Friday, May 15, 2009

Danny looks out the window

Danny looks out the window. Outside, down on the sports field, the chatter of children has distracted him. My students are taking an examination. This is the 3rd nine week’s examination. The final exam will be the last one. At that time, I will say goodbye to this group of students with whom I have become so close over the last school year.

Kevin gets my attention. He has a question.

On one of the sections of the exam, he is to write some information about the different emperors.

“These I didn’t write,” he tells me as he points to the emperors, excluding Octavian.
“I know,” I tell him. “You must give me information about them.”
“Huh?” is his response. This is one of those ‘huh’s of complete shock like I have asked him to recite the Bill of Rights word for word.
“Think about the presentations that your classmates gave about them,” I tell him to help him. “Just think about it for a bit.”
“Okay,” he concludes.

From the sports field, the occasional coach whistle can be heard; beyond the sports field, there are the honks and the sounds of engines, the sounds of birds, migrating birds.

I am sitting at the back of the class. I look at Kevin who is sitting at a desk two seats in front of me. He is sitting ‘thinker’ style with his hand on his chin. Suddenly, a thought comes to him. He busily writes something. After he finishes, he looks up and then goes back to sitting like the Thinker again.

A few days ago, Sharon – whom I have come to like quite a bit though we have our differences – was teaching me some Chinese phrases. I feigned gratitude. Actually, this was fun. I was enjoying myself. She then mentioned at the first of the year I got mad when she was trying to teach me phrases.

Yes, I did get mad but she does not remember it the way I do. This was during the first few weeks of class. We were both in the classroom during my class period talking to the students about vocabulary.

Sharon blurted out - yes blurted out - that I should learn the same number of Chinese words that the students learn English words. She then said I was lazy in front of the students. Naturally, I was in shock at how inappropriate this was. For awhile after this, for me, the gloves were off.

Of course, after that at the teacher’s office, I gave her an earful. Now, she does not remember it that way. She just remembers that I got mad when she was trying to help me learn some Chinese. I let it go. It is not worth rehashing. At this point, we are friends which has been a bit rocky but I we have made it in some post-Manilow (Barry) sort of way.

Now, I go around the classroom and look over various papers wondering how the students are doing on the exam. Overall, with the exception of Lillian of course, everyone seems to be doing well with the exception of the emperor section. All of the boys are completely stumped. The girls have studied this they know the answers. Maybe I am too much of a softie; I decide to give the students an extra credit question.

Tell me about your visit to the special needs home. Each good sentence is worth one point.

I then explain to them – “Each sentence must have a subject and a verb. If you write ‘We good time there.’ That is not a good sentence. What is wrong with that sentence?”

Odile meekly answers there is no verb. Outside the birds are flying to Beijing, Tianjin, St. Petersburg.

Danny hands me his exam first. After he does this, this opens the flood gate - a river of exams hits my desk. After I have all of the exams, I tell the students to meet me back in the classroom at 10 am. At that time, they will take their math and science exam that Markus prepared.

After they hand me the examinations, I look them over. This is always a somewhat arduous task because I want to give them the benefit of the doubt but I do not want to be too easy. And, I get somewhat frustrated when I know that some of the students put so little effort into their studies when they are set to go to study in America in August or September. In some ways, I feel as if my classroom is more or less a holding cell, a place to mark time, a place to count the days; as if the students do not have to really apply themselves. It seems even the most ambitious students have become lazy.

Granted, I may have not made it clear that they needed to know about the six emperors I listed on the exam but the other questions on Ancient Rome should be easy for all of them. Lillian of course is the exception; she answered ‘BC 509’ to the question ‘What happened in AD 476?’ This did not even faze me. Sharon has even gone so far as to call Lillian stupid.

“Her mother may not let her go,” Sharon started.
“To America?” I asked
“No, not America,” Sharon corrected me. “To Australia.”

But then Danny, my hopes – my high apple pie in the sky hopes – were on Danny; oh Danny, Danny who spells Caligula with an ‘r’ Danny - watching the birds Danny, sports-field-in-his-head Danny – Danny, Danny, Danny disappoints me.

Question – What were the disturbing consequences from the riches that flooded into Rome?
Danny’s answer – Emperor.
And then when I ask about Spartacus, yes, he knew but he could not state it correctly
Question – Who was Spartacus?
Danny’s answer – A brave man who lead no freedom people to defend with rich people.

Nevertheless, I get a lump in my throat when I read the short essays the students wrote about going to the special needs home.

Kevin took the opportunity to write his heart out.

On Monday, the weather was good. We went to the “special needs” home. The people in this place, there was something wrong with their brain.

When they known we would go and see them, they were very happy.
We played, talked and had a walk with them. We also known something about them. There was one small child, about 5 years old, his father and mother died. When we played with him, he seemed very happy.

We learnt a lot of things at the ‘special needs’ home. When we saw them, we were very sad. They were very small with no parents, no family, so they were very poor. They need love from everywhere. They make me know I’m so lucky, because I have parents, family and I’m healthy.

Elliot has worked really hard all year. Although, his essay is still rough, he tried his best to describe his visit to the special needs home.

When I this-a room, a boy call me, and hope my play a kind of card’s game with he. It’s a very difficult game. I never play but I hardly to play with him, I think, I must make he happy.
We play game about 15 minutes. This boy want ask me something things and he ask me he very happy have people meet he of have people meet him, he will rember they all life. I believe him because when he meet me first he ask me where is Feb. meet he two girls, I know. He said it’s other class’s mate. So I’m very surprised because maybe them head it’s not very useful. But they can rember every meet him people. And I write some words on the card give him. He is very happy. I said I will rember him all life, too.
When I leave the special needs I know more things. First, I think the special needs people are just like a baby but now I think they more like adult. We’re lucky. We’re healthy, so we should better to study, to help the need help’s people.

Then Danny sums it all up.

We visited to the “special needs” home on Monday. There were many child live in the home. Some childs were mental. Some childs had anti-body. I thought I am lucky one in the world. The teacher said “Everyone can play with childs together.” I played basketball with two childs. One child had bad apperence. The other one was mental. We played very happy. We took a photograph together. I really like them. Sometimes they made me sad because they haven’t parents. So I must treasure my parents. And make my parents happy.

We had a good time there. And we must treasure our life because we only have one life.

After I look over the exams and finish reading the extra credit essays, I look up and look at the students. All of them are lost in concentration working out equations and story problems. I smile.

“Okay, you got about 5 minutes,” I announce.
No one looks up but I do get a sense of mass panic.
“I’m kidding,” I counter. “You really have about 20 minutes.”
Danny laughs.


Student walks into the teachers’ office looking for his Chinese English teacher; he has question. I tell him perhaps I can answer his question.
"What means “\'Holy Shit'?”
“Well, I don’t suppose it makes much sense really,” I tell him.
“Shit is excretement like from dog.”
“Yes, I suppose it is heavenly crap,” I tell him.
“Oh,” he is somewhat satisfied. He walks out of the office.

When I go back to the classroom, I discuss the exams with the students. I tell them maybe we will go to the zoo in a few weeks. Danny looks out the window. Outside the birds are flying to Beijing, Tianjin, St. Petersburg.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

I shut him then he died. I know that are cabal and they sale medicine that’s all..

“My dictionary!” the student exclaimed as he grabbed a large dictionary on the extra teachers’ desk in the teachers’ office.
“Had your dictionary gone missing?” I asked
“Yes, gone missing.”
“So, you are reunited?” I then add in my best ‘adult at the end of Lassie Come Home’ voice, “Such a happy moment.”
“Yes, so happy.”
In the West, a boy and his dog comes to mind. In China, the dog is replaced with a dictionary.

As soon as I got to school this morning, Edward had a question about a sentence which was absolutely not the time for me for a question about a sentence. I was running late or rather I was running on time with few minutes to spare but not a lot of time for a question about a sentence.

Thursday is my long day. I teach 6 classes which I usually supplement with a film. Today, I had planned to show the film Gandhi. Edward asked me the question as I came into the teachers’ office. When he asked me the question, I had my mind on other things; one of those things was to locate Gandhi. I knew the film was somewhere on my desk – or in my desk – in one of the many piles which seem to multiply in the night when I am away.

“Tell me which is correct in this sentence –
The reason why the explosion occurred was because the laboratory attendant had been careless.
The reason why the explosion occurred was that the laboratory attendant had been careless.”

Not really stopping to think about it, I told him that I think either was okay.
“No,” he told me firmly “because is wrong. It is a predictive clause.”
“Well, you asked me and in American English we would not really think about it. But if you say it is wrong, then okay it is wrong.” I did not want to really go into it and I didn’t want to be mean about it but I really didn’t want to go into it.

I try to be nice about this but if someone asks for my opinion, especially first thing in the morning - on my 6 period day - I am not absolutely kiss-ass thrilled when that person tells me I am wrong. Furthermore, I am not a walking English rule book by any stretch of the imagination. I suppose there are people who are. I am not. Yes, okay, it is redundant to say ‘why’ and ‘because’ in this sentence but it is it something to make a major case over especially when I am searching for Gandhi in the a.m.? Gandhi where in the fuck are you?! What would Gandhi do?

During this exchange, I located Gandhi. Armed with the film, I headed to class.


The end of the school year is upon us and this is always bittersweet because the time is getting closer when I will be going home for the summer but then, at the same time, the time is getting closer to when I will be saying goodbye forever to the students. The past few years when I left for the summer, I had assumed I would see the students that I was leaving the following school year. This year, I know this will not be the case because these students with whom I have spent so much time will be going to America. And there is a good chance that most of them I will never see again. If I do see them, this will be a strange coincidence. This saddens me.

So now, each day, I try to take in everything and laugh at all of the inconsequential interludes, those fleeting moments of laughing and sunshine in the garden; those times when Elliot is reading from the wrong paper.

Yesterday, I gave them a short article about a Mexican beauty queen who was arrested with her boyfriend and some gunrunners. The homework assignment was to either write about the day in the life of a police officer who deals with gunrunning or drug trafficking; or to ask the beauty queen questions and give her advice to help her get her career back on track. Most of them handed me something grammatically faulty but superbly entertaining

So, without further adieu, I would like to give you a glimpse into the minds of a couple of the students. (I have made some corrections where I feel it necessary but I have tried not so spoil the flow of their brilliance and creativity.)

I start to work at 7 o’clock. I meet my leader when I get to the office. If my leader doesn’t give me a task, I can stay in my office and have a rest. When tasks come, I must prepare for them. We must have a discussion about robbers, etc.

“Who can finish this task? It’s a hard task to catch a murderer,” the leader said.
“I can,” I said. (Neil Diamond! Watch out!)
“Ok, Danny will finish this task. Lucky for you!”

I think it is a chance for me. And I can finish this.

In the afternoon, I have some news about the murderer. He is in his home. I stand out of his door and watch him moving the body which he has killed just now. I break into the room. And shout “Don’t moving!”
I aim the gun at him. “If you don’t listen to me, I will kill you.”
“Do you kill people?”
“Yes,” I admit. ”So I will arrest you.”
The murderer don’t move. I think maybe he be arrested now. Beyond my imagination, he have a knife. It’s dangerous. I shut him then he died. He is died. I am finish the task. My leader encourage me and promote me. I am very happy.

Thank you Danny! I can see that your future writing crime fiction or television docudrama is secured. Elliot’s brilliant mind is a tad harder to crack. He writes in code that multiple English grammarians are still trying to crack. Good luck!

1. What relation ship between you and group?

I don’t have any relation with gang. They only threated me to help them. Yesterday, they break in to my house and put out the gun and threat me. Don’t call help and I do this. They will kill me. I’m afraid, very much.

They make me get in the car. I think they maybe to abduct me and gaved many money for me next. I know that are cabal and they sale medicine that’s all.

2. Why you know the cabal sale the medicine?

Because I usually saw they deal the medicine for example one name’s Kevin usually buy and they encourage me eat but I not listen them.

3. We want know something about your boyfriend.

Okay. My boyfriend is the brother of one of Mexico’s biggest gang bosses. But he is a good man. He about meet his brother twice a month. But I don’t know why they meet.

Sadly, I think the beauty queen may have been expunged before she was able to finish her interview.