A Little Here and Now

Hidey ho and how do you do. I’m stepping out of my stories of the past. I’m here with a little bit of recent news. I am mere single digit days away from finishing my first year as a professional teacher. I’ll take your applause now. To this day there’s a modicum of surprise I still feel about where I am in my life. I’m in Europe, and I’m getting paid to do a job that I had no prior experience in, a job that I wasn’t confident about my own capacity to do for the longest time.

Release the balloons and confetti, pop the champagne, I’ve made it. A few bumps and bruises later, but I can count on one hand the number of times I need to come into work and see those little buggers again. Then, then it happens, that fabled time of childhood. It’s the wondrous three month hiatus not just from school, the holiest and best remembered of youth’s stretches. That time when all the rules that you live by change. Beholden no longer to the bus and bell, summer is unbridled. It is the time of swimming holes and ice cream cones, the time for road trips and camps. There are bikes to be ridden down impossibly steep hills. Friends’ porches provide perfect places for lazy jesting. There are tree houses on high to be built and then scaled. There is too long grass losing its green in need of a trim. There are endless cricket songs to be sung as the sun makes its lonely sojourn from East to West.

There’s a sort of magic to it. The days linger in sunlit gold. Time seems to hold its breath in those moments, and just for that brief span your life holds with it. A parallel, reimagined state of being that you can embody for a scant few months. There’s adventure in those days. Seemingly more adventure than you’ve ever seen before. Those days of summer vacation carry greater weight and meaning than plentiful before. Maybe those days hold secret loves won and lost and left to times remembrance. It’s a collection of moments dearly held in youthful hearts. It withers though as life expands out of adolescence. I have held deep in my heart a fondness for this mythical stretch of time. It is the part of my childhood most lamented in its loss. This year though, that changes.

Being a teacher comes with its fair share of particular problems. Not an easy profession, fraught with headaches. Not a means to especially enrich yourself with monetary gains could it be considered. It makes me feel like I’m gaining back my childhood, something thought lost to the march of time. I am immeasurably excited to fall back into the wonderment.

My today is a few days late because I’ve fallen into a strange malaise waiting for the job to wrap up. Everyone I interact with is carrying this barely concealed burning anticipation. Freedom lies on the horizon, moments from grasp! Because of this, I’ve foolishly convinced myself that it has been a job well done and I deserve a break from everything that isn’t hardcore vegetating. I’m currently running a deficit on all of my constructive behaviors. If I’ve been letting actual responsibilities like cleaning the house and daily showers fall behind, it does not bode well for my self prescribed duties.

The students are exhausted and the merest mention of work books produces anguished cries of persecution. They don’t want to learn. I can’t blame them. As their instructor, I barely wish to be there myself. Strong faces are assumed. We go about our business because it is what is expected. It’s a cleverly acted charade of the usual.

Not a single man, woman, or child can state that they are not fed up and through with lessons. This is not hyperbole; I have not had a conversation with anyone that has not begun with their adamant desires for the cessation of schooling. The strange thing is that I wasn’t at the end of my patience before everyone else made it their goal to tell me I should be. Suggestion is a force of power though because I too am counting the moments to freedom. In the immortal words of A. Cooper, “No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks.”

So, that’s me today, as of this moment in time. As snapshot of attitudes briefly possessed and then wordily expressed. I’ve got a lot to look forward to; it’s going to be an exciting summer. Hopefully I can keep up my creative habits in the face of my lazy ones. If anything fun happens, you can bet it’ll end up here. Here I sit, wistfully optimistic wishing everyone out there a good day, good night, and good reading.

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The Naked Mole Rat Offensive of November 2016

The little monsters were at it again. I thought that I had hit a high point in my teaching career when sixteen children simultaneously compared me to President Snow from The Hunger Games. Three fingers in the air and a whistle on their lips, mockingjaying was swift merciless, and easily crushed. Little faith did I place in the infinite creativity of the youthful mind. It was only a few days later when an enterprising group of hoodlums decided that they could top the scholastic disobedience record.

To fully explain this incident I am going to unpack a few truths.

In my job as English teacher, my instructional goals are first and foremost speaking and writing. As such, when I can get them to stop speaking it becomes time for them to do some writing, hopefully bettering their English skills in the process.

There are troublemakers in schools. Hard hitting journalism for you folks, the story broke here first. Most classes have one or two children who for some reason or another require extra attention. If they do not receive that extra attention, they will act out, usually capturing them negative attention. Some of my more difficult classes have around six students all vying for to be the top attention grabber.

The sentence, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” contains every letter in English.

Writing isn’t easy, it takes work to do in the first place, and even more work to get better at.

There are students who do not wish to do any work. Those students really hate working.

Grade schoolers would much rather play games than be in school.

With this list of information cycling through the brain, I can commence the story. Restlessness was the word from the outset of the class. To worsen matters, their ire was being stoked by one of their more spirited dissidents. Through the use of some kind of hive mind telepathy, the student body had come to a unanimous decision that learning in my class was just something they were not willing to do. They were in a mood to test my resolve. It was time to push and prod Mr. English Teacher to see how much he can bend before breaking.

I assigned a single simple writing exercise they had done a dozen times before. So, out came the complaints. There were stalling tactics of each and every schoolroom kind. Notes were passed, I was berated with inconsequential questions, friends gaily chatted away, they picked each other’s’ hair for nits or whatever it is the lower primates do for fun. Anything was preferable to the cruel and unusual punishment I was inflicting upon their poor, poor souls. Wanting them to learn on a Tuesday morning? How could I? I warned and threatened and cajoled the very least amount of effort I could out of that class, losing bits of my own sanity every step of the way. Have you ever tried to argue with a brick wall with a Talkboy taped to it, and that Talkboy has an audio recording of fifty mimes all flipping you the bird? Neither have I, but it felt like a fitting metaphor for sixth graders. Forty minutes was spent herding a band of belligerent cats down a winding mountain trail made of mice and catnip. They faced the extent of my obstinance. Their grade school shenanigans didn’t lessen the extent of their workload, it only extended the work time.

With bare minutes left on the clock the students hatched a plot. In a move so fluid it had to have been rehearsed, the lead instigator for the day rose from her seat to proclaim, “Mr. Misc. we are finished writing.” Then the workbooks rained down. Every student tossed their books into a nice little pile in the center of the room. The mewling jackals had loudly proclaimed that all tasks were done and now it was time for anarchy to reign supreme. The time was fun and games; your order is at an end. We the carrion eaters of the Serengeti wastes now rule this classroom. Weep for your lost power, old man, for the regime change is at hand all who were no longer are. they are become undone. Shackles and bonds can no longer sway our united might for we are legion. Mob rules this day. The antiquated shall be disassembled and a glorious will of the masses shall be our only true governor. At least that was my interpretation.

Throughout the class I had been climbing the scale of wrath as I fought the sixteen headed hydra of turds. This new act of open rebellion should have pushed me into a fit of rage which would see me bodily transporting children out of open windows. In that moment though, I found a strange serenity. Negative emotions had fled, for I knew the only true path to salvation. With calm demeanor I said in quiet, even speech that the class was to stand up, we were going for a walk. The principal was on the other side of the school and she would be happy to see us all.

The students had been riding a wave of naked bravado; they had glimpsed power and were vigorous with its presence. That sensation died though as they realized that their bid for power was collapsing upon them. The wicked joy in their eyes ebbed. Their open rebellion had merited a forceful reproach. Then the pleading began. They had obviously had meant nothing by their actions. All was misunderstanding. They surely had done nothing wrong, and deserved no recourse. Please oh please, they were always such good children, why oh why would this be necessary.

I opened the door wide and conducted them all out the door before taking my place at the head of the procession. The pleading continued. Then the tears began. Surely this could not be happening to them, sweet cherubic beings they were. What had happened to their dreams of utopia? How could their coup have not managed to dethrone the teacher and set up a democratic republic where all students would be equal and no man, woman, or child would be leashed so heinously to the ploughshare.

The gallows procession ended at the door where I heard their final pleas for mercy. I knocked on the door and entered the principal’s office. I apologized that I had to interrupt her work, but I had an entire class outside that she needed to yell at.

She heartily agreed.

The door opened and the rapscallion brigade was left to dance on air in the midday sun. The principal proceeded to lash the revolutionaries to within an inch of their emotional lives. Again were the tears and the pleas for mercy. She proceeded to rebuke the class in Hungarian for a solid five minutes it was a holy and righteous rebuke that she laid upon them too. Silence followed and they were allowed to drag their casualties back sniveling to the holes from which they had emerged. As they slunk away the principal and I discussed methods to proceed with punishing the students in the future. The battle had subsided and the toll had been tallied. The war had tipped rather favorably in my direction from that day forward.

Thus is the story of my quelling the Rat Fiend Revolution. It is a story that I feel every teacher has similar experiences to. So much of the day to day of this job is just making small humanoids listen to reason for hour long increments. It does make one look back into their youth to see what horrible things we put our teachers through. I will leave you to contemplate those lovely thoughts of transgressions past, but for the moment I wish you  good day, good night, and good reading.

 

For those of you unfamiliar, this is a mole rat. Enjoy the nightmares.

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White House Blues

Hello, my viewing public, as I have ever so cleverly hinted in the title of this post, there is going to be a certain amount of political nature during this essay. If the infinite stream of news pervading that world has left you a withered husk of the person you once thought you were, it is understandable to desire a small amount of respite. If you are fed up with governmental discussions, do note that I will do my best to remain impartial. This will be a retelling of the events which happened around me and hopefully I can keep my rants to myself. If you haven’t checked out completely at this point, I invite you to read on and enjoy the show.

It began like most other days, toast and a glass of tea then down to the bus stop to catch my ride to school. The U.S. presidential race had cut its warpath across the countryside for nearly a year, but finally the side show was nearing its well deserved demise. The calliope had sung its last notes and the tents were being drawn down for their four year rest. I had done my civic duty to the country I was not currently residing in and mailed my ballot. I know who I voted for, and reasonably my vote could not be swayed in either direction past this point. I dismounted the news cycle and let it trundle down the road without me as a passenger.

I was busy juggling cats or whatever metaphor for difficulty best describes teaching children. In the process of living my own life, I forgot what day that the election was to close. To me, it was a day like any other day. International news, however, has its own way of becoming, international. I soon learned that I was far from the only one with an interest in my homeland’s choice of leadership. Due to my current geographic location, time zones can be a funny thing. Being a full nine hours ahead of the United States meant that election night became our election morning. The political scuttlebutt kicked into full swing right around the time that the first bells rang.

There was a tension in the air that morning. Something feeling taught to the edge of snapping. My students nervously interrogated me about the outcome of the election. This confused me, to start with. I had no idea what they were talking about. All recollection of what day it was had slipped my senses. They had rudely awoken me to the importance of the day though. To pacify the students I looked up the results as they were. At that point neither side had taken a distinct advantage. So, I taught my first class enforcing as much normalcy into the lesson as I could.

I opened the door and ushered them on with their busy day of scholastics. Oddly enough, one child was running the opposite direction towards me. Because the universe has a sense of humor, I was first told about the outcome of my country’s political election, by a twelve year old Hungarian. I moved to my desk to validate his claims, and so it was. The president had been elected and concessions were being made. I’m not going to tell what my political affiliations are, but I’m a college educated artist who is living and working in Europe. Draw whatever conclusions you will.

Not just the Americans, but all of the teachers seemed to be dazed in amazement once the votes were tabulated. They were baffled by how things had turned out. Children are amazing at attuning to the attitudes of nearby adults. Once information turned from rumors to facts, the entire school took on a dour and oppressive feel. The lights actually seemed to dim and the skies darken. I guess that’s the power of suggestion.

In my day to day, I actually don’t have much interaction with people outside of actually teaching. That changed this day. It seemed that the entire school was in a state of persistent shock, and everyone who spoke English was looking to us Americans to answer the most important question. Why? Why was this now the state of the world? Were all of the things they have heard about the new president elect true? I answered to the best of my abilities and speculated towards what I didn’t know. I don’t feel like I have ever been a political expert, but that was the role I was destined to fulfill on that hectic morning.

On a few occasions I had to explain the Electoral College system to inquisitive colleagues. They were very concerned about the popular vote, were very confused about why it didn’t decide the outcome. I cannot recall or attempt to recount all of the times that I found myself explaining the intricacies of the United States political system.

It was more than just my co teachers who were looking for some insight into recent developments. I spent nearly the first fifteen minutes of each class talking to students about what had happened and answering their inquiries about my country’s electoral process. I didn’t even have to leave my classroom for the inquiries to find me as the Hungarians were roaming the halls with pressing questions that needed answers.

I soldiered on and imparted knowledge both on and off the clock. I too was in a slight state of disbelief. I was quite convinced about my own predictions, which did not reflect reality. Either way, all of us American teachers decided that the end of school was the perfect time to head down the local pub to grab a pint. There was much consoling and again doubt as to the validity of the news. We began and ended the night by toasting each other and the world. I have always known that the U.S. is a global power. I’ve never experienced this phenomenon from an outsider’s perspective though. It was fascinating seeing how events have ramifications the world over. The globe got a little smaller in my eyes on that day.

Again I apologize for today’s political lean, but the events of that day really did play out with all the embellishing melodrama. Don’t worry folks. I’ll get back to my regular ways of dissing children and feeling wanderlust next time; but until then, good day, good night, and good reading.