Monday, November 27, 2006

I look like a rooster that was drowned and raised again...

Today is one of those days in which I am a total goof ball. For some reason, I cannot take this serious. No matter how I try, I just cannot do it. Yes, this is a serious matter on which I cannot bestow seriousness. Maybe I am officially losing my mind.

This morning, for the sixth graders, instead of taking away the books they were looking at when class started and arguing about it, I told them to keep the books and ask and answer themselves questions about their reading. Sooham was reading a book on plants. This absorbed him. The rest of the period I did not have to worry. He had ten questions written and answered by the end of class.

Sumran looked through a book on Japanese customs and dress. On her sheet, she asked questions, answered questions and drew pictures to illustrate. This was exactly what I wanted to happen. She knew exactly what to do.

Lillian is very unhealthy. Her mother came and got her. She is really a sweet little girl but she has intestinal problems. This is very sad. Kevin picked a book on animals.

As you may have guessed, Oscar was my one problem this morning. He told me the assignment was too easy. Oscar shoots himself in the foot every day. He does not seem to know that telling me this just alerts me that he is going to be lazy about the assignment which actually makes it easier for me because now I know he is not going to put any effort into the work. Since I knew he would try to do something easy, I found a book for him. He will be discussing Robert Cormier’s Tunes for Bears.

Kevin has problems with his English. He always has lots of questions. Oscar does not have problems with his English. He asks questions to get out of reading or writing. Every time he asked me a question, I told him to write it down. That is why I asked him to write down questions. Yes, this assignment was brilliant on my part. The students seemed to really enjoy doing the assignment. The period quickly passed.

After the 6th graders I had the 7th grade readers. Today, just before the bell rang at the beginning of class, I remembered I was to give Eric the mid-term again since he scored 25% the first time around. Fortunately, the printer had no problems printing. Smoothly, I glided in to class. While Eric took his test, Neisha, Jacky, Venus and I talked. I told them since Eric was taking his midterm exam over, the three of us would have a free day.

We talked about astrology and the Chinese calendar. Jacky is a monkey. I am a tiger. He told me Eric is a pig. I tell him that Eric looks a bit like a little pig and I make an oinking sound. Occasionally, I walk over to the table where Eric is taking the exam to ask him if he is doing okay and to make sure that he does not have a cheat sheet since he has been known to be a bit of a cheater.

Back at the table with the other three, we talk about movies. Jacky gets bored with this. One of his new favorite pastimes is to look up Chinese words and translate them into English via computer. These words that he looks up are usually names that he can call me like ‘retarded,’ ‘idiotic,’ ‘abnormal.’ Today, he added more abstract words to the list. The one – or two rather – which resonated with me was when he called me a ‘water purifier.’ Yes, he really got me on that one.

After class, I do my time with the horrendous 7th graders. This is our performing arts class. At this point, I know that they will not behave. Laura the nightmare will disrupt class. Will will act like a beast. I know this. Oscar, small 7th grade Oscar will throw things at Eric the 25 percenter and act like he does not. Trevor and Sam will just laugh and be loud the whole time. Yes, yes, I know this already.

However, today I am in one of those ‘screw it’ moods. This morning, at the last minute, as I was leaving my apartment, I threw the Mammoth sampler DVD in my bag. This has a few Kittens videos and some Machines of Loving Grace, Blake Babies, etc. On Friday, I had promised obnoxious 6th grade Oscar that I would bring a song on Monday. As I was leaving the apartment, I remember that promise. You said something will change...We were all dressed up...Somewhere to go...No sign of rain But something will change...You promised.

In the 7th grade classroom once everyone has calmed down which usually takes a few minutes after the circus/ horse race music plays, I explain that I am going to play a video by my band. How quickly this gets their attention is amusing. For once, maybe the first time this whole semester, everyone is listening to me. Of course, the speakers are somewhat shorted out so Jacky has to come up to the computer to rig them so that they will not short out.

Once everything is situated, I hit play on the computer. The video for Pop Heiress Dies hits the screen. At first, the class is ho-hum about the viewing until I come upon the screen. A few students ask a few times if it is me with the long hair. Some of them laugh but at the same time their eyes are completely glued to the screen. This has to be a shock to them, their teacher fronting a rock and roll band.

After the video is over, everyone claps. They are all very enthusiastic. They want to see more. I tell them that is all. They do not believe me. I tell them there is no more. They still do not believe me. Finally, I succumb to their request. I play Angel on the Range. I explain that it takes place in Oklahoma. I tell them about oil wells. I would like to tell them about Midway Market but I am sure they would not understand but then again maybe Midway is transcendent.

After I play Angel on the Range, the students want me to play more videos from the sampler. The girls seem to really like the Blake Babies. The boys really dig the Machines of Loving Grace. All of them are amused by the Squirrel Nut Zippers.

My next class is the eighth graders. I decide to repeat the performance. When I walk into the room, Jack asks if they can play basketball today. Kevin asks if they can play cards. I tell them we are going to watch a video. Joker asks if we are watching a movie. I tell him no we are watching a short video of my band. His eyes light up.

Before class starts, my boss comes in and settles everyone. Everyone takes their seat. She has to scold Kevin. He likes to pace around the class and hit a few of his classmates while those of us in authority are not looking. I tell the class we are going to watch my band’s video. This seems to be exciting news to them.

I hit play. The video comes on. Everyone is stunned. This, I know must be a shock, because they see me as this goofy teachers not a pop singer. Everyone is completely focused on the video. This is such a surprise to them. This time after the video all of them clap uproariously. I smile. My boss is in the back of the class beaming.

I ask them if they have any questions. William asks me how long ago the video was shot. When I reply 12 years ago, there is an audible gasp in the room. He tells me I was much more handsome then. "I was much more handsome then?!" I respond in mock exasperation. "Then?!" I repeat again for emphasis.
"Now, now your are much more handsome now, much younger."
"I look younger now?!"
"You look younger then."
"I looked younger then?"
"Uh, yes, uh, then, nega nega hair very long handsome."
"So I looked better with my hair long."
"Uh, nega, yes."

My boss is the 8th grade homeroom teacher. William - I am certain - is as endearing to her as he is to me. Of course, most of the time I do not understand what he is trying to tell me.

Joker asks me why I stopped. I explain excess and alcoholism. I try to do this in a cautionary way. I am not sure what may be a taboo subject here for the middle school children. However, in my heart, I know that if I can stop anyone from drinking, I probably should, not that I am on some anti-drinking bandwagon but I know how dangerous it is. I know if I had never started I would not have the constant battle that I have now but I am by no means complaining. Everyone must make his or her own decision.

My boss tells me many of them probably have questions but they do not know how to ask them in English. She notices a dozing Eric. Eric loves to sleep in the back of the class. This is 8th grade Eric not to be confused with the Eric who made a 25% on his midterm. This is smart math Eric. She wakes him up. He lifts his head and tells her he is thinking of a question. I laugh. He always makes me laugh. He is harmless. Really, all of them are harmless.

Again, they want to see another video, I play them Angel on the Range. Again, they are rapt. This must really be blowing their minds. I cannot even imagine if I would have had a teacher in middle school who had been in a successful rock and roll band. I cannot even imagine it.

After the video is over, I write $5,000 on the board. I tell them this is how much one of the videos cost. They are awed. I then write $25,000 on the board. I tell them this is how much the other video cost. This completely stuns them. I ask them which one they think cost $25,000. Most of them guess right except for Joker and William, they guess that Angel on the Range cost $25,000 to make.

At this point, I explain video budgets and what they consist of. Everyone wants to know how much I made on the video. I tell them nothing. This makes absolutely no sense to them. I tell them I know. While I am talking about budgets, I mention to my boss offhand that this is very MYP, I am mixing other subjects like math in to the performing arts subject.

Again, I ask if there are any questions. William asks me when I am getting married. He tells me that I need someone to clean my apartment. I agree with him about the cleaning but I think I would rather hire a cleaning lady.

After lunch, I have my geography lecture class. At this time, I have stopped putting much energy into this because I know no matter how much time I put into it, the students will just talk and misbehave and make me crazy.

However, they do like answering questions. I prepared a list of information on one sheet and questions on the next. I hand that out to them. Laura the nightmare is her usual nightmare self in the back of the class. Will is a bit of a nightmare at first but then he settles down. Although his English is bad, he really makes an effort to answer the questions, I tell him he is doing such a good job. This class, I cannot let make me crazy.

After class, I go to the office and decompress. My next class is the sixth graders. Yes, I will show them the video.

Athena –the bad ass who is also their homeroom teacher – is in the classroom when I walk in. Kevin knows that I am going to show the video and he is beside himself. He is trying to talk really fast and because of his bad English he sounds like a broken robot stuck in overdrive impersonating Peter Lorre. He tells me to not start the video until everyone is there. Of course, that is what I had planned to do anyway but I let him run the show. He is so excited. He is the classroom master of ceremonies.

We get everything set up. I invite Athena to stay. She goes back to the back of the classroom and sits. For good measure, she pops Oscar a few times. Whether he deserves it or not, I am not sure.

There is this strange anticipation in the air. Once the video starts, the whole class is transfixed; they cannot take their eyes away. When the video is over, everyone claps and claps. As were the other classes, they too are stunned.

Now, they are uncontrollable; they are so excited by what they just saw. It is much like a really miniature version of Beatlemania. Athena tries to quiet them down but she cannot. They are talking amongst themselves and are totally and completely star struck. I am flattered and embarrassed.

With Athena translating, I tell them a bit about the music business. I try to be kind and not jaded and callous. Each time I say something in English, Athena expounds upon it in Chinese. I say expound because she takes much longer to explain it than I do initially. They ask me how much money I got for the video. I tell them I got no money for making the video

Sooham tells me ithe music business is an evil mean business. He is so right. Whether he had prior knowledge or whether his introduction and knowledge of the business is what I have talked about for the last 20 or 30 minutes, I do not know. Nevertheless, he has come up with this conclusion after I have not even tried to paint a bad picture. He was saddened that I did not make anything from the video. I am not sure how to tell him how it works.

He then asks if he can have an autograph and runs up to the front of the room with a pen and paper. I sign it. Now everyone wants one. Athena tells them to sit down and to wait until after class. Everyone sits down.

Class is over in five minutes. Athena leaves. The minute she walks out the door, the whole class bum rushes me with pens and paper. How can I not be touched? This makes all of the nasty days less nasty. The purity of the sixth graders melts whatever ice has been hardening inside of me. Really, to them, I am huge – Elvis, Bing, Jim Reeves.

For the last few minutes of class, I sign multiple autographs. These little cataclysms of energy act as if they will never see me again. At any one point, there are at least five sheets of paper held up in my face as they chant “Me! Me Tyson! Me next!”

And then, suddenly, something dawns on me as I am walking to the Quik in the greyness of late November; maybe life itself hits me for the first time unguarded and real; I realize how lucky I am in an indescribable way. The way that someone is told: I like your child, that is how I feel about my past as a Kitten.

In the class, while I was watching the videos for Pop Heiress Dies especially, I have this surge of emotion. Part of the emotion is the gratitude to be able to communicate to others what I was able to communicate in some small way. The other part of the emotion comes for the people that were there to help communicate that emotion. On the screen, I see Trent doing the wonderfully innocent guitar windmills; I see Eric slamming the drums with all of his being and looking so dashing as he does it; I see Matt with a shaved head bouncing around and loving and living the moment and then I see myself, myself 12 years ago, another me, a me who would have never dreamed of the current me, the me who could not see the now me, the future me. Yes, I am lucky. I am alive.


Blogger mike blur said...

Sooham was spot on - I would have pointed at him while he was making his comment, it was so spot-on. I was grinning broadly here in the cold Kansas night at 4 am as I was reading about your students' reaction to the video.

Scott Born gave me tons of Mammoth swag over the years, but that pipeline dried up a long time ago. Did the DVD come out recently? I'd love to pick it up.

Might you be able to slide the famous Hunter Thompson quote sometime to your students. A good example of wry humor with a twist.

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench. A long plastic hallway where pimps and thieves run free and good men die like dogs. There is also a negative side."

6:55 PM  
Blogger tyson said...

hey mike...i think this is the only way i can contact you because your comment does not have an hope you get this...thank you for the hunter s would be so far over the students'heads that...well...i don't know but i may say it sometime for my own amusement because that seems to be half of what i do anyway...and the mammoth DVD is just one that Jay sent me because he is shopping our songs to movies....Sooham was spot on. It was almost as if some disenchanted dead rocker occupied his body long enough to say that...anyway..thanks for the comment...

7:07 PM  
Blogger Joe Thebeau said...

I have been lurking and reading your blog without comment. But, the post about showing the kids your Past Life video moved me to post.

Your music means a lot to me and many others, I'm sure. It's good to see you're doing well and feeling lucky for it.

in st. louis, mo

6:10 AM  

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