Friday, September 22, 2006

it takes a fast car lady to lead a double life

Last night, I took a walk to the DVD stall. The boy who always smiles rubbed my face when I got there. He did not know how to ask me about my beard. My beard is on holiday. He smiled after he rubbed my face.


There are two Oscars, naughty sixth grade Oscar and polite seventh grade Oscar. Polite seventh grade Oscar comes into the teachers’ office.
“Tyson, where is your beard?”
“It went on holiday.”
“You are young.”
“Thank you, Oscar.”
“Kiss up,” Mary interjects.

Today, we have the International Baccalaureate Organization meeting at 3 pm. These meetings are absolutely maddening. They are conducted in Chinese. We are instructed in Chinese. At the last one, I had an interpreter who knows less than Basic English. This is torturous. Attendance is mandatory. Of course, I am tempted to be rude and bring papers with me to grade while they are conducting the meeting. In the USA, I would never do this because I understand what is going on. Here, they know that I do not understand but yet I am forced to attend these pointless meetings conducted in Chinese.

I’m a fool again. I fell in love with you again.

My eighth graders may be the death of me. Let me set this up. No one, absolutely no one, takes my design class serious. They put no effort into the autobiography cover. Granted, this is a blow off class. Art classes in junior high are fun time yes. Kevin and Jack came in late as did two girls. Nice Tyson has left the building. I march the four of them to my boss’s office. She is their homeroom teacher. I tell her they were all late to class. I do not know what to do about it. She thanks me for bringing them.

it takes a fast car lady to lead a double life
it takes a slow star lady if you want to do it twice

I go to class and hand out the autobiography analysis. My boss brings the girls back and tells me they were talking to a teacher. That is why they are late. They apologize for being late. They take a seat at a table. What she has done with the boys, I do not know.

As a prize, I am giving my extra copy of the Kaiser Chiefs Employment CD. I predict a riot. I play the CD in the ghetto blaster. Everyone is talking. No one is doing the analysis for their autobiography cover. This is very annoying. These students are very spoiled. They are probably the most spoiled of all of my students. They are at that age, that age where they seem to think they do not need to be taught.

A few songs play. A friend of mine he got beaten. He looked the wrong way at a policeman…I predict a riot. After the song finishes, I switch off the ghetto blaster and ask the students if they are done. Everyone stares at me blankly. One of the girls is working on her knitting.

This is when I tell them they have an assignment. Have they done this assignment? None of them have. I tell them to get busy. With this, I go around the room and I explain (again) what we are doing (again). Now, some of them halfheartedly write.

Joker actually takes the assignment serious. He is a smart aleck but he does do his work. His cover is the one cover that looks as if some thought has been put into it. He has put together a 3D cover that includes a made over paste-up man holding a guitar and raising a fist. This is actually pretty cool. He has his name cut out of letters. The J and K are scrawled with green pen. He has a broken game DVD glued to the sheet to represent the moon. I tell him he will win the prize. He is writing and writing. Everyone else continues to talk to each other.

Finally, I decide to award the prize to Joker. At this point, he is really the only one in the running. I ask for everyone’s attention. I start talking. At the far table, Cathy keeps talking to the friend sitting across from her. Cathy is pretty and awful. She reminds me of a pretty girl I knew who was pushed out of a jeep by her boyfriend and ran over. I tell the table to shut up. Nothing happens. A storm builds inside me. Cathy keeps talking as if I am some mild annoyance.

At this point, I do not stay calm. I get up in Cathy’s face and start screaming with the fury of a thousand demons. At first, she looks like she is going to laugh it off. That is what she always does. She laughs it off. She is a little spoiled bitch who is too cool for school. I see her laugh it off when other teachers yell at her. My boss is her homeroom teacher. My boss is very kind. I have seen my boss reprimand her. She laughs it off. Her laughing it off days are over in my book. Now it is time for her to pay the piper.

In my fury, I go on for a few solid minutes; I call her an awful person. This embarrasses her I know because she is used to someone just yelling at her and walking away. I do not walk away. At this point, I know she hates me AND she wants to crawl into a hole. Everything I can think of comes out. Really, I could give half a crap about her. She is a pretty girl who will someday get involved with a bad boy who will treat her badly; maybe he will run over her with his jeep. After I lambaste her, I just stare at her for a good minute. Then for good measure I lambaste her again.

After I am done, I go back to my desk and start putting my stuff away. I look at my watch. Ten minutes of class remains. Everyone is quiet. No one stirs. There is no throat clearing, no chairs moving, no nothing. I stare out at them, these little demons. I am no longer the kind teacher. Now, I feel as if I am Darth Vader, Napoleon, Richard Nixon. Are they all Luke Skywalkers, Alexanders, John Lennons? I stare at them for three minutes. Time this on your watch. This is a long time. They stare back at me like innocents. Is this truly how this has to be? I have been so nice. Sometimes, I get irritated but I never have let loose the shitstorm of fury.

At the end of the three minutes, I give the speech, that teacher speech, that speech that all of us get at one time as students; that speech that we all deserve at one point or another as students or employees. The speech begins with the words “I want this class to be fun but…”

Going into the whole speech is probably beside the point. The main points of the speech are few: I would like to respect them as adults; teaching is not the only thing I can do, once this is not fun, I am gone, nothing is holding me here. These last points I am sure I make for myself not for them. I need to know that I am doing this because I enjoy it and I do not have to do it. For once, no one dares speak while I am speaking.

After class, I am still a little shaken when I return to the teacher’s office. Mary is sitting at her desk. I tell her that I just had a meltdown with the eighth graders and I go on to tell her how I screamed at Cathy. When I was done Cathy was close to crying.

Mary tells me she hates Cathy. She causes Mary problems too. Mary cannot believe I had a meltdown. Mary always says I am so nice. I am not. I am not nice. These are spoiled children who need disciplined. How I became a disciplinarian, I do not know but that is the role that I am now playing. If this persists, I will ask my boss if the students who do not behave can be sentenced to custodial tasks. To me, this seems like a good way to enforce some much needed discipline. God, is this me talking?

Usually, I am easy going. I want to be easy going. However, I have let this build. These students will not take advantage of me.

My boss brings the boys who were late to my office to apologize for being late. Their punishment, they had to stay in the homeroom alone. I wonder what sort of punishment that is. That sounds more like a reward than a punishment.

At this point, I drift away into a dimension filled with music and no students.

Trip down the alleyway, take the back stairs
I know it's good but good isn't fair.
That's what you said, flashbulb in your eye.
How can I hold you when you're waving goodbye

In my own world, I look up. The good Oscar is standing by me. I remove my headphones. Again, he tells me I look young. I thank him. He asks if I am listening to popular music. I tell him yes it was popular at one time. I am blasting the Cars. I ask him if he likes popular music. He tells me he does. He likes it very much. He is a little guy. My guess is that he is 11 years old. I ask him who he likes. Simple Plan, he tells me. They are good I tell him. What a relief that he did not name the Backstreet Boys as a band he likes. He tells me he listens to Simple Plan on his Ipod. That sounds nice I tell him.


Mary and I head to the meeting. This time the meeting is held in the computer room. The computer where I sit will not log on to the internet. I move to another computer. Michelle is the interpreter for Mary and I. She is good. However, she has to go to the Singapore consulate because she is going to Singapore for an IBO workshop. She leaves. A computer tech guy starts to help us. His English is actually not bad. He disappears. We are supposedly learning how to put grades and messages for parents into the computer system.

The drawback for Mary and I is that every command in this system is in Chinese. To make matters worse, the computer where I am now sitting will not let me log on. At this point, I am pretty adept at the computer. I certainly know the basics and more. Before the computer guy left, I think he had the impression that I was a computer moron which I certainly am not. He told me tidbits like where the enter command is on the keyboard. Duh! To entertain myself, I stop paying attention because everything that is being said is in Chinese.

At one point, a nice lady named Wendy who actually has a decent command of the English language tries to help Mary and I. She asks us if we want to learn the Chinese characters. (After all, there are only 5,000.) I tell her I would like to learn how to speak but I think trying to learn the characters may be a bit much.

The thing is, and this is the important point to remember, I would love to do nothing but study Chinese and Chinese characters all day. The truth is I cannot. I have to learn the Chinese grading program so that I can submit my grades. This is just one more thing that I have to do on top of everything else with which I am loaded down. We both explain to Wendy that we would love to learn how to do it but since all of the commands are in Chinese, it might be somewhat impossible for us to do. Wendy is really nice. She is trying to help. Nothing is getting accomplished. I tell Mary that I am leaving. This is what I like about Mary. She does not say we should stay. She agrees that it is ridiculous. On the way out, we tell our boss we would like to learn how to do it but at this point, it is impossible for us. Our boss points to the screen to show us what is important to learn. She then realizes that we are looking at her like, “yeah, sure, but we cannot read the chinese to which you are pointing.” She tells us she will talk to the computer guys. Mary and I walk out of the computer room.

As we are walking back to the teachers’ office to gather our stuff to leave, I tell Mary I am really happy that she and I are alike in that manner. Neither of us sticks around out of politeness when it is doing us absolutely no good. We are happy to help and we are team players but we are not going to just hang out when are not accomplishing or learning something.

when you idle at the stoplight you better get the signal right...and it's all gonna happen to you...

This does not worry me. Without a doubt, I give it my all. it takes a light foot lady to lead a double life... As I am walking home, I get excited. Tomorrow morning, I will have coffee and donuts at Mr. Donut – chocolate and caffeine, my Saturday morning regiment.


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