While my guitar gently weeps and breaks and JohnLennon and GeorgeHarrison and Jimi Jimi bo bimmy banna nanna fo fimmy Hendrix and Fred Sonic Smith and all of the other guitarists and songwriters and lifelong soundtrack providers…now all of them gone…gone on to that guitar stack in the sky…gone in vomit and bullets and needles and age…all of them… Mick Ronson, James Honeyman Scott and Pete Farndon (bass) and now I’m walking like I’m ten foot tall, a workingclass hero is somethingtobe….with brass in pocket…I’m an alligator…
Jacky meets me by the trash garage. We walk to class together. He tells me he goes to bed after supper. He wakes at 10 pm to take a bath and goes back to sleep. This is very comfortable he tells me.
At my desk in the teacher’s office, a group of boys gather around me. William with the ‘you know what kind of eyes he got’ seems to be the leader. He asks me what I am drinking. I tell him I am drinking coffee. He tells me the girls like milk tea. 8th grade Kevin brings a bag of milk tea to school – a big bag – everyday, he says. I ask him if Kevin shares it. He tells me know. I ask him what sort of drink he likes.
“My mother tell me Coke is bad for boys.”
“Bad for boys?” I ask.
“Yes, it (insert Chinese words). What is word?”
Sean, 6th grade Kevin and Vincent are standing beside him trying to think of the word.
“Bad for boys?” I ask again, intrigued.
“Yes, bad for their health,” William tells me again. “It kills…uh, nega nega…”
“What does it kill?” I ask.
“It kills the sperm,” He says. With this he and his cronies exit stage left and I start my morning.
Next week, we will have parents’ day. Parents’ day is a day when parents (and grandparents) will come to observe classes. This will be a major pain in the ass I already know. The reason, at this point, the parents expect a dog and pony show because the school makes such a fuss about it which is fine but it absolutely has nothing whatsoever to do with teaching, nothing whatsoever.
Also, the plan keeps changing. The classes have been rearranged on that day. At first, I was to teach a class with Celia but now that has been switched, I am teaching a class on my own. Of course, Celia and I got together and started planning what we would do for this class and now we are told we are not teaching the class together.
At 11:20, the English teachers go to the East Campus to talk to an English exchange teacher. None of this is fully explained to me ever. Any information I am given is usually at the last minute. From what I can ascertain, the teacher is here from America. His name is Doug. The Chinese teachers kept calling him Doog when they were talking about him. I then saw his name spelled on a document and corrected them. I would hate for them to call him Doog to his face.
It seems winter is here. Really, I shouldn’t complain. The weather has been beautiful since April. The summer was hot but I had air conditioning and I was able to deal. With my shabby umbrella, I walk to the East Campus in the Shanghai drizzle. Walking ahead of me are two English teachers that I do not know. They left the West campus just ahead of me. Since I do not know the layout of the East Campus that well, I consider this a godsend. I can follow them to the meeting.
At the gate of the East Campus, they see me behind them.
“You are Tyson,” one of them says to me.
“Yes,” I reply. “What is your name?”
“And I am Evelyn.”
“Are you going to the meeting?” I ask.
“Yes, how did you know about it?” Doreen asks, or maybe it is Evelyn. I am confused which is which.
I follow them up the stairs and into the meeting. I am glad that I did follow them because we are the last ones to make the meeting. Everyone else is sitting. Doug, a round kind little man, is sitting at the couch giving his English spiel. For the first time, I am actually learning something, something of value. Doug, I can tell, has been teaching a long time. He is someone who I need as a mentor. If I had someone like him to ask questions, my life would be much easier at the moment. I would not be applying for jobs in Cairo….Panama….Saudi. Midway through his pep talk, he reaches into his bag and says “Oh and Tyson…” as he brings out a package.
“You had requested the Lemony Snickett books.” He hands me the first three Lemony Snickett books. I tell him the students will really enjoy them. Actually, okay, I am lying, I am going to really enjoy them and then the students will really enjoy them.
Doug wraps the meeting up by telling us that he will be around for a little longer and
Mary and I leave. We walk back to the West Campus.
The Korean – the jury is still out whether she has an extra chromosome or not – comes to my desk with Noam (the angel) and Laura (the nightmare). Students often come to my desk to borrow things. She wants to borrow my headphones – the expensive Grado ones that Steve gave me as a groomsman present. For a moment, I actually think about lending them to her. Then, I get a visual, the visual involves various 7th graders stomping on a pair of defenseless headphones left in the aisle of the 7th grade classroom. I tell her no they are expensive. She cannot borrow them. Why I even debated loaning them to her, I do not know. Maybe because I am still not sure how many chromosomes she has.
I would like to say that teaching guitar has become more of a pleasure. Finally, I am rewarded by seeing the progress of these budding Kotkes, these endearing Cooders, these Mahavishnu-fied McLaughlins. I would like to say all of them can play open chords perfectly at this point. The guitars ring out, ring out beautifully. Yes, I would like to say this but I cannot. These are still two excruciating hours in my week.
Today, I have decided to tackle ‘She Loves You.’ We will play it Em to A to C to G, the G should be a G6 into a G but we will be simplifying it. Yes. Fortunately, I actually have the song on CD. I will take it and play it for the kids. Some may like it. Some may not.
When the time comes for class, I do my death march down to the auditorium. As I am walking there, I pray that another teacher needs the classroom like last week. Last week, we had the class outside. If we had to do that this week, I could cancel because it is raining.
In class, everyone is spread around the room as usual. At this point, I could care less. A few weeks ago, I told my boss I needed an assistant in the class, someone to translate. She told me that she would ask about it. Later she told me she asked and it is agreed I do need an assistant but no one is free at the moment to assist. I am on my own.
Maybe on purpose, maybe not, I forget to bring the ghetto blaster from the teachers’ office on the 4th floor. Once everyone is in class, I tell them we are learning another song, this time I have the CD. With that, I leave the room and go get the ghetto blaster.
This probably does not kill as much time as I would like but oh well. Okay, the next order of business is to find a plug to plug in the player. At the back of the auditorium is a plug. In order to hear the song, I tell everyone to move back to the back. En masse, everyone moves to the back of the room.
On closer inspection, the plug is not for the common electrical appliance. It has four strange holes. Max says it will work. I let him try. He realizes it will not work. It is shaped like a Swastika with the lines in the middle missing, not really your average plug.
We search all over the room for somewhere to plug in the player. On the sides of the room, there are plugs half way up the wall. Jacky is tall enough that he can plug it in. There is no power to these plugs. Now, I am killing some time.
I go out into the hall and see if I can find anyone who is familiar with the plugs in the auditorium. There he is like a vision, walking in the hall. Never do I see him on the second floor but then I am only on the second floor once a week. Maybe he is often down here doing second floor chores, science club shenanigans, the IT cha cha. Yes, it is. Yes, it is. It is Xiao Ma.
“Xiao Ma,” in a pleading tone I say. He reminds me of my old friend Max from the Shanghai 90210. He does not talk much. Once when I saw him on the stairs, all he said to me was “My English is not very good.”
In the movie, I have the CD player in my hand. In reality, maybe I do not. Maybe I am miming the player. Miming Player on the player “Baby come back any other fool can see I was wrong and I just can’t live without you.”
Maybe, just maybe why none of us could find a hot plug is because the plugs are hidden in the floor. You have to have a key like device to open them. Xiao Ma plugs me in and leaves.
I play ‘She Loves You.’ A few students are straggled around the player. Kevin is right by me. Jacky is sleeping in the back. Eric - who made a 26% on his midterm, due to laziness more than outright stupidity – makes a face when I put on the song. I tell him he may certainly leave, the little four eyed chipmunk. Nevertheless, after we listen to it once, he wants to hear it two more times. Sean says it is a famous song. From what I can tell he is the only one who has ever heard it.
After the song is over, I play through part of it once and then I start to try to teach them the song. Always, this is truly trying. Some students give up and do homework. Other students endlessly say “Teacher, like this? Like this?” as they demonstrate how not to play a chord otherwise known as the extra chromosome chord technique.
Finally the break comes. I hear the music. Jacky comes and sits as close to me as he can. He grabs my hand. He tells me it is warm. His hands are always cold. He is at that age where he wants to be cool but he is still this kid lost in the world of kids. Sometimes, sometimes I miss that age.
Some local students from other classes wander in to the room. In my best overbearing adult voice – as realized by Mr. C. from Happy Days – I yell that it is not monkey hour and they need to go back to the zoo, no one laughs but me.
When the break is over, I try to show Kevin, Eric, and Sean the beginning chords to the song. They really do seem to be trying, until they lose interest that is. Then, I decide to approach the quiet girls, Jacqueline and Sabrina, to see if they need help. This is what I do the last 20 minutes of the class.
This, this is the one positive. When the class first began, many of the students did not understand what I was saying. Now, they seem to understand a good deal of what I say. Whether this is me or them, I don’t know. After I show them, the first four chord changes, Jacqueline tells me to play the song slower. I tell her thank you that is a good idea. I play it slower and there is this really strange chance, that when we were going through the song and I am not losing my patience, up above us, there with the angels and Warhol, Lennon says to Harrison “Man I feel sorry for that guy!”