Recognizing When You’re Wrong

Dariela Aquique

E.I.A Pepito Tey school for art instructors in Santiago de Cuba.

“It takes a wise person to recognize they were wrong,” goes an old popular saying. Wisely, the Cuban government has now reconsidered an entire series of decisions that were taken to promote social development but that in practice demonstrated the opposite.

One of these was the establishment of specialized technical-professional schools including those for art instructors.

I can attest to this because I worked for two terms as a drama teacher for the Theater Arts Program at the E.I.A Pepito Tey School in Santiago de Cuba.

Students at the art instructor school in Santiago.

I got into teaching for reasons beyond my interests. My training was not in education, however after several years working in the theater arts, I found transferring my knowledge to the younger generation to be a seductive challenge.

With discipline and filled with enthusiasm, I showed up for my first days of teaching. My initial surprise was to observe the deterioration of the facilities (an installation whose oldest part had been repaired and expanded several years earlier).

Another fiasco was realizing that the teachers (meaning my colleagues) were for the most part far from being able to give classes in an art school.

Deteriorated facilities.

Nevertheless my mission was to provide the pupils with the greatest clarity and with absolute knowledge of the matter I was to offer them. To accomplish this I prepared my classes meticulously and attempted to offer the students interesting and instructive projects.

My greatest disillusion was finding the youth to be completely indifferent. They were not there out of any vocation (except for a few exceptions).

I gave classes to third and fourth year students, who had major and massive gaps in their knowledge. This was demonstrated when I reported the exam results to the educational secretary, who — somewhere between a threat and a suggestion — explained to me:

“There can’t be any flunking. Everyone has to pass because this affects not only the progress of the school, the province and the country, but also my budget. You see if you have students who fail and your evaluation is bad, you can’t collect your full salary.”

A lack of interest.

Among other disappointments, I can cite the example of when I went to municipalities and towns to “recruit” talented students, I was astonished when I was given a predetermined figure of pupils to be selected – even by gender. For the San Luis municipality I was told to select five students; three females and two males.

I protested saying, “How can I go looking to recruit with already established figures? What if four males and one female have the necessary aptitudes?”

“You have to adhere to what you’ve been directed comrade,” was what I got for an answer.

For purely economic reasons I put up with that place for two academic terms, until I decided not to work there any longer.

Astutely, the decision has now been made to put an end to this type of teaching. There remain only two classes that have to graduate. It’s a great thing that this situation was corrected!