Tuesday, September 21, 2010

History is Heavy

School has been in session for roughly three weeks now. Obviously I have a new batch of students to contend with. Most of them are good but there are a few complainers. The complainers are the ones that drive me nuts. I really hate when people belly ache. I really do.

But then at the same time, these complainers are a challenge as well and I try to think of it this way - the complainers are making me a better teacher because I am learning the best way to deal with them and not totally be driven crazy at the same time. Although I have been doing this quite awhile now, everyday is a learning experience and that keeps the job fresh and keeps me from stagnating.

At this point, I should say that I get worn out telling them that what I ask is preparing them for what is in store for them in America. As you may know, I am preparing these students for study in America. I have them for one year and then they go to America to high school for two years. Some of them will go to Valley Forge Military Academy. (J. D. Salinger went to Valley Forge. Pencey Prep from The Catcher in the Rye is based on Valley Forge.)

At the same time, though I do get worn out telling them and telling them that they need to work harder, I know that no matter what I say I can not impress on them how hard they have to work because they are not there yet. They are still here. And until they are there they do not know what is there there. There.

And, of late, I have tried to lessen the burden on the class teacher. Over and over, I tell her not to get so crazy over these kids. I don't know if this helps or not. She still gets crazy over them. Really, I just try to stay mellow and not get crazy myself because they can make me a little crazy. At the end of the day, however, they are good kids and I enjoy being with them and I miss them when I am not with them so what more can I ask for really?

This is the deal. We are about to have our first holiday of the school year. Naturally, the school expects me to assign homework. Really, I am not one who likes to assign a lot of homework so I decided to assign 4 short pages of reading from their history book. After they read, they are expected to identify some key elements in the text. This really is not much to ask.

Before I go any further, I should explain how holidays are observed here. Often we teach on Saturday or Sunday if the holiday falls midweek. For instance, the holiday that is coming up falls on Wednesday so we taught the Sunday before the holiday and we are teaching the Saturday after the holiday so that we can have Thursday and Friday off around the holiday. Understand?

This is confusing to new arrivals. Bird Flu – remember Bird Flu? – once missed Saturday’s lessons because she did not realize she was to teach that day. Forget the fact that Jennifer, the other foreign teacher, and I had told her that she had classes on that day and that the headmaster told her and that the students told her. Forget all of that. She forgot that she had to teach. Bird Flu kills me.

Okay, so back to the complaints. The main complaint is that the history book which is sizable is too heavy to carry to their homes they tell me. I listen to them for a few minutes. Wen Yuan slams the book on the desk to demonstrate the heaviness of the book. This seems to be the game point. The teacher is defeated. All of the students cheer.

My response:

History is Heavy.

I win!

The last few days, we have had visitors from our sister school in Melbourne Australia. Since the students visiting are all female I assume the school is an all girls’ school.

This is the interesting part. Most of the girls, actually all of them are of Chinese descent but talk with Australian accents. I asked a girl named Chloe if she is first generation Australian. She concurred that she is. Her parents both immigrated to Australia before she was born. Thus she was born in Australia.

I then asked her if she celebrates the Chinese holidays in Australia. She doesn’t, nor does her parents. Stacey, her friend that sat in my class with Chloe, told me that her parents do celebrate Chinese holidays in Australia. Her family has Chinese friends with whom they celebrate the holidays.

This to me was interesting in a sociological sense. It is interesting I suppose because I get to see first hand how one culture merges into another or is absorbed by another or is actually eroded to some degree. Yeah, sure, Chloe’s friend Stacey’s family still observes Chinese holidays but then Chloe and her family do not. This is interesting.

Maybe another reason that I see this as interesting is because I teach history to some degree to the students and we study how ethnic groups have merged throughout history, sometimes violently, sometimes peacefully. So here, I am more or less a first hand witness to what is going on and how two cultures are merging to some extent.

Of course at the same time, my student Tian Yu just walked up to me and asked:

“Can I go take a paper and…?” with that he points to his nose where some snot is waiting patiently for him to take a paper and…

History is Heavy, yes.


Blogger Michael said...

Tyson - longtime Kittens fan, have met you a few times but only superficially. Since you are from Norman, OK, yours was the first name that came to mind when hearing the horrifying news about the young man from Norman who took his own life after attending a city council meeting and the rampant homophobia that was there. My soul is being crushed by the epidemic of gay suicides, torture, and hateful invective that is rampant over the last two months. I'm a straight guy that has worked for a Black LGBT advocacy org for the last two years (nbjc.org) and it's hard to take any more.
I guess the point of this is to demonstrate some love from a stranger you don't know, but who is grateful for your contributions to my life, and wishes there was more to do beyond what I do now. My heart is breaking everyday for lives I've never met going through unbearable pain.

10:19 AM  
Blogger tyson said...

Thank you so much. I am in Shanghai so I miss all of the news that happens in Norman. That is truly sad. Love is love.

10:43 AM  

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