Tuesday, February 28, 2012

An Economic School Assembly

At 12:55 today I learned that I would not have my 4th graders for class. Grades 3 - 5 were meeting for an assembly at 1:00 p.m. in the Conference Hall on the 5th floor. Many thoughts raced through my head: 1) Yeah, now I don't have to write lessons plans for tomorrow...2) Maybe there will be some fun music or dance to entertain us... 3)Maybe the principal is finally going to crack down on discipline... or 4)Maybe something really bad happened and that's why we learned about this assembly 5 minutes before the start...Whatever the reason for the assembly, I was happy that one of my most difficult yet cutest 4th grade boys invited me to sit beside him. I wouldn't appear "unpopular" among the sea of noisy students.

I settled into my chair, pulled out my notebook to jot down words to look up later and prepared to have fun. Seated at a table on the stage were 2 men and 1 women. (No puppets, musical instruments, science experiments, nothing.) However, there was a Power Point slide open on the screen and I thought to myself, "Oh good. Some visuals." They really help me with my comprehension. I slowly read through the paragraph of text (way too many words for a title page I thought to myself ) but I was able to pick out the word "economik". I figured that its meaning might be close to "economic" or "money" or something like that. Then I looked around at the 300 + students ages 10 - 12 who were throwing spit wads, pencils, water bottles (a teacher finally stopped that one) and paper, and I tried to imagine what could possibly be interesting about "economik" to this particular audience..My mind drew a blank but I was keeping an open mind because I'm never sure about my translations and I didn't have my dictionary.

Several minutes later, the woman rose to speak. She welcomed the teachers, the students, the staff, the friends, the principal, the business manager, the assistant principal, etc. to the presentation and thanked us for being there...relatively short and sweet and to the point. And, I understood it all.

Then speaker number two began to speak. He welcomed all the same people for being there in the same order and with the same amount of graciousness but he read everything from a well- used, dog eared notebook. And then he continued to read from this same notebook for about 15 minutes. I was feebly trying to do the international ssshhh sign to the understandably bored students. Most of the teachers were texting on their cell phones and the principal was struggling to be the lone disciplinarian. As soon he passed, they started up with the noise, the throwing, the kicking again. Speaker number two, even though I understand little of what he said, was a really bad, really boring reader. I don't think his nose ever left his well-loved notebook. After he finished with his "thank you, thank you very much, again, thank you" we, the audience, struggled to wake ourselves up with clapping.

Next to the microphone was speaker number three. Things were looking up. He brought along the remote control for the slide show and advanced the slide to our first picture, a collage of transmission lines, bridges, parks, and buses. OK, so I'm trying to relate "economic" to "public works" and my brain is thinking 1) this is a Rotary Club presentation by the city managers or 2)this is a Kiwanas Club presentation by the city managers or 3) both clubs already have speakers for today, so why not stop by a school.

At this point the speaker is fast forwarding through all the financial slides (there are no more pictures) until he comes to a slide with some big numbers. Don't quote me on this but it was something like 3,499,000,000tl to 4,500,000,000tl. Based upon the order of the numbers, I would guess that there might be a shortage of about 100,000,000 tl. And based upon the one word (taxes) that appeared on every slide and the dates (27 February - 9 March) I think the assembly was to tell kids that it is National Pay Your Taxes week and that the students should go home and remind their parents to pay their taxes so that they can drive across the bridges, use electricity from the power lines, and play in the parks. And he was really polite about it: thank you, thank you very much, again, thank you and thank you all. (in Turkish, or course.)

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