Tuesday, September 09, 2008

“You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings.”

Sharon is not having a good morning. Her car died after – or maybe before - she started it this morning. Her explanation to me was vague. I told her it might be the battery.

“Impossible” she replied “Car only 8 months old.”
“Did you leave on the radio or leave on the lights?” I asked.

She stared at me blankly.

“Car is at mechanic shop,” she told me, maybe to end the discussion which was just as well with me. I did not really want to try to explain car mechanics – or car batteries and how they charge when the car engine is running and drain when the engine is not running if the overhead lights have been left on overnight. This would be impossible for me to explain to her in English when we have enough trouble with our daily simple conversations.

Most people, of course, do not have cars in China. When they do have a car, the entire family and extended family share the same car, much like it was in America before everyone had to have a car to drive three blocks to the grocer because of lack of sidewalks.

My job is to prepare these students for a military academy and for the SAT. They will not be taking the SAT for another year and a half. Nevertheless, I still feel as if it is my responsibility to ready them for this hurdle as much as I can. On Friday, Dolly asked me what our goal is with these students. No one had really told her what she is to teach. I told her that we are to prepare them for the military academy in the USA and to get them ready for the SAT, which they will take at a later date. Upon hearing this, her response was the SAT should not be our responsibility. Someone else can do that. I told her she can do what she likes but I am preparing them for the military academy and I am preparing them for the SAT as well.

Now, I wonder why I did not just take the easy way. Since Frankenstein will boost their vocabulary, I thought it would be a pretty cool book to do. Man, was I wrong. Really, I did not think that Frankenstein would be such a difficult book for the students to grasp but then of course it was published in 1816 and spearheaded the Romantic Movement so to speak, so the language, though modern, is quite flowery and quite a bit more advanced than I had expected for these students. Not to mention, my brightest student, Jane, is not here today because she is home with fever.

We skipped the introductions and the preface and went right to the letters written by the character Captain Robert Walton –
“You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings.”

Maybe I could say the same for the class. I am not sure. Needless to say, in that first sentence there were six unfamiliar words to my students. This is going to be bumpy road indeed. Since I have a computer-to-overhead-projector capability in the class, I showed the trailer for the original 1931 Frankenstein and then tried to show the Coppola version but nothing. Today is obviously not my day.

Not to mentions, this is after Sharon told me that I am lazy because I am not learning enough Chinese words. This is after she pointed to the board at some Chinese words. I need to learn as many Chinese words as the students learn English words. Then she will test me. This, she said, in front of the students which angered, flustered and, basically, stunned me.

So, needless to say, I was flustered when I started Frankenstein with the students. I stumbled over words and forgot what I was saying mid-sentence. This is not how I had envisioned starting Frankenstein. I wanted to start Frankenstein with a bang. Add to this, two Chinese teachers came to sit in on class because they want to improve their English.

Somewhere about mid-class, I got back into the swing of things but I still felt as if I was limping along. Just letting go and not letting what Sharon said bother me is what I needed to do but I was having difficulty with this. I just could not believe that she would say something so wildly inappropriate in front of the students. How she could be so unprofessional, I did not understand.

Maybe I should write an email to Fairry at the company. When I got back to the office, I had planned to write Fairry an email anyway so I thought I would mention it then. But then, Sharon walked in and I just told her that I was angry, what she said was very inappropriate, that is not something that you say in front of the students. She was shocked but I think pleased that I said something to her. She is someone who seems to like conflict which is really foreign to me. She told me that she was only joking. I told her what she said is still not something you say in front of the students. I told her that I did not want to be mad at her; I just had to let her know so that I would not keep it bottled up. I wrote Fairry an email but I did not mention the incident.

Edward came in soon after and the mood improved enormously. Edward is always in a chipper mood and puts me into such. He is an incredibly upbeat guy who is also very curious. Over my shoulder, he watched the Coppola Frankenstein trailer. On the phone, Sharon chattered in Chinese to the mechanic about her car.

“What is You Tube?” Edward asked as we were watching the trailer.

“A site where you can watch video clips,” I replied

“Can you watch English movies?”

“I think you can watch trailers,” I replied and added “I’m not sure about movies.”

“Oh, okay. I will type it into my computer right now.”

I went back to working on my lessons.

“We will go swimming this afternoon,” he said, ‘with a girl.”


“The pretty girl who sat with us in the cafeteria,” he added.

This pretty girl is one of the teachers that sat in my fumbled and dazed Frankenstein class.

“Okay, I have classes until 2:30.”

“That should be not a problem.”

“The students go 4th period I thought I might go with them,” I said thinking aloud. At this Edward said the students might be shy going with me, especially the girls.

Sharon then butted in out of nowhere – “Such nonsense, the boys and girl go separate.”

This offended Edward. He told Sharon she offended him which caught me off guard and made me laugh.

“Why are you laughing?” Edward asked as I just kept laughing. “You laugh as if she has already made you angry this morning.” I still kept laughing because I was not sure how in the hell he knew that she had made me angry by my nervous laughter so I laughed even more.

“Sometimes, she is very rude and she says words she should not say,” he added which made me laugh even more. “Why do you laugh? I do think she has already made you angry this morning.”

Sharon then left the room and I did not want to talk about her behind her back since I thought we had cleared up our disagreement but then I wanted to tell Edward what had happened because he seemed to know already. Maybe Sharon had told him at some point.

“Maybe she said something in front of students?” he asked.

“How do you know all of this?” I asked. I was truly baffled that he knew her that well. They have shared the office for many years. I did not want to pass judgment this soon in the game but I think Sharon is going to be someone with whom I will have to be cautious, on guard against.

I then told Edward what happened and he told me that he and the other teachers sometimes have problems with Sharon. She says inappropriate things, which has angered many teachers in the past. Oh good, I thought. That is all I need.

He then told me that she told him that I was lazy which baffled me and made my anger rise once again.

“Lazy? She has called me lazy?!”
“Yes, she said you leave trash in the classroom.”
“I leave trash in the classroom?” This was downright absurd. I am not sure to what this pertained. “What sort of trash.”

“Water bottle.”
That was the most ridiculous accusation ever. I had left my water bottle in the classroom once because sometimes I forget things when I am wrapped up teaching. A water bottle is one of those things that I tend to forget when I am gathering my things. This happened once and I got the water bottle later because it was nearly full. Wow, I could not believe how ridiculous this woman is. Part of me wishes that Edward would not have told me but then I am glad he did because I want to know if someone is badmouthing me for no good reason and she was certainly badmouthing me for no good reason. I am lazy because I left one water bottle by accident in the classroom?!

Then, maybe to change the subject or maybe because he was curious, Edward asked
“What is tube? Like channel?”

I tried to explain but failed miserably. I don’t think he would grasp the boob-tube concept but then speaking of a different sort of boob or two, I look over at Edward and he is looking at videos of pretty girls on youtube. You know the sort of video; the one that asks you to hit a certain button to learn how to seduce girls in your area now. That is somehow where he had landed.
“What is seduce?”
“To have sex with someone,” I told him. Maybe I should have said something along the lines of conning someone into sex but then after all I am not really much of a walking dictionary.

“That is common for foreigners right?”
“Uh, I guess. Are you ready to go to lunch?” I asked.
“Yes, let’s go to lunch.”

As we walked to lunch, he tells me that his friend asked him to watch an erotic video.

“I learned some new words on this subject,” he announced.

“Oh yeah?!” I asked; my interest piqued. I was wondering what sort of vocabulary he might have picked up from a porno.

“Job-blow!” he told me proud to have learned such an important erotic term.
“Blowjob,” I corrected.


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