“We don’t want to be excellent at everything. Let the school give us the necessary knowledge! “

On 1st of November – the Day of the National Revival Leaders, students, parents, teachers and experts gathered together at 2nd  Thomas Jefferson High school to discuss whether the Bulgarian school is teaching children for life. We are not talking about a students with excellent marks. We are discussing the future of our children in a decade of hard work and a lot of stress at school.

We split into two groups – children and adults. The test was conducted in two separate halls. Each group had to write down their thoughts concerning what the school gave the children, then how school gives it and finally – what should gives. All thoughts were written on the sheets with drawn human body –  in the head, heart and hands respectively. I am literally showing the children‘s sentences:

In the head: “sometimes I’m awake”; “Fall asleep”; “I’m dying”.

In the heart they put: “Forcibly Adjustment”.

And between hands they wrote “Rare and incomplete practical exercises”.

Simple but so true. If you have student, you see his sluggish and tired face when he comes from school. How he is startled, without elementary skills  like filling out a form, for example. We talked honestly about the causes that rised the symptom in the head “I fall asleep, I am dying”.

The Bulgarian school is like those notorious mathematics problems about filling in a swimming pool for certain time. Some amount of information should be poured into the heads of the children and reproduced as accurately as possible within the timeframe. Our children continue to fill in their pools, but they have never learned how to swim. This model does not teach them to think logically; to understand what they are doing; to come up with definitions themselves; not to speak by “heart”

Our educational system carries out a standard called the oddly SER (State Educational Requirements). This is obviously some amount of knowledge that children, like real sportsmen, have to cover as a norm. This is the reason for the words in the head – awake, then – falling asleep. And finally – I’m dying! “Why do we need all of this?” the kids said. We don’t want to be excellent at everything! We want the school and the teachers give us necessary knowledge . Children want to be heard. They want a radical change of model – from memorization and replay – to creativity and analysis. ”Why should we study for 8 years writing the same type of essay”, asked a boy – “Botev was born, Botev – а revolutionist, Botev and gunshot. One framework  – an introduction, an exposition and a conclusion. Why don’t we write plays, poems, essays?”

Both teams also criticized the textbooks. A school psychologist, at the same time a mother of a fourth-grader, cited a test from “Man and Society” textbook, where the question “On what does the person’s profession depend?” the correct answer is: “Depends on location!”. It is an obvious fact, that some of the Bulgarian textbooks continue to live in the tribal system, where the woodmen are in the mountains, fishermen are in the sea, and farmers – in the field.

Let us talk about heart’s area – and the words “Forcibly Adjustment”. For me was difficult to express the word “Forcibly”. Violence continues to be an essential part of the school environment, as much as we try to camouflage it. As much as we try to impose it on hyperactive and disrespectful children. The school’s system itself is violent and it generates similar reactions in children. The whole school’s environment is sanctioning and alienating. Children always sit with their backs to each other and they are always under suspicion – that they are copying , not listening, not paying attention or blowing their nose. The student should be ashamed if he did not give the correct answer. Let the teachers, who read this, to admit honestly how common the pedagogical word “Shame” is! This is the reason why Bulgarian students at international forums are silent and deadly ashamed, if they are wronged. This exact remark was from Nadia Shabani / State Child Protection Agency / and is correct. The teacher’s “Don’t think, but answer!” is not just an expression but also the axis, around which the system rotates.

What does Bulgarian education give you in your hands? The third part of the long question is whether the school is ready for life. “A diploma,” one of the girls answered directly. And the logical question is what to do, exactly, with it. Practical skills are certainly not just a embroidered handkerchief and a pyrographed pencil box. The modern world needs different experiences – how to respond, how to apply for a job‘s position. How to be a citizen – perhaps our most important knowledge and skill. About sexuality and love, better not to talk. There were some happy parents, because at their child’s school is showing how to use a condom. However, are they also talking about how to choose your first sexual partner, how to experience your first love or disappointment? The important thing is – whatever you do – do it with a condom! We are very middle Ages minded, really.

Perhaps the most important conclusion for all of us was that the current education system is very absorbed in itself and misses the most important thing – CHILDREN. Let us think about these delicate heads, hearts and hands, sitting on the desks from the first school’s day. They are individuals and sunshine. Let us look at them and their personality. Let us not crush them and unify them. The panel homes in neighborhood are ugly, so is the panel thinking. Let them not be ashamed when they do not know the answer. Let them respond with joy and share their thoughts confidently. Moreover, let them make us adults face the blackboard more often. We still have something to learn. I personally, thank all of you for this VERY OPEN LESSON.