interact. They seem to foster warm, caring relationships that surpass anything you'd find in the United States.

This comment turned out to be a bit longer than I expected (sorry if I rambled). I hope at least I gave your questions the answers they deserve.

canadianu' said...

They seem to foster warm, caring relationships that surpass anything you'd find in the United States.
Mike, no offence, but do you read the news from Romania from time to time ? I still remember how our math teacher used to hang us from the clothes rack at the back of the classroom ... that's what you call a warm, caring relationship.

Mike Nork said...

Canadianule, like I said, I can only speak from my experience. I guess I've just been lucky enough to have worked in a good school with some excellent teachers.

Anonymous said...

I was in that class in 6th grade and I am deeply shocked by what I've just read.

Garahel said...

Hey there Mike, I am a former student at Iulia Hasdeu from Lugoj and I wanted to tell you: Good job! You should not feel bad because a lesser human being did not respect you. He does not deserve your respect. This oldschool "Boldea" type of thinking is going to fade away. Stick to your guns and be fair, because your students will appreciate it later and that is what matters.