Well, it sure happened faster than I thought: my school year is over. I taught my last classes at Pázmány on Tuesday.

And I still haven’t quiet recovered from the sentimental ball of goop I get at goodbyes.

One quality I sometimes worry about having as a teacher is that I like my students too much (which, of course, makes it harder to be hard on them when they do the occasional “oh-really?-the-essays-are-due-today?” kind of things). Maybe I’ve just been lucky to have really great groups everywhere I have taught in my short time thus far in this career, maybe it is part of the nature of teaching writing and literature, where emotions and personal experience tend to come out in the classwork more than, say, they might in algebra, but I have left every class I have taught so far with a feeling of sadness, like I’ve just made some wonderful new friends and now I won’t get to see them regularly anymore.

The experience is compounded at Pázmány firstly because of the distance between Hungary and home, as well as  the fact that the end of Pámány makes it all the clearer that this crazy, lovely, dream-world-like life the Fulbright year has been for me is winding down.  Yet, it also felt even more bittersweet because of how I saw some of my students grow so much — whether it was in their ability to speak more confidently in English, or the real “big success” for me — a student who is using the modern American women writers I taught this year for her thesis.

Then, those darned kids went and made me cry. In a good way. Two of my favorites (not that teachers have favorites … 🙂 ) are in a great theater company at Pázmány, called The Brown Cow company. They perform plays in English, and compete (and usually win) against other Hungarian university companies. This year, the group selected A.R: Gurney’s play The Dining Room, which they performed for the campus community Tuesday evening.  And they pulled it off magnificently. When my student, Anita, made the touching final speech, I was crying, the other teachers were crying … I think even a few of the boys looked misty. I was so proud of the whole group, but what really, really touched me was an editorial move Anita made. Gurney’s play — like many of his — focuses on how lives intersect and intertwine, and, as such, The Dining Room uses short vignettes about a wide array of characters to show American culture as it progress. In one scene, Anita plays a harried housewife, desperate to finish her graduate degree, but being hounded by an annoying husband. When she finally gets the husband out of the room, the wife sits down at her typewriter and tries to keep banging out her term paper. I was pleasantly surprised when, from the loudspeakers, there came a familiar passage: the first lines of The Feminine Mystique, a text I had assigned way back in October to introduce the first women’s writers class to the concept of feminism (a concept which has not exactly taken in Hungary). 

After the play, Anita told me she choose that passage to use as the sort of background for the scene because she thought it best expressed what the character would have felt. I did, too.

To see something you’ve taught actually not just be memorized, but be used by a student to better understand and engage with their own world — well, what better end to a year could a teacher ask for? And, is it any wonder I needed a tear or two?

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