Barbi Bujitas

ELT Global Issues – Barbi

ELT Report From Hungary

– Barbi Bujitas 



 In my country, teachers’ lives are hugely determined by the socio-cultural environment that has an infusion of learned helplessness. Just as it is learned, it can be unlearned, I believe.  

There is this little friend of mine, my age minus 19 years, who likes to keep everything shipshape and tidy. The other night when we met, she parked her car in the car park’s second empty slot rather than in the first. I asked why she’d done that and her answer made me feel ashamed. She’s parked in the second spot because she saw a pole in the middle of the walkway in line with the first parking place. She wanted mothers with strollers to be able to pass by easily and didn’t want to narrow the way even further with her car. Why did this make me feel ashamed? I would never ever have thought about mothers with strollers. Why am I not as emphatic as she is? And how about the professionals who created that particular car park-walkway-electricity pole combination? What’s wrong with them?

Our culture, the one being reproduced by schools, is not one in which people can imagine being in someone else’s shoes. It’s not that we are bad people. It’s been passed down by the previous generations. What else? We don’t trust each other. We are suspicious, afraid of backbiting, and not so willing to help. We assume, rather than ask.  We overrate rank, and we break rules. Informal relationships are often more crucial than expertise. We are poor collaborators and notorious competitors. Praise and gratitude are scarce. When we face a positive attitude we suspect someone wants to sell us something. We still have the remnants of feudalism and the ruins of an absurd kind of socialism.

How about teachers? Can you imagine how it feels to work in this environment? It’s like running in water. Honestly, there are better ways. There is a peculiar vicious cycle that is still here, very similar to the cycle of failure described here by Chuck Sandy.  Our cycle of failure is much bigger:

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Lack of initiative For long decades people were trained to keep silent. Even I was taught to conform in order to avoid trouble. Of course there were times you could achieve a lot by fitting in the suppressive system, and though those times are gone, the patterns linger on. Teachers? They have to please students, bosses and parents. They are struck by financial turmoil, tired and overworked. No one seems to be willing to rescue them. In a culture of “no initiatives” it seems hopeless.

Little achievement No sense of achievement produces emptiness that is easily filled by pleasing others. Teachers? I’m a freelancer. I feel good about myself because I can afford to be innovative and some of my innovations work, but in a state school you are hardly welcome as an innovator.

Low self-esteem Achievement will boost your self-esteem, right? No or low self esteem will lead to frustration. Teachers? It’s a challenging job in a hostile environment with low pay.  If you are a teacher here, chances are you’ll burn out early.

Frustration and Judgment   How do we tackle this? A widespread way here is by downgrading others. If you feel you are a low achieving teacher you blame parents, students, and colleagues. If you feel you’re not good enough, you might say “but teacher X is even worse”. Then, you’ll be on alert to spot the X’s slightest mistake. Worse, you’ll assume others are scrutinizing and judging you in the very same way. Does peer observation work? No! Lesson observation here is a form of insult. You’ll stay away from peer observation and won’t think of implementing any kind of change, thus avoiding the possibility of being caught red handed by suspicious eyes!

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Why Am I Here?  So here I am living in an atmosphere of depression and a culture of complaining. Questionable values broadcast by manipulative mass media, poured on people deprived of critical thinking skills by long decades of similarly manipulative anti-democratic, soviet-style governments. Teeeerrrrrible! What am I doing here?

I was born here in a family where many of my ascendants we killed, tortured, and robbed of their freedom and belongings. My roots determined my direction, but I’m terribly lucky because of Web 2.0. Magically, it’s taught me some of those life skills that my family and local culture haven’t, and now changing this dark world into something brighter is the funnest challenge for me!

Flipping The World Remember my friend from that newer generation?  She is a child of this society, but she keeps in mind all the moms with the baby buggies all the time. She has the Internet. She is connected.  She speaks English. She will have enough power to get out of any kind of misery as she upgrades and upgrades and upgrades.  That connectedness will flip this world for the better.



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Barbi Bujitas

Barbara Bujtas is a freelance EFL teacher and materials writer in Hungary. She is involved in one-to-one and teaching small groups of all ages and purposes. She also works with groups of very young learners and teaches secondary conversation classes. She has been a teacher for 15 years, holding a BA in EFL she is very passionate, rather than academic. Her fields of interest are dogme, young and very young learners, ICT, online professional development, using social media, community building, learner autonomy, 21th century learning and skills, project pedagogy.

10 thoughts on “ELT Global Issues – Barbi”

  1. I’m optimistic about the newer generation of teachers in Hungary, however maybe that has been said before and they burned out. In the schools I’ve taught at In HU, there have always been a huge age gap.

    The ones that have only worked part time may have more influence then those who delve into long full time hours. Simply because of being able to constantly bring in the outside world to the classroom. The teacher practicioner.

    Nice article barbie. I like the drawings.

    1. Thanks Darren 🙂
      I’ve been constantly thinking about what and where should be put into the system to prevent burnout, knowing that institutions don’t seem to take on that task at all. All I can think of is the internet. Or volunteer dogwalks, maybe? Serious.

  2. Such a wonderful down to earth post yet full of positiveness and willingness to do better. So inspiring Barbi on a personal note and that matters so much. I feel in my country we are moving somehow from the colonized minds into taking more chances to view ourselves as a global citizens. I noticed around me more teachers connecting and trying to find meaning through the online relationships we can build with each other through it. It may not be the ideal picture yet and much of what you said happens here too. The idea though we can make the difference while we learn also from this amazing connectiveness phenomenonis so powerful that it is hard to feel de-energized. You have been a huge source for me and your light shines all the way through Brazil.

  3. I loved reading and re-reading this! What a funny, yet thought provoking and hopeful look at a future that you (and your little -19 year old friend) are creating. As one of the mums with a baby buggy, I’m so happy to read of a young women being empowered by the language and tech skills she is learning who also empathises with others. Thank you for your story, it carries a powerful metaphor.

    1. Hehe, moms with baby buggies eventually win 🙂
      Just one thing about my friend, I think she learned all this from her parents, but I am learning it from her. Perhaps I needn’t mention that the majority of our communication is online and written, as she is at uni in another city. She is shaping me. And we all have the opportunity to be shaped and shape others.

  4. What a wonderful post, Barbi. Thank you for the honesty. I agree with you, though I am one of those who left Hungary, largely (admittedly not exclusively) because I saw far too many people who would have parked their car in the first spot. A system that produces this level of lack of empathy and attention to people looks doomed but you manage to shine a light on it and make it look much less grim. I love your optimism, and I admire you for your fortitude and dedication. I think you are right, there comes a time when we will realise that the only true resource is in the relationships we have. Learning to appreciate and take care of other people is the only way we can change things. Yes, there are sign and technology helps. It helps not only you but helps people realise that they are not on their own being burnt out, feeling like a failure or – what is even worse – a victim. Your post did give me a pang of homesickness. There you are on the barricades making way for buggies and helping people become better at being people – that’s where I should be. Thanks for writing this post, Barbi. I loved it.

    1. Tamas, I’m so glad you’ve read it 🙂
      This comment I read last night half asleep and all I remembered in the morning at waking up was: 1 a positive comment, 2 Tamas is homesick. 😀
      I’m convinced that the most important resource this country has to struggle out of its miserable situation is the capability of unlearning wrong behaviour and attitude patterns. And that’s a huge stock.
      Funny, you are one of the central nodes of the network that feeds my enthusiasm :), one of the points that make a big difference, thanks for that, wherever you are physically.
      Aaaaand, I’m often called idealistic and an optimist. Hereby I declare that many attitude test have proven that I’m a down to earth realist.

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