Sunday, July 02, 2006

The last thing you will ever say to her

You finish the movie. However, while you are watching, you are having a hard time concentrating. You are uneasy about what will happen tomorrow. You wonder how severe this is. Tomorrow morning, you will write a new art final for the students. You then start to get angry and feel as if you are being spied upon. You are doing the best you can under the circumstances. You have had to teach this art class with no resources. You have one text book that does not copy well. It is pointless to make copies of an art book. The art should be in color not Xeroxed. If you would have had a computer projection screen, you could have made it an art history class of sorts, projected the painting as you lectured on them. Jennifer reminds you Elizabeth is leaving. Do not worry about this. Still, you cannot sleep. You toss and turn for most of the night. Wondering, wondering, wondering, what tomorrow will bring.

At 7:55, I wake. I have that queasy feeling that I used to have in the morning when I was still a drinker. The thought of staying in bed entices me. However, I decide to get up and go give the students the new study guide. I am out the door by 8:25. I make the walk to the international building.

Nancy is at reception. The students are in the classroom. No one else has arrived. I copy the study guide and go to the classroom.

Everyone but Allen is there. I tell them that since they finished the other test so fast. Elizabeth has decided that they are to take another one. I hand them the review sheet. I tell them the exam will be at 8 pm. This one is going to be quite a bit more difficult. After I say I am sorry, I leave.

I come back to my apartment and try to sleep but I cannot. I am still a ball of nerves. I start putting the new test together which is actually fun. Now, I do not feel bad for the students if they do not do well. Nevertheless, within fifteen or twenty minutes of writing the test, I start feeling guilty for springing this on them. Out of guilt, I start giving clues in the questions. By the fifth True or False, I am giving the answers away. Impressionist gave an impression of a scene rather than painting it exactly as they saw it. (True or False?)

At 12:45, I get a text message from Jennifer. They are having snacks with Elizabeth in the snack room. I send a message back to her that I am still working on the test. I send my regrets.

Nancy calls me and tells me, I am to give the test before 8 pm. I ask her if I can give the test at 6 pm. I think she says that is okay. However, her English is so bad it is hard to tell what she is saying.

I get an email from Bird Flu. The best way to explain it is to reprint it verbatim:

Hi Tyson,
I heard from Nancy that Elizabeth has asked you to do a re-test of the Art paper! She came into the Staffroom to find you to fix a time.

I may have caused it unwittingly............. when you were going to that interview with Edgar on Tuesday, I went to the classroom to give the 4 students the Art test, and Elizabeth then knew I was filling in for you after I had completed my paper.

But when she saw me walk out 5 minutes later with the completed papers, she asked me if they had finished their test, and I said they had completed it in quick time and that they said it was the same paper as for the mid term, which surprised me.

She must think that the 5 minutes test was too short for a Final Senior level examination. I guess she was expecting a paper to fill the time allocated for your subject?

I reply and tell her that it is no big deal she did not mean to cause problems. A few thoughts go through my head. Perhaps, I was paranoid about the whole thing and it was an accident. Perhaps, the scene played out the way she said it did. Or, maybe she felt guilty after she realized Edgar and I did not meet to discuss what she thought we met to discuss. Actually, I did not even see Edgar. Or, maybe she does not feel guilty; she is just trying to cover her tracks because she now, I would think, suspects that I know she has been trying to sabotage my standing with the company.

Next year, I will not see her. This is the last I will have to deal with her. Seriously, I mean her no ill will. The scenario she describes in the email may have happened. Somehow, I do not believe it. It seems to me Elizabeth would have dealt with it before now if that was the case. The exam took place two days ago. It really doesn’t matter anyway. Now, I know to be more careful. Some people you can trust. Some people you cannot trust. This is a good lesson to learn.

Later, I see Bird Flu in the office. I tell her that I rewrote the test. I think it will be difficult for the students. She tells me that maybe I could just switch the order of the questions from the first test. It is too late for that. I have already given them the study guide and printed the test. She flutters and squawks a bit more.

Elizabeth is in the office. She calls me in. She has the contract for me to sign. Before I sign it, she tells me she was excited to have me come teach because of what I had done in New York but then and she does not finish. I tell her that I have done the best I could do with what I have been given. I do not want to make this an issue. I know that I may have made some mistakes. Trusting Bird Flu, of course, was the biggest mistake I made. This, I do not tell her. I tell her everything is much more difficult here. Everything I do takes much more thought and preparation than back home. She is fluent in English and Chinese so she does not understand the difficulties I face. I tell her that now I feel like I am starting to adapt a little more to the culture. She tells me the principal wants to talk to me at the school where I will be teaching in the fall. She is waiting to hear when I need to be there. I sign the contract and leave.

I go to my computer and sit until it is time to go to the classroom. Elizabeth calls me and tells me that I am to go my future school tomorrow at 9:30 am. She tells me to make a list of drama, literature, and art books for the school to buy.

I go into the classroom to give the students the test. They tell me that the study guide is very difficult, too much to remember. I tell them next time do not act like a test is so easy because this is what happens. It is a bit like when a mom has to discipline a child and the child says ‘That doesn’t hurt.’ I tell them I did not want to give them a final to begin with but I had to and now I have to make it tougher than I had originally planned.

Again, I have a guilty pang run through me. Before I hand the test out, I go over everything that is going to be on the test. At first, the students do not listen but then they do. There are 44 questions on the test. I quickly go over them all. I pass the test out. This time the students agonize over the test. I feel guilty. Max looks up; I smile at him. ‘Moby Dick’ and my journal, I brought with me to read or write while they take the exam. I neither read nor write. I just watch the students. This is the last I will see of them.

Max and Tess finish the exam first. When I look over their answers, I am surprised. Tess does not miss any. Max misses one. The main reason I am surprised is because this is their second language. Part of what I explain, I assume they do not understand. When I was going over the test before I handed it to them, I assumed there were some facts they would forget or not understand. I am surprised and pleased.

Max wanders around the room while Miko and Allen finish their tests. Every so often, I have to say “This is a final exam Jeez! Max step away from the test takers.” He laughs each time. Allen finishes after struggling for fifteen minutes after Max and Tess finish. Miko is the last one. For my own amusement I say “Grandma’s slow but Grandma’s old” rather loudly over and over. They do not understand me. I laugh to myself.

Miko finally finishes. She hands the test to me. All of us walk back into the office. Jennifer is there. She is getting ready to leave. All of us go down in the elevator together. Max and Allen get out of the elevator first and go toward the dorms. Miko and Tess hang back with Jennifer and I. We talk about nothing in particular. We say our goodbyes at the bottom of the steps to the main entrance of the building.

In the distance, I see Max and Allen. Chances are I will not see them again. Tomorrow they leave after their first test. I will be at an interview at my new school. They do not know I am not coming back. I did not have the heart to tell them. I hate tears.

At home, I finish grading the tests and I do my progress reports on the Shanghai 90210. A chapter closes. Another chapter opens.

A final note, the interview took place with no hitches. I was late getting to the school because of traffic and then the cab I was in ran into the back of a car. I got out and walked the rest of the way to the downtown office where I met Fairy and (Urgent Parking Lane Driver) Roy. He chauffereured me to the school. Fairy, once again, acted as translator. I was ready to apologize profusely to the principal. Again, the principal was not there. I met with Sophie who I had met with the first time.

At the beginning of the meeting, a couple of teachers walked in and said hello. One of them, a younger teacher, said in broken English she heard I was a rock singer. I told her yes I am. Sophie then told me she had been telling everyone. They are all very excited. Maybe I could play a show for the school. I told her I would love to play a show for the school.

Later, after lunch, I got a call from Elizabeth. For lunch, I had met Logan and the Sofa Negotiator at the Pizza Hut. I told them whatever they wanted to eat was fine and I mentioned a few things and when I said Pizza Hut they both got very excited. I had promised Logan, I would take him out to eat. Sadly, Pizza Hut in China is actually a nice expensive restaurant. Logan asked me if I ate it in the states. I told him I had probably not been to a Pizza Hut in the USA for at least 5 years. Pizza Huts in the USA are not good I told him.

When Elizabeth called, She said Nancy was waiting for me to turn in my grades. I told her I had emailed her (Elizabeth) the grades. I told her I was to meet friends that were traveling through from the USA. I finally agreed to go back to the school which takes about an hour and a half, once you make all the connections.

Back at the school, I told Nancy I had to go to my computer and print the grades out for me. She told me that Elizabeth already gave them to her. I just rolled my eyes and went to my computer and started sorting through things. Jennifer told me that the students all left. They all said goodbye before they left which made me sad. Miko, however, left without turning in her writing portfolio. She snuck home with her dad. Jennifer failed her in her writing class. As she is telling me this she is off to give more paperwork to Nancy.

I go back to doing stuff on my computer. Five minutes later, Jennifer then bursts back into the office to tell me that now they want the exams from the students. I asked if they wanted the actual students’ exams or just the exam template. No, now they want the students’ actual exams. I asked if they told her to tell me that. She said no.

At this point, Bird Flu chirps up in that - in heavy need of strangulation or a sound thrashing – voice, “Well, they told me that last week that they would need the students’ exams.”
“That’s great,” I say hoping this is the last thing I will ever have to say to her, “You are the only one that they told because they did not tell me and obviously, they did not tell Jennifer.”


Blogger JAC said...

Hey, Tyson. Nice blog. You probably don't remember me, but I met you at Red's. Anyhoo, I was wondering if you'd mind me linking to your blog from mine. Check it out if you get a chance, and let me know if the link will be okay.

1:50 AM  

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