So fate dealt me the ‘go back to school card’.
My first lessons were at Folk Universitet, which, for those not dwelling in Sweden is a school you have to pay to attend. I did an intensive Swedish language course and it was all very civilised: friendly, helpful, fun, all the students were grown-ups and we all had some input into the classes, all what you would expect of an expensive adult education program.
After 5 months the intensive beginners course came to an abrupt halt. Namely because we were no longer beginners anymore (yes really!) and there was no more levels to study. So there was only one option left…I had to join the state run program.
In other words I had to REALLY go back to school.
Bearing in mind that I was under the impression that I was at school already, I was in for A HUGE SHOCK. Gone, was the modern environment of desks arranged meeting style. Gone, was the smiling friendly teacher. Gone, was the understanding nature that sometimes people miss class. Gone, was the adult work ethic of adults working together to learn something. Gone, was the communal cups of tea at break time.
My first day at school saw me wandering along the corridor, that’s proper long school corridors crammed with young students loitering around, gossiping and fighting. Proper classrooms too, with the desks laid out like in high school so that those at the back can’t see the board. I was joining the class 1 week late, but I didn’t realise this. So I was totally unprepared for the onslaught I faced from the teacher who reprimanded me in front of everyone for missing the first week. Eva took an instant dislike to me. I was 5 years old again being told off for being a naughty girl. I was like that geeky kid who smelled of wet dogs and everyone felt sorry for but they were too embarrassed to talk to or stick up for. Actually someone did try to stick up for me (bless them), but they was quickly shot down by Eva’s wrath.
Eva had a small screwed up face with tiny black eyes and grey hair and had a penchant for hand knitted woolly jumpers, I couldn’t help but liken her to a koala bear in a novelty jumper, you know, the Australian souvenir type that you can clip to things by pinching their arms. The image helped me considerably to get over my personal outrages throughout the term.
I did seriously consider not returning after the first day! But I thought I am and adult GODDAMMIT!! I can’t let this happen to me.
The teaching style was completely alien to me. I thought teachers are supposed to be warm, generous, fun, helpful, encouraging, understanding and intelligent, especially teachers of a class of adults. There is no need to treat 25-45 year olds, most of whom have their own kids, like naughty children. Is there?
Apparently the answer was yes, there is a need. Here I was, a grown up with a university education, with 15+ years work experience, 30+ years life experience sat in a lesson and being treated like a 7 year old. And there is something about the human condition, that when you are treated like a 7 year old you start acting like one! So within a matter of weeks the whole class morphed from a collection of sane adults into a bunch of rowdy teenagers who didn’t do their homework, who came late for lessons, who missed lessons, who didn’t revise for tests, who constantly talked in class….It is hard to say if this was as a result of our being treated like 7 year olds or whether hard experience had taught Eva that all humans in a school situation ultimately behave like this. Whatever the reason, Eva was there every step of the way to berate us for every misdemeanor, mistake and mispronounciation. What ever I did wrong, my furry koala friend would be there constantly clipped to the edge my text book muttering ‘USCHH!’
Personally I don’t ever recall any teacher being so mean spirited even when I was 7 years old! Thankfully I passed that class and moved up to the next level where a much nicer, more forward thinking and welcoming teacher awaited me. Phew! I do still feel a little like a child just by the very nature of being at school I guess. But now I feel more like an 18 year old student who is being treated like an adult but is not quite given full credit because after all I can’t even speak fluent Swedish yet, so I suppose I am part child.
The Swedish schooling system for Immigrants does seem to hold up peoples development to my mind. If the very nature of the system is to treat grown adults like children and remove their personal responsibilities its no wonder they flounder and become dependent on the nanny state. I am all for staying young at heart but its time for adult language education for immigrants to grow up and be a responsible, interactive and progressive environment.