Monday, November 14, 2011

More Cultural Differences: Or, Why all My Students Will Die in a Fire

I had class at Chaumeton again today. Although discipline was slightly better, thanks to my teacher having spoken personally to some of the worse students, they were still sort of loud. Getting them to shut up long enough for me to give instructions is, um, interesting.

However, the real point of this blog post is that there was a fire alarm. I, accustomed to American fire alarms, took my roll sheet and a pen and started waving the students to the door—only to watch them stall, pack their stuff up, chat amongst themselves and amble in the direction of the exit. When we got to the staircase, I then saw evacuating students leave the line to go back into the building. When I yelled at them to go outside, they seemed very confused.

“I’m going to the bathroom,” one told me. “I’ll be out in a minute.”

Well, I certainly hope the building isn’t actually on fire then.

My host professor seemed equally nonchalant. When I asked her if she could take roll, she shrugged, leaning against the wall of the school. “We should but…” She waved a hand. “They’re out there somewhere.”

Let me clarify. This was not a fire drill. Someone had pulled the fire alarm, so we really had no way of knowing if the building was on fire or someone was being a jackass. Despite this, the students only reluctantly left the building (with the beforementioned re-entries) and the teachers were clumped together chatting. I think I was the only person to verify that all my students were out.

A fire alarm in the States is much more serious. The students leave quickly and relatively quietly; the professor ensures that her students are all accounted for and well away from the building (which, I will remind you, is potentially on fire) and the fire company usually shows up to verify that it’s safe before anyone is allowed to go back into the building. Yes, this is usually on a giant waste of time and often means standing outside in the cold jumping up and down to stay warm, but on the off-chance that the fire alarm isn’t just someone being a jackass, at least no one is going to die.

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