The particulars are vague. Nevertheless, the teacher does not like me. He is teaching math in French. When I enrolled in the class, I must have not realized the class would be taught in French. The year is unspecified. But the teacher is well known. The teacher is that film actor Greg Kinnear. In class, he is a jerk. He calls on me constantly. Maybe he wants to hear me mispronounce every term, every pastry. Now, I have become the class idiot. Maybe this is college. Maybe this is secret school. Maybe this is tomorrow. The same day or 40 days later, I move seats. I am sitting by a pretty girl. I ask her how to spell ‘croiscant.’ She tells me “C-R-O-I-S-S-A-N-T, Croissant.” Mr. Kinnear yells at us. The girl frowns at me. I want out of this class. I think there are cobwebs on my eyes.
Somehow we got onto the subject of armadillos. Actually, I was the one who got us on the subject. During our conversation about Australia, I asked Oscar if they used armadillos for money there.
“What is an armadillo?’
At this point, I asked Sooham to tell Oscar what an armadillo is.
“In America,” Oscar asks, “do they use armadillos for footballs?”
“Exclusively,” I answer. “How did you know?”
“I saw it on Animal Planet.”
“Oh, yes,” I say, “they used to use pigs but pigs are too heavy. They are extraordinarily hard to throw.”
How did I happen upon the subject of armadillos? How, indeed…again, somehow, I had got on the subject of Taco Bell because we –or actually I – was talking about Jello because of Sooham. Sooham does not always make me think of Jello but this morning he did. I tell him he looks very handsome. He tells me he put gel in his hair.
”Jell-o?” I ask.
None of them know what the heck jell-o is. This is a sad Chinese fact. Neither do they know about Kool Aid. However they know about Taco Bell. To them, Taco Bell is fine dining.
“In America,” I say, “we have drive-thru’s.” At this point, I demonstrate driving through. And, this is when I ask Oscar if they use armadillos as money in Australia. As Sooham explains the habits, trial and travails of the armadillo, he draws an armadillo that looks uncannily like your stock, first rate, hot off the assembly line stegosaurus.
the next day, next day next day next day….
Classes are switched. My first class this morning is design with the 6th graders. Prospective students’ parents or the parents of the students in primary are touring the school today to make sure they like. Bells and whistles are being prepared. Poster board with pictures of students performing activities are placed in the corridor. Xiao Ma is a greeter at the entrance to the school. The desks have been rearranged in the sixth grade classroom. 4 or 5 students face each other at these desks.
My sixth graders are drawing the mobile home blueprints. Sooham tells me blueprints are supposed to be blue. That is why they call them blue prints. I tell him he will have to make do with Xeroxed paper with a grid. He gets busy drawing. He, actually, is one of my better students.
Students ask me if I cut my hair or washed my hair. I gelled it back. Maybe I am impersonating Nick Cave, Johnny Cash, Wayne Newton – those men in black.
I was told my 6th grade reading class would not be observed. No English speakers are coming. We were doing research in the library. We are moved to another room which makes it a bit difficult to do research since the research books are in the library. As I am getting the 6th graders settled, a group of adults come into my class. The 6th graders are straggling in and out of the class with books and questions. The English group is unexpected and naturally a shock. I tell myself if I act like I know what I am doing, they will not know that I do not. I tell the women, some of them teachers from the primary school we toured, that I think research is important for the students. I make up some on the spot crap that they may or may not see thru and I add that I did not know they were coming. I have not prepared bells and whistles for a tour group. They tell me to carry on as usual. If they have suggestions or ideas, I would definitely love to hear them. A few of them interact with the students. A stodgy, very proper older woman who speaks Queen’s English and is head of the IBO program at the primary school makes the mistake of trying to talk to Oscar. She calls him by the wrong name. He yells in typical Oscar fashion as if he is on the brink of tears “THAT’S NOT MY NAME.” He yells this right into her ear. I have to smile to myself. Later this woman asks me how much I get paid.
Later, much later, days later, Polly, 8th grade Polly pulls out a pack of pills in film class. As a concerned teacher, I ask if she is pushing drugs, Quaaludes, Black Mollies.
“Are you trippin’?” I ask.
She is trying to convince me she does not understand. Her English is horrible. Okay, I am just entertaining myself. She has a packet of clearly marked cold medicine.
This episode strangely reminds me of when I was in high school, maybe a senior. Dory Terry, who loved Led Zeppelin and said someday when she was old she would kick back and rock to some Led Zeppelin. She would place one speaker on one side and the other speaker would be on the other side and her rocking chair would be in the middle. Yes, she would rock to some Led Zeppelin. Dory once was sent to the office because a teacher thought she saw her give Valium to another student. For weeks, Dory crowed about being busted for having Tylenol 3. Tempted, I would like to ask Polly if she wants to trip or just rock to some Led Zeppelin but this would only be entertaining to me.
The arts class is temporarily a film class. Today, I brought Time Bandits for the kiddos to see. This is quite a tough one to explain the premise to middle school students who do not understand much English. Any movie is tough to explain to middle school students who do not understand much English.
I am in the back sitting by Jacky. He wanted me to sit by him. I have meat flavored – I did not buy meat flavored on purpose, they looked as if they would be hot’n’spicy - Cheetos that I am sharing with him. He is not paying attention. He is talking, talking, talking to me. Most of the students are not paying attention.
The computer in this class has wiring problems. The speaker plug has a short so if anyone gets close to it, the whole thing starts buzzing and you hear nothing but buzzing. So of course, Laura the Nightmare gets up and goes up to the monitorfor no reason than to be an idiot. Well, the idiot accidentally hits the plug with her leg. The whole thing starts buzzing.
I tell Jacky it is broken because of Laura the stupid girl. We both start laughing at her. This, I am sure, is inappropriate. She tries to fix it. She cannot. She must have not paid attention to Xiao Ma messing with it for five minutes to get it to not buzz. Now the whole thing is buzzing. At points, one of the speakers works but we still get the buzzing. I keep saying rather loudly it is because of the Laura the stupid girl. Jacky laughs each time. Laura the nightmare strikes again.
This is what baffles me about the more idiotic elements of the class. They could have something really cool but they would rather not. They would rather screw it up or complain. The seventh graders are one big nightmare. Some of the students may pay attention but the ones who do not ruin it for the others. At this point, with this class, I just could really give half a crap. They are spoiled. My only retaliation is to give Neisha, Venus and Noam handfuls of Cheetos while I am giving the other students one Cheeto each. I say this is because they are good girls. Some of the boys come up and say “I am Neisha! May I have some?” “I am Noam.” I am Venus.” This makes me laugh but I hold to my handfuls for good students, a pittance for the little idiots. The last of the pack I give to Venus since she is always good, disgustingly good as a matter of fact. Oscar, (not the big loud idiot, but the little sneaky idiot) runs up and grabs the bag like a hyena and runs off with it. This, of course, sets me off. I chase after him, smacking and kicking him as I go (again, probably inappropriate). I grab the bag and give it back to Venus as I am administering a few blows to his head and backside. He sits at his desk on the verge of tears. He sulks until someone gives him a pretzel. He is the Eddie Haskel of the group. I got his number. Yeah, I got his number the little bitch.
The eighth graders fare a little better than the seventh graders with their response to the movie. Nevertheless, before class my boss (their classroom teacher) lectured a group of five girls in the class. Someone, a foreigner that is not me, has taught the whole class how to play cards and now everyone likes to play cards in class. Knowing that I teach a blow off class, I could give half a crap. I have decided to not be an authoritarian. Okay, sure, a few minutes ago, I did chase a little weasel around the room whacking the heck out of him for trying to steal the last few bites from a bag of meat flavored Cheetos. However, the eighth graders are not the thorn in my side that the seventh graders have becom. I let them play. I know they are not paying attention to me anyway. This actually makes my job much easier now.
During the movie, I sit by William and we eat Cheetos. He shows me card trick after card trick. This is one thing that I have got from these kids. It seems like they are starved for attention which is weird because they have no siblings. They get their parents’ full attention yet they want more. William does not pay attention to the movie. The rest of the boys – Eric, Jack, Kevin, Ben, Joker – sit at the monitor and watch the movie. I pretend for most of the class time that I do not know they are playing cards more than they are watching the movie but hey did anyone ever learn anything in those blow off art classes in junior high? Okay enough said! When they see me coming near the end of class, the cards get put away. Each of them – except for Kevin because I cannot reach him – I thump on the chest. There is actually one student who is watching the movie and shushes the others; that student is Judy.
The sixth graders surprise me. They love the movie. Even after I tell them there are no Chinese subtitles they still love it. They pay attention. They love the midgets beating up on each other. A bunch of them yell “Robin Hood” when John Cleese appears on the screen as Mr. Hood.
Part of this may be because it is late in the day and they are ready to relax. I am not sure. They really seem to enjoy it. I am quite surprised. At the beginning of class, though, I made everyone clear their desks, some students tried to fool me with books open under their desks that they thought I did not see. Fiona sits near the back of class. When we started the movie and she had not quite cleared her things, I sat down beside her asking if I could sit beside her and with that I gave her a little bump which sent her flying from her chair to the floor. Of course everyone laughed including her.
Once everyone had settled into the movie, during Napoleon’s cameo, I discreetly pulled out my last bag of meat flavored Cheetos and started munching. By this time, I had given Fiona her seat back and was sitting in the back of the room by Linda (which she pronounces Leenda). Most of the students were completely transfixed by the movie in front of us but occasionally one of the students would turn around and almost catch me snacking. Rimbaud at one point did catch me and so I put my finger up to my lips in a shushing motion and then motioned for her to come back and get a handful. She did this very sneakily which made the whole back of the class - who had been fortified with meat flavored Cheetos already – laugh. Fortunately, this happened during a comical scene in the movie except for some of the students did not realize why the back of the class was in hysterics because really it was not fall down on the floor funny like Lily and Coffee seemed to think. Anytime anyone turned around to get a clue from me, I just shrugged my shoulders. After all, I am the teacher; really we are not even human. We don’t know what is going on around us, ever. Some of the students in the back especially loved when I hid the meat flavored Cheetos in Linda’s open backpack. This is when Kevin got nosy. He decided something besides the movie was really funny to us and he wanted to find out what that something was. At one point, Linda tells me she would rather not have my snacks in her bag. At that point, I took them out and gave one to Kevin. The students in the front still did not know what was going on until Kevin took the empty bag to the front of the room. The students around me ratted me out, the ratfinks. I pointed to Rimbaud as if she had brought them and I knew nothing of it. I still claim my innocence in the meat flavored Cheetos matter. Of course, I am the only one. All of those ratfinks are ready to sell me out. They will not be bribed with meat flavored Cheetos.