Back to School

I’m not sure how to begin this blog as my brain is moving along at a severely diminished pace right now. This last week I have been running a few cylinders short of a v8 because I somehow, cough *children* cough, contracted a fun case of bronchitis. These last five days I have been confined to the house and mostly resided in bed. Before anyone gets too worried about my waning constitution, it has not been a particularly bad case of the illness. My quarantine was enacted on doctor’s orders so as to not somehow re-infect myself by returning to the disease breeding grounds that are schools. The first few days of immobility were a fun sort of vacation from responsibility. However, I don’t feel that I have fired a single neuron in the service of thought for days. I must do some kind of work, whether mental or physical, in order to stave off the encroaching specter of madness circling overhead like a theoretical carrion bird. If this post seems a little less thought out, keep in mind that my brain is still booting back to full capacity. To any of my readers who have come to expect a level of quality from my writing, I apologize profusely that you have accidentally reached the conclusion that there is any semblance of quality in my half baked first draft ramblings. I will take steps in the future to not accidentally give off the impression that I know what I am doing.

In continuation of my journey from inexperienced layman to semi-professional instructor of today’s youth, it was my second week of being in Budapest. I had just moved into my new apartment building, and I had been given a day to settle in before work was to begin. Good we’re caught up to where I last left off. I’m glad that I was able to summarize in two sentences all that went on in the last seven blog posts.

The moment of truth was upon me. The morning of my first day of work had arrived. One of my coworkers came to the apartment to instruct me on the use of public transportation to get to work. Luckily, it was only a few kilometers away. Upon reaching the building we learned that there were still a few days left before all of the students were set to return to school. Only the permanent staff that was present. Said staff was in a rush flitting from room to room. Preparations were being made, classrooms made ready, and meetings being had. To these actions did our guide leave us to partake in. Unfortunately for me and my girlfriend, our lack of Hungarian fluency meant that we missed any and all of the subtle clues supposed to direct us towards our purpose in this maelstrom of action.

We did manage to accomplish some quality standing around and looking confused. We did this task so well that before long pity was taken upon us. Someone took time out of their busy schedule of actually doing something to take the lost Americans where they were supposed to go.

We were informed that we were going into a meeting where we would be introduced to all of the Hungarian teachers. Meeting us at the door was our new boss and principal. She is a lovely woman, very kind and understanding. She ushered us into a large classroom where all of our coworkers were already sitting and being productive members of the faculty. We were requested to introduce ourselves, which we did very briefly using the one broken Hungarian phrase we had actually memorized. The Hungarian teachers were so impressed that we could say a half sentence in Hungarian that they actually gave us a round of applause. The meeting then proceeded in almost entirely Hungarian. We were unsurprisingly more than a little confused by the time the meeting came to an end and everyone split with tasks in hand.

We were then introduced to our new co-teachers. The way it works, is that each subject has one Hungarian teacher who is in charge of around thirty students. The English as a second language teachers are assigned to however many classes and grades they are scheduled for. Us native English teachers would then split those classes with the Hungarian instructor. Each week one teacher has half of the class and then we swap from week to week. Just a quick clarification of how the classes worked, and if you understood at all the process I just described then congratulations you knew more than I did at the time.

I and my girlfriend then went with our respective co-teachers to be coached on our responsibilities and expectations. I remember furiously writing note after note in an attempt to comprehend anything. There was just so much information was given to us, but because I had never taught professionally before it was all without context and only led to larger quantities of confusion. I give thanks to my co-teachers for their valiant efforts to prepare me, as futile as they may have seemed. After an hour of being told things I should do and things I would have to do my work day came to an end. I was released into the wild to return on the morrow for more instruction on my theoretical responsibilities. So I did. I returned, was talked to, and wrote notes furiously. This happened for the few remaining days before the big day.

Before I leave off today I will retell the lovely story of our first day at school. Thus came to an end the period of preparation for teaching. Suddenly the time for practice was upon us; and just like that the big day came, school was to begin. This would be the day that we new English teachers would meet our charges. The day was to begin with an opening ceremony to commemorate the new school year. Everyone in the building gathered round a raised stage to hear about all of the new things this time around. This included somewhere over two hundred students all patiently waiting to witness the shiny new Americans. We shiny baubles were then trotted out on stage to the adoration of the crowd.

A little backstory before continuing, my girlfriend and I were both more than a little nervous about teaching students when we had no real world experience in such matters. Our nerves were all a jumble of concerns, and somewhere in the worry my girlfriend began to feel ill out of the blue. So when we were marched out on stage all of these worries became so very real. I know I was handed a microphone into which I mumbled some kind of generic greeting. However, it was at this moment that my girlfriend’s body decided that it did not want to be talking to two hundred children. It instead decided it would rather do literally anything else. Her voice vanished like a Little Cesar’s Pizza in front of college students. After mumbling a few words in the semblance of an introduction we were asked to step down, our suffering was no longer necessary. The mob was satiated.

We were expected to participate in our assigned classes immediately following. However, because my girlfriend was completely unable to speak louder than faint squeaking sounds, there was something an impediment to that plan. She and I tried our best to explain the situation to one of our English speaking colleagues. It was decided by management that instead of going along with the schedule and being introduced to our students we would quest for a medical professional to sort out what medical mystery had just befallen the woman I am with.

We piled into the car being very apologetic about every inconvenience we were forcing upon our new hosts; but the man who took us, Z as I will refer to him henceforth, refused to be taken aback by the situation. Z was light hearted about his role, the added bonus was that he was one of the first Hungarians that we had met able to carry on easy English conversation with. We drove to one doctor’s office where Z made the effort to explain the nature of the problem to a nurse. Unfortunately we had yet to have all of our paperwork finished by the local government and were thus denied assistance from said healthcare establishment. So back into the car and off we drove to the local hospital. Z argued with the woman at the front desk until we were allowed to go through. Down the hall, to the right, up the elevator, down another hall, into the crowded waiting room and there we sat for the better part of an hour waiting for the line to die down. We were granted admittance to see a doctor who seemed to have been conjured from my mind as a caricature of a crazy doctor. He had wild and untamed grey hair extending out to the sides with matching crazy eyes in addition. Crazyeyes MacDoctorpants did a few cursory tests before he declared which pills that the patient was to then take. So out the door, down the elevator, down the hall, outside, and off to the pharmacy we went to get the prescriptions filled. I thanked him graciously for his time and efforts in this crazed emergency. He was very humble about the situation and he quoted the great philosopher Ice Cube and stated that “Today was a good day.”

Thus it was that we passed our first day as teachers, moving around from doctor office to doctor office. What a wacky misadventure, truly an auspicious means of starting my teaching career. I would like to thank you for sticking with me and reading the transcript of my brain rebooting. Read along next time as I actually spend my first day with students. Good night and good internettings.



Thank you to stock footage sites for giving me such high quality images that have tangential relation to what I’m writing about. No I most certainly did not make the title of this post because I found this picture, why would you even accuse me of something like that?


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