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.


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