“The pearl is the oyster’s autobiography“

This is an interview conducted by Dragan Kranjčec, a former student of mine in Primary School “Dušan Jerković“, class VIII-3, nowadays a secondary school student in Technical School “Mihajlo Pupin“ in Inđija. The reason for this interview, apart from the award for one of the best educators of Serbia in 2018, given by the Association “Živojin Mišić“, has also been the assignement of making the supplement to a magazine, similar in design to “Moderna vremena“, which is the idea of my colleague Snežana Krstonošić, a literature teacher.

  • Do you think the educational institutions should “whimper“ for the teachers who love their job? I think that 70% of schools do not have the teachers who are dedicated to the subject they teach as you are.

To start with, thank you for your trust. It is essential. You cannot teach anyone by force or even educate them. In the first instance, it is torture and (as if you were teaching a donkey bel canto) and in the second instance, it is disciplining and training (a parrot is not aware of its uttered words, a tiger does not skip through the hoop because it wants to fill the audience with admiration). Schools do not “whimper“ not because everything is merry and wonderful but for being chiefly deprived of feelings. They have been turned into a machinery operating as a steam engine (in both homonymous senses, even in the archaic sense that steam is a synonym for producing gases – read “Kir Janja“ by Sterija) Everything is working off, competition, Romanian gymnastics school of the 70's but without the outcomes. All are humiliated in this process. I think that there are far more dedicated teachers but, let me use allegory, they look like the workers who are removing the mud from a mine with a shovel. Silent, invisible and too tired, without evident outcomes. Of course, results are not awards in the modern sense of the word – charters, certificates, even a huge salary which would probably lead to the invasion of those who only do this job for money. The award is building new, different, who are ready to change the world. We should not complain about how everything was “better in our time“. It has never been better and will never be better.

  • -Do you have an idea of how you could help your colleagues before all, with the organisation of teaching so that it becomes more interesting to pupils and help them dedicate themselves more to learning and look into things that they do not understand well?

To return to the roots of education and learning as voluntary commensalism of students and teachers. To exit the formalism of a school building, classroom, marks, register. To develop skills through a dialogue. To free knowledge from prescribed curriculum, absorb the life surrounding us and ponder upon it. This is not feasible with class work. To divide classes into groups with no more than five students. The divison among school subjects mocks itself (though with all due respect to Aristotle for his taxonomy) in the fields such as physical chemistry, molecular biology, social psychology, philosophy of sport... To begin with students' interests, whom versatile and free-minded teachers as “captains“ would guide for the mankind and not aiming at the needs of the country, nation or class. A big and serious topic and these are just its basic postulates: “school without walls“, “thinking without taboos“, “respect of liberties and the freedom without limits“.

  • - How did you become fond of your job? I have no doubt that you can also teach at university without any problems, taking into account your knowledge. Something held you up among children. Can it possibly be that you feel like a child among them and that you enjoy every moment you spend listening to their incredibly creative ideas which could become reality with a little work and effort?

Clean water is only drunk at a spring. Children have already been quite formed in primary school. With great certainty, it is possible to predict one's career at the age of 12. Nevertheless, a man changes during his life, but certainly it is easier in youth (see the writings of Dositej about "o mladoj duši vosku podobnoj"). Do not abuse children because "tabula rasa" does not mean that you can scribble and cross out, imprint or stamp it. Your career is affected even by what you do in kindergarten. I loved to read to the children who were gathered around me when I was four years old and play with them as well. I never believed in a strong distance that is drawn between games and knowledge. Perhaps the important moment in life was a read book (Stevenson, Kipling, Čapek, Swift...before the age of 12), maybe the film ("Dead Poets Society", "The 400 Blows"), and maybe it is just the same desire for play and learning, which I have never lost.

  • -How did you feel when you received the news that you had been announced as one of the best educators of Serbia?

I felt like a hero in the film “Nacionalna klasa”, Bunjuel, who answers the question (after a lot of failure and quarrels with his neighbours) stammering “p...p…p…” The feeling of achieving something and then, when you climb that ladder – you see new challenges. The award itself is not big in the amount of money. It signifies the acknowledgement by the community, gives a feeling of security, but then (which spoils happiness) you realize how the award is small and unnoticed at the global level. This is not a matter of the desire for fame, it is just that old saying that one who knows more is less lucky then others, because they do not see it. Perhaps this is a reason why I am a teacher – that I share this joy/happiness/care of others.

  • - Working at school, you have probably encountered various problems. What was the biggest obstacle which you had to overcome in order to become such an educator?

This is most certainly filling in the application forms. I am joking, of course. There are always obstacles but this makes the competition more interesting. All these years I spent in teaching, and this has lasted for almost a quarter of the century, were not brilliant. Full of challenges and ethical traps. Nevertheless, this is the environment worth living. Read “The Book of Joshua” and Ham on Rye so as to realize the importance of hard life in the formation of a person’s character. Or, as Fellini would say - “The pearl is the oyster’s autobiography”. You cannot find it without a wound under the shell.

  • - Do you think that children, when they grow up, will view you as someone who taught them something useful for life?

I think you already know the answer to this question. If it were not so, you would not ask me these questions and I would not answer you within half an hour either. The fact that I am addressed by both “good” and “bad” students talks about it. By the way, “good” and “bad” are relative terms. Is an obedient man good? Yes, but he is often a slave. Is an ambitious man good? Yes, but he is often a tyrant. Is a thief bad? Yes, but if he steals medicine for an ill child, he is good. Is this interview good or bad? It will be significant to someone while another person would not even glance at it. Just like the tree that falls down in the middle of the wood or Schrödinger’s cat which is both dead and alive until someone looks at it. The job of a teacher is that he is remembered. I think I have succeeded in it, sometimes in a good way and sometimes in not so a good one.

  • - Please forgive me if you have been bored by my short interview and I would like to thank you for the time which you spent with me in primary school because your lessons were really amazing. Maybe this will sound overexaggerating but you are a huge man for me. Thank you for your time.

I thank you, your questions were interesting. I am saying this to you as someone who has worked as a journalist for 15 years.

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