How visiting two small schools can shake a manager’s routine and reveal a new perspective of what an honest day’s work could be
We have told you about our initiative which allows a variety of successful role models to visit schools and talk to students many times. Thanks to this initiative many professionals and celebrities have visited the classrooms of Teach For Bulgaria teachers. We usually tell you how beneficial such visits are for the students and their teachers: they break up the routine and allow students to learn more about different professions and opportunities for future development. Teachers, on the other hand, gain a partner who’s on their side when it comes to convincing students that learning is important, we learn by making mistakes, we shouldn’t give up when things get tough, and that agency is crucial.
This time, however, we’re going to share a story which focuses on the reflection and benefits of this experience from the point of view of the guest.
Boyan Dimitrov works as an Implementation Project Manager at HPE Pointnext. HPE has been one of our most active corporate partners for years. HPE employees have visited many classrooms to meet our teachers’ students. 41 HPE employees have visited Teach For Bulgaria’s partner schools over the past several years. This initiative has been strongly supported by HPE’s management team and has become part of their special volunteer program. This allows more employees to visit schools not just in Sofia, but also in small villages or remote towns.
Boyan wrote to us after his visit to two villages in the region of Pleven back in 2019. We were so impressed by his experience that we decided to publish his email.
I would like to begin by extending my gratitude to you and Teach For Bulgaria for the things that you do and for your commitment to your work. Very few things nowadays could be called missions, but I believe that your work is a mission.
My classroom visit adventure started very spontaneously. I had previously only worked with university students and adults in my day-to-day tasks at HPE and at different job fairs or networking events. So when I got the opportunity to visit a classroom I had many doubts and insecurities.
I had the opportunity to express a preference for the location of the school I would visit, so I decided to play it safe by indicating and I would feel more comfortable going to schools located in big regional capitals and talking to students who were over 16 years old. This gave me a false sense of security. Fate, however, had other plans for me.
I was matched with two primary schools – “Hristo Botev” in the village of Disevitsa and “Kliment Ohridski” in the village of Krushovene – both in the region of Pleven. I cannot even begin to describe the initial wave of anxiety that came over me when I realized what had happened. I had never visited a classroom, let alone given a motivational talk to children before.
I was grasping at straws, looking for “a universal formula”. This may sound strange to you, but in my work as a corporate project manager I have to achieve certain results on a daily basis. My communication style and behavior are result-oriented, we have to make a profit. This is why my initial approach to these school visits was the same.
My mind kept running in circles day after day. This is why I decided to call the teachers whose classes I was supposed to visit and voice my concerns. Fortunately, Reneta Georgieva and Denitsa Markova turned out to be exceptionally cordial and understanding. We started working on a plan for my presentation. I had several candid conversations with them and each conversation led to new ideas about how I would motivate their students to work hard, learn, respect their teachers, and appreciate their schools.
As someone who studied abroad, it was particularly important to me to convey the following three messages:
- That they can do anything.
- That books are our window to the world.
- That we live in a free world and they can and should pursue their dreams.
It took me a while to figure out how to illustrate these messages, to understand the point of view of a 7-year-old. This is why I brought the following three objects in each classroom that I visited:
- A map of Bulgaria for them to see where we are.
- A map of Europe for them to see when we are in this wide diverse world.
- A small bookshelf from IKEA that they had to assemble on their own. This was meant to show them that every endeavor requires hard work and perseverance. And that every journey starts with a good book.
The visits flew by. The children were so good and polite. They listened very carefully and looked happy that I was there. They asked all kinds of questions and told me what they wanted to be when they grew up. I looked into their eyes and saw a strong motivation to learn and explore the world. They wanted me to see their skills and talents and praise them with encouraging words or gestures. What touched me the most were the handmade cards they had prepared for me. They had illustrated them with stars, suns, flowers, and smiles. This made me realize that all children are kind and good. And that it is up to us – the adults – to prepare them for any challenges of the modern world. Their development is our responsibility and every excuse on our part equal betrayal. We’d be betraying both our children and ourselves.
After we said our goodbyes I took as long as possible to return to Sofia. I didn’t feel like rushing back into my daily routine of work and other responsibilities. I reflected on how busy and devoid of meaning the majority of my day was. I pursue goals, reach targets. But I had never stopped to think about who or what I was doing it for. What is my legacy and how long will it last after I’m gone? Will anyone at HPE even remember my name, if I got laid off tomorrow? Will the traces of my work be visible for a long time? The answer to this question came naturally to me.
In conclusion I wish that the small step that I took would mark a new beginning. I don’t know when, how, or in what shape I will return to the classroom, but I know that it is part of my journey.
Widen students’ access to such inspirational meetings! Make a donation and support our work!
Organize a similar experience for your employees and visit classrooms all over Bulgaria. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to make it happen.
Expect more information about a special platform which can help teachers and role models match! We have been developing this platform in collaboration with Vratsa Software and Emilian Kadiyski from the first class of Teach For Bulgaria’s program “A New Way to Teaching”.
It will make it easier for teachers, professionals, and businesses to match, interact, and collaborate in the name of every student’s success. The platform will be available to all Bulgarian teachers for free.
You can find more stories about similar meetings of students with professionals here.