by Maria Bossa
My dear friend and colleague Ayat Tawel recently posted an interview with her sister on the iTDi blog. She invited me to take part in the conversation, so I used the chance to interview my mother as she also worked as a teacher here in Argentina. She taught French for almost 15 years, but she has now been retired for 10 years. As we talked, we spent a lot of time discussing education as it is one topic we share and it is something she is still in love with. Her name is Maria Hedit but we call her “Nuno”. She is 70 years old and I am 43.
Maria: In what aspects do you think Education has changed from when you were a teacher to today?
Nuno: Before, when I was a teacher, there were different subjects being taught, subjects with a more technical orientation or more practical one. For example, French is not taught any longer as it has been replaced by English due to globalisation. As you know, our educational system has changed as our government has taken and/or added subjects due to political necessities and not because of any real educational needs. Argentina’s system used to be one of the best in Latin America for many years. Now it was become one of the least respected. Many people think that “the past is better than the present” and in the case of education in Argentina, I truly agree with that statement.
Maria: Would you go back to classes? Would you want to teach again?
Nuno: No!! Not at all! I never liked teaching; I did it because it was compulsory for me as we (the family) needed the money.
(Note: My mom became a teacher when both my brother and I were at University. My father had lost his job and she decided to help him. My brother and I didn’t suffer a lot her absence at home as we were grown-ups. I felt proud of being her daughter as she taught in a School of Art.)
Maria: Both you and me are teachers… what things do we have in common? How are we different from each other?
Nuno: There are no differences at all! We are like two peas in a pod. We are both responsible, always in and on time, we don’t like to be mediocre, we are always eager to learn new things. Again, there are no differences… “Like mother, like daughter”.
Maria: Has there been any moment that you have felt proud of my achievements as a teacher?
Nuno: Yes, always. You have never stopped learning; you are always trying to be and become a better teacher. You are always studying, attending courses. And all that effort has been recognized by the school principals who check on you, who grade you every year. In public schools like the ones you teach at, it is necessary that your superiors observe what you do, not because you will get an increase on your salary but because they can know exactly what you are doing in case parents complain. Observations ensure that you can have support from your principals because they know what you are doing.
Maria: What other job/profession do you think I could have taken if I hadn’t been a teacher?
Nuno: Since I can remember, you always wanted to be a teacher. When you were a child, you always imagined you were a teacher; you taught to plants, trees, imaginary people. I think you were born to be a teacher. Do you remember when we went on holidays and you took a “portfolio” (Note: here in Argentina, a portfolio is like a school bag) with books inside and taught to everybody? However, I can suggest one thing you could have become, a singer. You also like singing. I still remember when you sang inside the house and imagined you were a pop start! Your microphone was a yellow pen!
Maria: Having a daughter who is a teacher, what things would you change or improve in today’s Education system?
Nuno: It is difficult to reply this question because the world has changed and education has changed with it. What I do believe is that “values” have been left aside and teachers find it hard to teach without them. Another thing I can see is that teachers are always multitasking… you have to be and have different roles apart from being a teacher. But parents don’t respect you as a teacher! They quarrel with you without any problem! Values are not taken into account! I think that we have to go back in time.
I enjoyed interviewing my mother and hearing her replies to my questions. She has always trusted my decision to become a teacher. I can also truly understand my mother’s frustration with some of the changes that have happened in the education system. Though we have a National Ministry of Education, each province has its own Ministry with its own autonomy so, depending on the province in which you work, the system can be very different. In addition, our private schools are only private because students pay a fee. But in reality, teachers are paid with money from the government. “Private” private schools are very rare. Currently I teach 27 hours a week split between a primary and a secondary school. I have almost 350 students but like the rest of the teachers in my province, I don’t have a fixed classroom and have to be on the move constantly as it is the students who have a classroom for their own each year. In my secondary school, there are only 20 classrooms for 1100 students. Still, even with all of the difficulties that come with being a teacher in Argentina, I guess that my mother would have never ever let me choose any other profession.