Keta Tvildiani, 15, Tbilisi

„The first time I disapproved of school was when I was in the seventh form. This was when the school divided our class I had been with since my first year at school by technical and humanitarian fields. It was very difficult to get along with new children and it affected my studies too. Since then, I’ve changed a few schools in the hope that I could finally find the environment I needed.

I think that what matters most at school, is friendly teachers, a cozy environment and only then, learning school subjects, unlike our current schools where the teacher may pull your ear or throw a desk at you. You are smiling now but I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I always feel strong objection and if I cannot retort and speak up against, say, unfair scolding by the teacher, I simply stand up and leave the classroom. Do you have any idea how many protocols they’ve drawn up about my behavior, and how many times they’ve been close to expelling me from school? I still believe that every child has the right to protest and oppose to whatever he or she feels is unfair. The teacher and the student must not have a senior-junior relationship; rather, they must be equals. When you realize you are being unjustly treated, you lose every bit of motivation and all you think about is revenge.

Once when I was in my eighth year, the teacher of Geography pulled a hair of one girl to the point that made her cry. To another classmate, who was overweight, the teacher of Math told she could not study well because she ate too much and it affected brain functions. That girl cried at the break and then did not turn up at school for one week because the whole class had laughed at her. I am sure that these children hated Geography and Math; and they are not going to be knowledgeable in these fields when they grow up. I am not as good at Math as I should be as a student of the ninth form because everyone at school starting with the headmaster ending with the head of department claimed I did not have enough brains and the skills fit for Math. I started to believe them and gave up. It’s a pity, because I could have been very good at it, if they had not had that attitude.

A good teacher for me is the one who treats you like a friend, whose priority is to have a decent relationship with you, and only then to share his or her knowledge. You may be studying hard just to appeal to such teachers. After all, you are spending most of your time at school and you need to be on good terms with teachers. I always prepare the homework for my teacher of civil education because we are getting along well.

In elementary school years, I was often bullied. I had weight problems too and was called names. Once I returned from vacations wearing green tights and my hair was cut short. The moment I entered the room, the boys burst out laughing: “Hulk has arrived”. I didn’t know what Hulk meant and I googled it as soon as I got home. I was shocked. I couldn’t go back to school for a few days. Back then, I could not protect myself. Now I’m stronger but before I used to feel terrible. Nobody stood up for me. The school has no plan of dealing with such bulling. The headmaster and the head of department would come in and order the bullies not do it again, but strictly forbidding something does not mean that the child will not do it to another child again. As I realize, the teachers do not waste extra time on solving the children’s relationship problems. What matters to them is the curriculum and the syllabus, and what matters for us, is relationships – education comes second.

Once I saw a Dutch film “Cool Kids Don’t Cry”. In the film, a teacher in one Dutch school is trying to solve problems among her students of different colors and abilities. Do you know how the teacher manages that? By trying to set up the situations where children help one another. When you’re helping someone you think you are a better person and you really start to strive to become better and help many more. Prohibition is never the right way, even in the relationship between parents and children. Unfortunately, later on everyone seems to forget that they were children too, and if they were forbidden to each chocolate, they stole and ate more.

I want to become an actor very much, but, sadly, the schools do not have the approach that would focus on your interests and skills and help you discover your abilities or support you in developing in the right direction. That’s right, I may not excel at Math, but it does not mean that I am good for nothing and I cannot become a decent actor, does it? Maybe I have different skills and abilities… The school must give you self-confidence. Recently, I came across a quote of Einstein on Facebook. I don’t exactly remember it, but the idea is that if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, you will find it stupid. However, fish is best at swimming in the water, isn’t it? That is why I believe schools must focus on identifying skills in children and supporting them.

The more you are encouraged the more driven you are to work at yourself. The marks given at school do nothing but discourage you.”