Sunday, June 9, 2013

By Stephen Wilson

(Moscow, Russia)  -  If you have spent a lot of time teaching in Russian state schools you will likely have encountered them; the embittered teacher who just doesn't want to be at  school.  They display a kind of aloof and aggressive presence towards almost everyone around them.  They don't  say hello to other teachers and scarcely acknowledge the presence of others.  

I once worked in a school just outside Moscow for a year and the assistant headmaster would never answer back 'hello' even if you greeted her. She just sullenly marched past you with an almost permanent frown. The teacher who worked next door to me never answered 'Good Evening once'. 

So when I read today in a newspaper that Moscow is rated one of the unfriendliest cities in the world, it didn't come as a striking revelation. Well, at least the janitors spoke to us! 

Now those particular teachers often don't like their jobs and don't want to be at school. They often either take days off sick, or refuse to do anything even when they are in the classroom! I remember that such teachers would become sick and you might end up teaching all their classes! It was         trying to say the least.

The Russian government has recently attempted to clamp down on phony sick teachers. So they passed an eccentric law to punish shirkers who pretend to be sick by punishing all the sick! The law is as follows; if a teacher is sick for three days he or she will lose 30% of his pay at the end of the month, and if another teacher is sick for 20 days in the month,  he will also lose 30% of his or her pay. The Russian Law discriminates against nobody in particular. So you have a kind of vulgar equality without equity! 

What are the results of this law? Since most teachers don't want to lose their pay, it means sick teachers continue to go to school, while those who are not ill will take 20 days off even if they are not ill! So the law doesn't work at all. What is worse, it means that genuinely sick teachers end up infecting other teachers or school students. So don't be surprised if you witness teachers coughing, sneezing and blowing their noses in the classroom. By the way, in Moscow there is      practically a flu epidemic which is only just being dissipated by the coming of Spring! 

And what measures did officials take to stop sick teachers infecting school students? They have already fined some teachers! So a sick teacher risks being fined for not going to school and fined for going to school! The sick teacher is ensnared in a catch 22 situation! 

What advise do people offer to Russian state teachers? Don't get sick in the first place!  Considering there is an unprecedented flu epidemic in Moscow, avoiding illness appears to be a feat in and of itself! Half my students are often ill and many don't cancel lessons. Some people have become so cynical they don't believe teachers and children are ill.  They presume they want a day off school. In this       regard, the cynics at least believe in the acting abilities  of teachers, if nothing else!

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