Viszontlátásra, Mr. Chips

A big surprise at the end of class on my last day.

I considered skipping this post because, well, I knew it would get a little sappy, but I figure that if you’ve stayed with me this long, you can handle a little sap.

Yesterday was my last day of teaching at the Apáczai Nevelési központ 1. Általános Iskola (“A.N.K.” for short) in Pécs.  I’ve been teaching English to 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th graders two days a week this past semester and it’s been, without a doubt, the most challenging and the most rewarding aspect of my time here in Hungary.  I’m not sure how much I taught them about speaking English, but we did connect, I think, pretty deeply and I know I’ll keep these kids with me for the rest of my life.

With about ten minutes left in my last class (a small but very energetic group of 8th graders, including my own son, James), there was a knock on the door and one of my 5th graders stuck her head in.  EVERY student I taught this semester, maybe a hundred kids, filed into the room and sat down. It may have been the first time they did anything quietly.   Fortunately I had put my camera into my backpack that morning, so I gave the camera to James and asked him to take some photos.  I wanted to remember this.  It turns out that James knew ahead of time that the kids were planning something — kudos to James for keeping a secret.

One of the 8th graders, Mira, spoke on behalf of the students (in perfect English), thanking me for teaching them, and then she gave me a present from the students.

The students gave me a photo album, with photos and a note from each class.

Here are a few pages from the book – click on the image to see a larger version:

The 4th graders drew icons from Pecs at the bottom of their note - from L-R: the TV tower, the Cathedral and the Mosque Church.

Note that the 6C class enjoyed seeing the "OK Go!" video. Also note that I did NOT spend the semester showing them videos! We were listening to bits of music on my laptop to identify the various instruments in English. I saw that I had that fantastic, silly OK Go! "treadmill" video in my iTunes library and thought that every kid, Hungarian or otherwise, should see it -- so yes, we did watch ONE music video. Make that two - we watched the Thriller video on Halloween.

In case you’ve never see it, here’s a link to the OK Go! video.

Then I said a few encouraging words, trying VERY hard not to get choked up – I’m pathetic in these situations.  I almost didn’t make it through my own wedding.

I'm probably saying something like, "Think Big!" "Use your brains!" "You can do ANYTHING!"

Some of the kids gave me presents, including two beautiful table cloths (one each from a pair of Vietnamese/Hungarian sisters).  A few kids wrote little notes with pictures.

Emma is in 5th grade.

Julia, a shy, quiet 4th grader, gave me a Sport bar. Note the PERFECT handwriting. Most Hungarian children have flawless handwriting skills.

At the end, I rocked them with my excellent, though severely limited, Hungarian: "Köszönöm szépen" and "Viszontlátásra." ("Thank you very much" and "Good-bye").

Afterwards, the teachers took James and me up to a classroom for a little tea and dessert, courtesy of a young teacher, Alexandra Besenszi.  Take a look at this thing below – it’s home-made!   And the teachers all said they could make it as well.  “It’s compulsory for Hungarian girls from 1st grade,” one said.

This has a name in Hungarian. We'd recognize it as a delicious "fruit tart."

This thing deserves two photos - check out the shiny glaze. Bananas... mandarin oranges... plums... YUM!

Many kids gave me their email addresses and I’m already FaceBook friends with several of them, so I’m hoping that we will stay in touch.  It would be great to see them in the U.S. someday.

Last thought – if you’re not a teacher, and you’re ever lucky enough to be asked to teach kids, say yes.


About patster66

I'm visiting Pécs, Hungary with my wife and son for the Fall 2010 semester. My wife, Margaret McMullan, received a Fulbright Fellowship to teach and do research at the University of Pécs. My 13 year old son is attending a semi-bilingual school here called the ANK where I am teaching English Language and Drama to 4th - 8th graders 2 days a week.
This entry was posted in ANK School, Life in Pécs, travel. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Viszontlátásra, Mr. Chips

  1. Lynn Yeoman says:

    Oh, Patrick, that was such a good story. Btw, send me, please, the music video of the celebration class when you get it..hehe! It’s not everybody who wants to say “yes” to being a teacher, as some, like you, are born to be the “best” and “loved very much” as your students over & over told you!

  2. Jamesy says:

    Absolutely beautiful. wow. What a tremendous way to finish it off. And because this blog has been both kind and funny one day I will draw to you a little bunny.
    In tears,

  3. Kathy M says:

    You brought tears to my eyes as well. (We get this from Dad:) You were a gift to those kids, as they were a gift to you. Isn’t it great!

  4. Justin O'Neal says:

    I am welling up, too! Thank you for sharing.

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