Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Shanghai90210 in a world with No Nirvana...or Coffee and Toast in a Chinese Garden

This morning, when I walked into the Shanghai 90210’s oral English and conversation class, I actually laid down the law to some extent. I told them I am pissed that I have to teach at 7:45 two days a week because they made it very to Maureen who made it very clear to Edgar they do not have enough to do. Jennifer teaches Monday and Tuesday at 7:45 am. She told me that Max is the only one that is not late. Armed with this information, I let them know that if they are late even once it means a letter grade for them. Yes, I am hardcore.

Over and over, I asked them if they understood me. They told me yes. Allen, however, tells me that she does not have the early class with them. She has a different teacher at that time in the morning. I told her she is lucky because I am everything but fun at such an ungodly hour in the morning.

In the old days, at that time in the morning, I would be taking stock of the damage to my apartment. If it had been a good night, I would have some holes in the wall, pop bottle rocket afterburn on the carpet, candles melted to Joni Mitchell album covers, and vomit in the kitchen sink to show for it. And, at least a few people would be walking around with their pants down around their knees, or completely off. Now, I am in Songjiang, a district of China, lecturing students on the importance of studying.

At that point, of course, I demonstrated on Max what I would do to Miko if she was late. Miko seemed nonplussed that I put Max in a headlock. Max exclaimed in Chinese. Tess said ‘No Chinese! English Class!’ (The other day, I played the soft punch game with Max. I told him we were going to see who could punch the softest. I let him go first. I then slugged him rather hard in the arm and told him he won. He laughed and rubbed his arm and socked me back. I feel like I am handing down games to another generation that my brothers taught me. Yes, I am a humanitarian.)

After I rode the do-not-be-late horse into the ground, I told them I had been told that they will be taking their IELTS tests in the fall and I asked them where they thought they might go to college. Miko and Tess are going to go to New York. Max is going to Australia. Absolutely, I do not want to foil their plans but I let them know what they have in store if they hope to go to a predominantly English speaking country to university in which they are not fluent in the language. They are by no means fluent in English.

Miko, who at times can be to cool for school, actually listened to what I had to say. She would like to go to art school. She is an artistic person. I told her she should definitely go to art school.

I wrote ‘discourage’ on the board and I told them I did not want to discourage them. However, I tried to explain what a difficult challenge they will soon face. I wrote ‘5 times’ on the board and told them international students going to university in New York may have to take my English 99 – or an English 99 class – five times before they were equipped to go into English 101.

I then wrote ‘Certified ACT reader’ on the board. I explained the ACT and told them I am a certified ACT reader. Since I am an ACT reader, I have a good idea what separates an English 99 student from an English 101 student. Obviously, it would be in their best interest to start preparing for the ACT exam pronto.

Miko then said that she would like to be an agent for famous people. She then said she would like to represent me. I told her that I need a manager. I, then, wrote ‘15%’ on the board. I told her that is how much she would get of my take if she got me gigs. I wrote ‘5000’ on the board. She asked ‘dollars’? I replied ‘yuan’. Tess figured it out. Miko would make 800 yuan ($100) if she got me a gig for 5000 yuan. I then told her imagine how much she would make if she got me a gig every night. She started rubbing her hands.

I then told her she could start amassing clients when she starts college. One of my friends who represented me at one time represented Nirvana at one point, I told them. They had never heard of Nirvana. I sang a little bit of ‘Smells like Teen Spirit.’ Blank faces.

Earlier, on my way out the door to go to the Shanghai 90210 oral English and conversation class, I bumped into the elusive cleaning lady. At first, I tried to tell her to clean my place tomorrow. I pointed to Wednesday on my newly printed new schedule. I realized that meant nothing to her since it is in English. She did the familiar door-was-locked pantomime. I walked back up to my apartment and unlocked the door. I then started off for class again. I then went back up and put the cleaning supplies out in the open from behind the kitchen door.

The bell rang. I went on to class 3. They had an announcement instead of the eye exercises today. We finished watching ‘The Wizard of Oz’ which for the last three weeks, my oral public school classes have been watching. Off and on, for the last three weeks, I have tried to explain the cultural significance of ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ but this has fallen on deaf ears as in there is no point of reference for these youngsters. I write ‘Pink Floyd’ and ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ and ‘1973’ on the board. I write ‘Wizard of Oz’ and ‘1939’on the board. I tell them sometime in the 1990s – I actually write ‘1995’ on the board – a university student realized you could listen to ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ while you watched ‘Wizard of Oz’ and it gave it a new meaning which made the movie and the album popular again. Blank faces…again. I would like to explain midnight movies, ‘Rocky Horror,’ Burt Reynolds, but I know I can’t.

I come home for lunch and a clean apartment. The floors are still wet so I walk to the new grocery store which I just discovered last week. I buy apples and four slices of wheat bread (the way it is packaged in the bakery department). I come home and have a ham (with a Chinese aftertaste to it) sandwich with apples sliced thinly and put in between the mayonnaise and the ham. I drink a Pepsi.

The speaker system is class 11 sucks so I bundle up my kicking Hyundai computer speakers and take them to class with me. J helps me install them. He named himself after the Asian rapper who is so popular. As we are hooking up the speakers, J’s classmates move their desks. Everyone moves their desk over one. The people nearest the window slide their desks all the way to the other side of the room to the wall with the doors. I think of claymation while they are doing this. They do it quite noisily and the whole process is unorganized. I am not sure why they do not just move their books from the desks to new desks. This makes more sense to me. Of course, they have never heard Husker Du, the Pixies, Foghat.

Jo - the old fussy Australian who sometimes jiggles my door because she has forgotten we switched apartments – rang Maureen and asked her who told Edgar the students had nothing to do. Flu Screw seemed quite pleased with herself that she had added unnecessary work for everyone. I am not pleased that I now have to conduct class at 7:45 in the morning. The class will be held in the garden. I am bring coffee and toast.


Blogger maystephen said...

How I wish there was a video of this classroom scene somewhere.

8:37 AM  

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