When we went to Romania, I had already spent some time in Japan. I knew an American family when I was in Japan who had three daughters. They sent their American daughters to Japanese schools, and it worked wonderfully! The girls were speaking English and Japanese equally well, learning a lot, were happy and fitting in with the Japanese students. I decided when went to Romania that I would send my kids to Romanian schools. I had been given books to teach my kids from by the principal of the school where I taught in America because he thought I should home school my kids, but at the time, I thought it was better to send them to school if I could.
We lived in Turnisor, a suburb of Sibiu, Romania. It was the year after the revolution. We had found a house to live in in Turnisor because it had been a German section of the city and many Germans were leaving and heading for Germany, and we rented a house from one of them. We never thought about the idea that we were just around the corner from the King of the Gypsy Roma tribe and that gypsies had moved in next door to us, but that had bearing on what happened.
My kids were always coming home complaining, and I just kept thinking, “The culture is new to them. They will adjust.” However, when my daughter who was in the 3rd grade came home telling me that the boys were following her into the girls restroom and when she tried to use the bathroom, they tried to force the door to get in, but she had to hold the door with her feet as she sat on the toilet, I became alarmed. I told her to take some girls with her to hold the door, and she said she had tried, and it didn’t work. No one in Romania had phones at that time, so I decided that I needed to go down to the school and talk to the teacher and make sure the teacher knew what was going on so my daughter could be protected. If there had been phones, I may not have completely understood what was happening at the school.
My son was in the 5th grade and my daughter in the 3rd grade, and when I went to the office, I learned they had put my kids in the same classroom, and they had the same teacher. I knocked on the door of the classroom, but no one answered, so I opened the door. The kids were going crazy! They were everywhere! Some were fist fighting. Some were trying to start a fire, and my son was trying to stop them. I asked, “Where is your teacher?” They said, “Oh, she is in the teacher’s lounge. That is where she stays. She is never here with us.” My son tried to explain to me that it was like that all the time. He said they boys were always trying to start fires, and he was convinced that if he hadn’t been there, they would have burned the school down by then. I went looking for the teacher.
I went to the teacher’s lounge, and sure enough, the teacher was in there drinking coffee. I asked her if she was on break, but she didn’t know who I was. She said she stayed in there most of the time because the kids scared her. She was a brand new teacher and the kids were out of control, and she didn’t know what to do about them. The kids were right. She was never in the classroom.
I realized my kids weren’t going to learn anything in that kind of situation, and I didn’t think my oldest son should be the one trying to keep the other kids under control. I understood why my daughter felt the way she did about using the bathroom at school. No one was trying to teach or control these kids. I decided it was time to home school.
After I pulled them out, I told my Romanian friend, Doina, who happened to be a teacher at the Pedagogical school in the center of Sibiu. She told me she knew the problem. She said I should look around at my neighbors. She pointed out that since the Germans went back to Germany those houses were filled with gypsies, and there were a bunch of gypsies in that school. She said that the gypsies didn’t teach their children how to act right. She suggested that if I had sent them to a school where there were Romanian students rather than gypsy students, it would have worked better for me. She really gave me something to think about.