07 Jul “What are teachers like?” The Image of the Teacher in Romanian Culture
Author: Ilinca Stroe.
Films over the past half-century have depicted some of the most common teacher and educator stereotypes: the demanding but creative nanny with superpowers who manages to discipline even the most misbehaving brats (Mary Poppins, Nanny McPhee); the dedicated activist teacher who turns around a class of socially disadvantaged rebellious teens by teaching them character and values (see Erin Gruwell in “Freedom Writers”); or the inspiring teacher who instils a sense of wonder, honour and almost knightly brotherhood into his students, in a context of otherwise dry, soulless teaching (John Keating in “Dead Poets Society”).
But when it comes to teacher stereotypes, a probably more valid question would be, “What are teachers like in your country?” The examples mentioned above were all born out of the Anglo-Saxon ethos, with its norms and expectations. As a review of Bollywood or French or Japanese movies would most probably show, teacher stereotypes are culture-dependent, and for trainees who enrol on teacher training courses that include a teaching practice component, it is highly important to become aware of the teacher stereotypes at play in the culture of their training provider. Because the local students they will have in their teaching practice classes will implicitly expect them to fulfil a certain teacher role, to be, act and behave “like a teacher” in their culture.
In this piece we want to focus specifically on how teachers have been regarded in Romanian culture over the past three generations, as that might be relevant to non-Romanian prospective trainees planning to do their CELTA, DELTA or IHCYLT at International House Bucharest and thus having to teach Romanian learners.
The god-teacher. The Romanian baby boomers, schooled during the totalitarian regime of the 1950s-1960s, were in awe of their teachers. The typical teacher figure was probably male, middle-aged, authoritative, omniscient and a bit of a disciplinarian. A source of undisputed competence and knowledge, the teacher would pour out lectures from the desk at the front of the class, and the students would listen in perfect and obedient silence. Learners dared not question or challenge the teacher’s authority in any way. In short, teachers were primarily sources of authoritative knowledge.
The parent-teacher. To the Romanian X generation, in primary and secondary school during the 1970s-1980s, the teacher was stereotypically a middle-aged woman who, above all, asked them to behave and be good in class as well as during breaks, who could show motherly concern for the pupil’s welfare, but could also apply disciplinarian methods such as corporal punishment to naughty students. Learning often happened via the emotional bond formed between the child and the teacher as caregiver. In short, teachers were primarily regarded as sources of caring and protection.
The buddy-teacher. Generation Z Romanian students have strikingly less respect for their teachers than their grandparents. It is not uncommon for them to call their weaker teachers “idiots” behind their back, to comment on how “stupid” their requirements are, or even to challenge their authority openly, defiantly in front of the class. Their teachers definitely have to work harder to earn their (if not respect, then at least) favour. And that can be done by demonstrating, as a teacher, that you are tech-savvy, sociable, cool, egalitarian. And with a sense of fairness that is set in stone. In short, teachers are primarily adults who have to prove their worth.
So what is, ultimately, the image of the teacher in present-day Romania? While a “typical profile” is hard to draw up, let us just point out that, depending on the learner’s age, the teacher status both evokes respect and needs validation through competence, professionalism and the gift of building rapport.
International House Bucharest runs regular CELTA and DELTA courses for teachers of English at its Teacher Training Centre, as well as training events online, onsite or at partner locations. To sign up for a course or event, contact [email protected].