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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Student Situations: Early November 2016

Welcome back viewers, in the time before this became a Halloween party blog, I was an English teacher. My job was teaching 5th and 6th graders in a lovely primary school in Budapest. I had had self realizations, and I was working through all sorts of new experiences and difficulties presented by a life change and a change in professions. In the several months I had been teaching, I had struggled with my natural dislike of children. It was a struggle. I had to learn how to interact with my students as an authority figure, when previously my experience with being an authority figure had been telling waiters when to stop grating cheese on my spaghetti.

The fall break was the first time in three months that I had taken an extended break from being surrounded by children every day. More than that, the break had felt like such a long span of time. After all of the hijinks and havoc involved in our adventure I wasn’t sure how I was going to drag myself back to work the very next day. I had been struggling pre-holiday with numerous aspects of the job. I had fallen off rhythm. I had barely developed the rhythm in the first place. It wouldn’t be implausible to assume I was experiencing apprehension over coming back to school.

To my great surprise, everything ran smoothly. The students were attentive and my lesson plans flowed smoothly. Even those classes and students which had been troubling me lately found the strength within to be quiet and listen. I guess the students had spent enough time in their true forms as demons that they had expended their hostility. Ok, that was a little mean. Some of the students were vampires and they must have spent their vacation draining someone else of life energy. Things ran suspiciously well until some enterprising individuals resolved to introduce entropy into the system.

I would like to put this blog on hold for a moment to insert this disclaimer. I wish to be entirely clear that all the following events are “purely fictional”. I most certainly not referencing real life events that I lived through. Any resemblances to classes or students that I may or may not teach are entirely coincidental. Because children could be likened to a Biblical plague of locusts stripping bare the metaphorical landscape of its sanity reserves to perpetuate their hive, any accounts of children acting like predatory pack animals may remind readers of real life children. No students were murdered by me during the making of this blog.

With that out of the way, I have these two buddy boy chucklenuts whose main hobbies seem to be slapping each other and avoiding effort. As an English teacher the school specifically wishes for me to focus on two particular disciplines, speaking and writing. In order to better my students’ abilities, I quite often give writing assignments to the sounds of pained exclamations. To keep them on their toes I will inform them at random intervals that their writing efforts will be graded this time. On one such of these occasions, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Stupid decided that the best way to avoid doing anything was to turn in the exact same writing assignment, right down to the grammatical and spelling errors. It was an easy catch and I made sure to follow up on it by talking with their form teacher and respective parents. Then it was my happy privilege to give them the dreaded black 1 mark, equivalent to the American grade of F.

In the time at this school, I learned that most kids really care about their grades. Whenever they receive less than full marks for an assignment, there are tears, weeping, gnashing of teeth, the works. With this in the forefront of my mind, it was ultimately satisfying to fail the little cheatmongers on their assignments. I enjoyed it to the point that I had to contemplate my attitude towards students, especially the less than ideal ones. It is easy to express positivity towards the responsive pupils, but when one seems intent on testing patience that is an altogether more difficult story. Something told me that taking joy in their failure was likely not the mark of a great teacher. I decided I there should be a change of self.

This was a small event, but one that I had in mind when the next test of my authority was challenged.

How do I put this? A band of mewling jackals that somehow possessed the necessary paperwork to enroll in an English class mockingjayed me. What is mockingjaying? You ask about a verb that should not be. You see, the Hunger Games is a three part allegory for reality shows sucking. The teens love it because of its weird named relatable teen protagonists. At a certain point Catnip Evergreen uses a hand signal as a gesture of rebellion.

Back to my story, I had just finished informing the students that they would be writing during class time. A particular student, let’s call him “Dave” decided that he was going to lead the charge of this literary farce. Raising the first three fingers on his right hand touching the thumb and pinky together in a gesture of salute his four note whistle was meant to inspire the fires of resistance against the capital. The rest of the children took up the call too, hesitantly at first but soon finding the boldness deep in their hearts to stand up against the despotic regime. That last sentence was both figurative and literal because every student gained their feet and raised their hands high and defiantly. It was either the worlds shortest book report or I think they were attempting to throw me off my game.

I’m not sure what their overall goal for this little coup de ta was. I may be giving too much credit to these thirteen year olds by assuming hidden motives though. More than anything, I was impressed with the students for attempting to disrupt my class cleverly, and most importantly as a group. They had all forgotten their petty schoolroom dramas to come together. It was a touching moment of unity. All directed against me. Whatever their intent, I crushed their dreams by not getting angry about it. “You ‘Dave’ are no Katniss Everdeen.” I quipped with vicious sarcasm to my young songbird. “Now sit down.” Their rebel leader’s wings had been clipped. With no figurehead for their movement, the passion for the revolt waned. The rebellion relentlessly crushed beneath iron heel. Seats were taken and assignments returned to with not a command more.

It began to click in my head. Nothing disappoints or deflates a class of ne’er-do-wells faster or more efficiently than an even, rational response. Indifferent action in the face of their taunting and goading means that instead of being drawn into their game of reactionary anger, you flip their board of emotionally manipulative Monopoly and start playing checkers. Ah, their disappointment fuels me better than a three course meal.

I’m back in action and proceeding with the flow of time yet again. I’m also back to talking about school, ain’t that a blast. There’s plenty of interesting stuff yet to come, and I hope you, my readers decided to join me for the ride. I’m done for now, and in the spirit of hospitality, I wish you a good day, good night, and good reading.

 

 

Rejected Titles for today’s blog:

Yelling at children: Or this is how I feel my power

I’m Going to Kill my Feelings With Starch

DMX Rhymes in Dog Years

Teaching English: Or How I learned to start worrying and learned to hate children

Sixth Graders: Or How Did a Roving Pack of Hyenas Learn to Put on Clothing?

 

 

 

 

Spookiness in Schools: Halloween Part Dos

Welcome back to a visual record of me slowly coalescing a cohesive style from a variety of bad writing habits, let’s slow things down for a moment as I shoehorn in a stupid joke…. Scooby Doo reference, meddling kids, cue the laughs. Give me your adoration; my words of forced introspection surely deserve it.

I said last week that I wasn’t done obsessing about the holiday of Halloween, and guess what? I’m not done obsessing about the holiday. I believe it deserves a special mention that this Halloween was the first holiday that I spent away from my family in my entire life. I know, there’s a big family component to sexy demons handing out candy. There is a deeper meaning than just the holiday itself sans familial relations though; small milestones like holidays abroad serve to highlight the ways in which my life continues to change from what it once was. It denotes a sense of growth into a new person. We all live in a constant state of flux, but it is something to be noted when you can so encapsulate such moments of change. The second that never have becomes the first time provides a recognizable milestone to examine far into your personal future. It also makes great fodder for those with journalistic intentions like me.

I do have a little more to say about the lead up to the annual gathering of ghouls. We still held onto the desire to wear costumes for the season. However we did want to do so without returning to that strange fever dream of a costume shop that ejected us so abruptly. With the full scope of time and experience in me, I do recognize that there were other places where we could have conceivable gone to outright purchase a costume. The rough ejection gave me the impetus I needed to pursue that creative spark I had wanted to express through action. It was decided, we would create our costumes from disparate parts.

Beginning with the conceptualization, we each came up with a few moderately reasonable ideas to in turn ultimately choose from. Somewhat early on in the month she was able to decide on a direction for her costume. Her costume was to be a skeleton/undead pirate. Utilizing some clothing which she already possessed, she started with a poufy purple blouse, over the top of which she would wear a black corset. She purchased some black boots with flared tops to really accentuate the pirate angle. Lastly she found a wide brimmed purple felt hat which she pinned together into a convincing looking tricorner hat. This wardrobing was finished halfway through the month which allowed her nearly two weeks in which to plan out and then practice her makeup to fully complete her look. In the end she painted what looked like half of a skull across her face. The look was quite impressive and effective.

I on the other hand have a brain made of scattered marbles. Consequently I found it impossible to make up my mind on what I was going to do. I had many possibilities rolling around with the only constant being that I wanted to use paper mache. I knew that I wanted to put my creativity to use and involve a buildable aspect to my costume. The big reason, besides the readily available nature of the materials, was that I had always desired but never had the drive to experiment with it. There was one issue that arose though. I had never even attempted to build anything with paper mache before. For anyone who is of the arty or the crafty persuasion it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that problems arose from my lack of experience. So, as I was attempting to discover both the benefits and limitations of the material, I also was unable to fully decide on what I was making. I chose a mask in an attempt to keep the scope of the build somewhat under control. By the end of October I had built the prototypes of three separate models. There were two geometric skulls designs, one of which covered only from the nose up while the other was meant to be a whole head helmet design. What I eventually chose to finish was an angular vampire inspired masquerade half mask with two long fang like projections which flank the mouth. It is painted a dark blood red. I worked on these masks almost the entire month, and in the end I am quite happy with how they turned out. I finished the costume with a pair of black slacks a white button up shirt and a black vest. I think that the red worked well with the monochromatic nature of the rest of my costume.

I did do more with the entire month than just working on a costume. There was school work to be done as well. As usual I was getting better at the job by slow increments, becoming more comfortable with being in front of students every day. Because Halloween isn’t a big event in Hungary I decided that a fun way to give my lessons a sense of timeliness would be to talk about all things spooky. What this translated to in practice was me playing Monster Mash on repeat while I had the students draw ghosts and skeletons. Towards the end of the month I figured that I would step my efforts up a bit and give the students an injection of American culture by showing each of my classes the fourteen minute epic that is Michel Jackson’s Thriller. I’m not sure how much they learned from the whole experience, but what I learned was that musical tastes have changed dramatically from when I was a child, and what I think is great sounds horribly bland to fifth and sixth graders. It brought down my holiday cheer to see this campy masterpiece of pop culture glory that I love be barely tolerated by children who would otherwise be practicing grammar if not for me. I feel like this is something that I should have anticipated, but as I have tried to express in the past, I am highly disconnected with the youth of today and I feel fine about that.

Since the school I teach at is bilingual with a heavy emphasis placed on English culture, the school itself was going out of its way to get into the spirit too. The American teachers were told early on in the month that some kind of big Halloween event would be held the last day of class before fall break. Students and faculty were encouraged to get dressed and good fun would be had by all. Important of note was that me and my girlfriend, being the new teachers, would have an important role in the whole affair.

The festivities would be split into a few events. The first was that there would be a gathering of the whole school so that the new English teachers could come up to tell a few stories and get everyone into the spooky mood. Then there would be teacher led events in the classrooms of each grade. I’m a pretty talkative guy, and I’ve given a few public speaking speeches in the past. When I was approached with the opportunity to warm up the whole school with stories from America, I was confident that I would be able to carry the whole presentation myself. I was so confident that I informed the other English teachers that I had so much to say that they wouldn’t need to say anything. I was so confident that I didn’t prepare a single word for the talk I was to give.

The day of the event came round. A good number of the students were in costume the whole day through which provided a fun starting atmosphere for the classes. I and my girlfriend also wore our costumes to school to show our spirit. Because the mask I had made for my costume was limiting in its peripheral vision I decided that I would save it for the party. So when my students asked me what I was dressed up as or going to dress as I told them to just wait, I had something fun in store. Walking through the halls in between classes everyone had an immediate reaction to my girlfriend’s costume, deservedly so. It was a striking costume. The smaller children cowered in terror at her skeleton face, and the older students were in general awe of how cool it was.

For the first half of the day we had to teach classes, but they were shortened so that everyone could proceed to the party that much faster. The teaching managed to kill all of the holiday spirit that I had built up to that point, because truly the greatest terrors are children. With fall break just hours away, the students were jostling with unrest. There was great difficulty in getting them to perform even the most basic of tasks. Just as with the Thriller video, I attempted to share and explain the things that I love about Halloween. To the same result, the students were obviously disinterested.

The time of the gathering was upon us, and I had worked myself into a funk. Once all my classes were finished I donned my mask and strolled the halls with my girlfriend. Everyone was just love, love, loving the undead pirate look. Either screaming in terror of her or running up to her amazing countenance. My costume was met with what could be described as lukewarm indifference. Then we got called up on stage in front of the massed student body. We had one of the oldest students being a translator for us so that the little kids could understand. I was given the mike first because, if you remember, I had been telling everyone that this was going to be my show. It was going to be a tale of mystery and terror that I would spin, somehow, even though I had prepared not in the slightest.

Stage mounted and the attention of several hundred people focused squarely on me, the crowd was hushed in anticipation of my grand speech. My soured mood and lack of preparation came together with jolly cooperation to Voltron style combine into complete and total brain shutdown. Beads of sweat forming and a hushed expectant crowd before me I had to say something though. So I began to speak and I can only hope the things I said have been lost to the annals of history. I don’t remember exactly what I said because I am currently blocking every moment of that from memory as hard as I can. I can make a good guess though. It went something like this. “In the States you buy or make a costume. Younger kids go trick or treating, while older kids might go to parties. You can get candy, it’s pretty delicious. Alright I covered a lot of ground, don’t want to overwhelm you, any questions?” The response was glacial which is to say frigid and slow coming.

With the most silence I have ever heard in the school the students laid their glazed over gaze of indifference on me. I looked to my lifeless pirate love with pleading eyes for her to take the mark of shame away from me. Consummately professional, she took my place and addressed the whole crowd. With the aplomb of an actor assuming a role, she switched tenor into her best oratory voice.

Launching into the true stories of Halloween past, she told about the time several years ago in the states that me, her, and a bunch of friends went to a full contact haunted house. In the middle of the scares, one of our group was singled out by Mad Max reject psychos. The unlucky member of our party then got bodily lifted and placed into a refrigerator, from whence we never saw her again. Actually she was just taken out of a hidden panel in the back of the fridge and sent on the long path for the house. My bonny lass glossed over that last part though and spun a fun little tale. This story took up the rest of the speech time and won the adoration of the crowd. As we were stepping down from the platform, kids kept coming up to her and asking if the story was true, or how scared she was.

So, disappointed with myself, the English teachers all split off to take part in the Halloween events we were meant to do with our respective grades. My corsair cutie and the other teachers as it turned out, held little dance parties in their rooms. There was food and drink, and they were only required to stay for a few minutes before they were released from their responsibilities. Unfortunately for me, I had, in a continued stretch of misgiven self confidence, signed up to do a choose your own adventure card game to entertain my classroom. Then I guess I planned to entertain the students with how cool I was. Fittingly with the theme of the day, this did not go exactly to plan.

From the start, no one told me what I was to do or for how long to do it, or even when to do so. All that I did know was which room I was to go to. There was unfortunately no one in charge who was able to answer my simple questions like when I could leave. So I wandered towards my assigned room, and luckily for me all the students in attendance were my least cooperative pupils. I set about doing my part though and handed out the card game supplies. The game was a fun diversion, and it lasted five minutes. Then, again, I heard the familiar sound of silence. That vacuous absence of joy or entertainment, the room was however exuded an aura of discontent. It was me, sitting there next to a bunch of very bored students. I had finished the game, but I had no idea if I was done with them. Could I leave? Should I keep talking? None of the students were privy to that knowledge either. Through some misguided instinct to go on with the show, I put on some Halloween jams which I had already determined that the children would not enjoy. My bag of tricks had been expended hours ago, but a clown I still was to be. Minutes turned into a half hour turned into what I think was eventually an hour of rabid disappointment. My mind had essentially frozen. Whenever you are up in front of a crowd, there’s this sense that can be felt under your skin. A tingling sensation that tells you that your audience is just not feeling it and they were in no way feeling my lack of interesting things to do.

As a last ditch effort to do something, anything to make the mortification abate even slightly, I pulled up Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. I began to read the stories in my best ghoulish accent. I hammed it up for those kids, and for a brief moment, I saw the faintest glimmer of interest drift across their dead beady lifeless fish eyes.

To rub final salt and lemon into my wounds like some kind of injury margarita, the door opened and all the other English teachers poked their heads in. With only the most pure and true cosmic hilarity, I was informed that I had not had to stay there so long and flounder so greatly. The other English teachers had gone to their rooms for ten or so minutes, given ghoulish greetings to their students and grabbed some snacks while walking away. Only once and not at all before the knowledge that I was a fool was imparted to me by my colleagues, a person in charge of the whole event came into the room to reiterate the point to me that I had far exceeded what was expected of me. Words do not describe my how incredibly, totally, and fully finished I was with Halloween.

Join me for the next installment when I was in actuality not finished with Halloween in the slightest. The week following the party was fall break, a week of freedom. We were slightly disappointed by the lack of holiday spirit present in Central Europe. Thus we decided that we should go somewhere more appropriately suited to the season. With that little teaser, I leave you for now. Good Day, good night, and good reading.

 

You Know, Children Are Like Ants

Welcome back and good evening listeners it is I again your friendly neighborhood Spiderman. You know recently I’ve been contemplating writing these blogs down on paper to have a more physical record of my thought, but I find that I do my best work on the web.

 

 

I’ll just see myself out.

 

 

Let’s try this whole introduction again, hello viewers, thank you for tuning in to my land of bad jokes and predicable sentence structure. I’d like to thank you for coming back willingly to suffer through another week of my ramblings. I’ve prepared for all of you today a grand new installment of my blog, potentially. I mean, I write these introductions independent of the actual content of these posts, and at this current moment in time I have no idea if the following paragraphs will actually be of any quality. It is exciting though, adventuring out into the unknown. I invite you, my viewing public, to join me in figuring out if this post is actually of any quality or not. Excelsior!

Metaphorically casting anchor in the flowing waters of time, we can disembark sometime around mid to late September of 2016. By this time, I had put a few more weeks of teaching under my belt and I was beginning to get a hang of this whole teaching thing. Being on my own with the students wasn’t such an imposition anymore. I was still taking about two hours a day of extra work to finish my lesson plans, but this was a marked improvement from the four hours a day I had been putting in daily not terribly long ago. Things were still far from ideal though. There was a problem that kept cropping up as I was enacting my lesson plans into classroom action. Through miscalculations or mistakes I kept running out of teaching materials five minutes before the end of class. When classes are only forty five minutes long to begin with that five minutes can seem like a pretty sizeable chunk of time lying unaccounted for.

Usually I do not have problems coming up with things on the fly. As I have painfully learned though, if you put me in a position of authority with no plan of action, I freeze. I have great difficulty in rapidly changing course without preexisting direction. What would happen is that I would have no idea of how to proceed and the seconds painfully ticked by accompanied with either cutting silence or the primate screeches of unsupervised children. I often caved into pressure and would allow the class to play games to pass the few remaining minutes until the sweet chimes of the bell released me from the responsibility of students. An unfortunate side effect of this coping mechanism soon became noticeable. After a few weeks following this action, the students began to take it for granted that they would be allowed to play games instead of attending to their book work. As I continued to practice the instructional profession I was able to get my lesson plans more on the mark, and I learned to improvise when things went awry. The precedent had been set though, and any time that games were not played it became a point of contention between myself and the students.

Besides the prolonged snafu with my classroom timing, I had let so many minor annoyances slide during the first month of teaching. Because of this the students erroneously began to believe that I was a big old softie when it came to discipline. As I was busy fretting over a few minutes on the clock, more malcontents whose purpose in life was to spread their seeds of disorder. Like disobedient pack animals, I have been training them ever since to not expect the cause and effect of class equals play time. It has been a long process though and even seven months in the students continue to ask for games at the beginning of class.

Before I close for the day, I would like to put down in words the three things that have just caused me the greatest mental torment as I went about my job.

First though I want to explain something slightly personal that feeds into my difficulties with surviving the classroom. I have this one pet peeve that has been dragged into the light of day by being around children. A source of great annoyance for me is when someone repeatedly says or does something that they learned from the internet. Independent of context and appropriateness said action or phrase is applied ad nauseam to the point where my body visibly shakes with wrathful intent. Anyone who has ever even vaguely heard of the concept of children in hushed whispers knows that repetitious inane prattle is basically the modus operandi of younglings. Isn’t Latin fun?

In place of jokes or basic human interaction the student, or dumpster baby as I will refer to them for the rest of this post, will bring out this tired shorthand for an internet joke that they heard that one time and kind of chuckled at, all to elicit cackling glee and approbation of the other roiling sea of dumpster babies. This “joke” was spread across the World Wide Web until every ounce of hilarity has been wrung out of it, leaving a juiceless husk raisin of comedy that some twelve year old somewhere is telling his underdeveloped fetus brained cohorts. It’s like an inside joke, if the people who are in on the joke is everyone, and the joke is that you have the memory capacity of a ferret.

So, to bring it all together, combine my irrational anger trigger with the universality of the internet and its ungodly ability to spread the detritus of entertainment to impressionable dumpster babies who possess a total inability to determine what is actually funny, and you end up with a recipe that when properly prepared makes me wish to flip a table on top of a small child. In the latter end of 2016 there have been three major offenders in this category.

The Dab

I don’t know where it came from, and frankly the amount of effort to look it up would be better served jamming a fork into my esophagus. This is the one I find least onerous to the mental stability of a classroom, mostly because it is a motion which both begins and ends quickly. A dab, also known as: a quick or light blow; a pat, as with the hand or something soft, thank you dictionary.com; is a motion to be employed in triumph or success, like a fist pump, but for horrible people. They celebrate the dab like they’ve just accomplished a triple backflip.

For the three people who have never seen a dab being employed I’ll describe it in all of its glory. Step one, extend both arms out to the side like you are pretending to be an airplane, engine noises optional. Step two; crook one elbow of your choice into a seventy five to ninety degree angle being careful not to exceed one hundred and fifteen degrees. Step three, attempt to violently head-butt your own elbow through the already in place crooked arm. Really slap them together like you are playing spoons with your face meat. Step four; be engendered with the shame that comes with realizing that your sense of self is slowly being eroded by hive mind mentality. Step five; I’m bad at lists. Step six; draw up the pentagrams. Step seven; summon the Assyrian demon lord Pazuzu.

Before I continue impress my hatred I will say that there is one thing that I appreciate about this craze. Simply put, that if out in the wild I see a person diddle dabbling their arms like a confused cephalopod it expresses to me a great deal of information. The majority of that information details how I never need to speak to that person.

All joking aside, the only times when I really have a problem with this action is when the dumpster babies stop the entire class to make sure everyone witnesses their magically unique take on this pointless action. Also there is the fact that it is used in conjunction with other perpetrators on this list so it does merit extra anger points.

PPAP

The one that tickles my anger button the most. To all of those brave heroes who have not seen the PPAP video, I covet your existence. PPAP is an acronym for Pen Pineapple Apple Pen. Because apparently I am an octogenarian in disguise I did not hear word one of this craze until the youth brought it to my attention. In the video that originated this two month long craze, there is an affable looking middle aged Asian man adorned with unfortunate attire. He looks as though he is a tribal hunter and tracker who survives harsh weather conditions by skinning and sewing the skins of his prey into a traditional garb. His quarry in this case would appear to be a roaming species of couches that gained sentience and began to roam the planes in the early 1970s. It is a species which he has apparently hunted to near extinction for the prized pelt of their leader Couchfang the Graceful.

Said affable man dances, sings, and mimes his way into the darkest depths of my hate glands. He informs listeners that if you stab fruit with pens that you can then combine English words together. At first I actually saw some utility in the song as it did theoretically expand the vocabulary of the children who listened to it. He jams imaginary produce and Bic’s together into some kind of sick twisted fruit and writing utensil centipede. I think that the moral of the video is a bit irresponsible of its creator. Once you forcibly introduce a pen of the ballpoint variety to interior of a juicy fruit, said writing tool will never write the same.

Now I do want to backtrack a little on my grand outpouring of hatred. I harbor no ill feelings towards the man who created the video. He just wished to create a fun catchy little video because apparently mangling produce is the fiery passion of his soul. I only begrudge the gremlins who have repeated the lyrics of this song until my very dreams are haunted by their utterance. This one gets me right in the pet peeve area, and it stops classes midstride as everyone thinks that it’s open karaoke night at the local dive bar.

 

The Bottle Flip Challenge

This one is pretty self-explanatory when it comes down to it. A person who is bored picks up a bottle and then flips it in the air. If it lands bottom side down without falling over everyone dabs and we all get one moment closer to the heat death of the universe. This is the fad that I find myself the most conflicted by; as it is the one that I understand the most. People, especially children, who are stuck sitting still for any amount of time, will eventually get fidgety. I entirely get the desire to use your hands to manipulate an object, to help you focus or at the very least keep yourself awake in cases of extreme dullness. Outside of a teaching position I don’t even have a problem with the act itself. However, when I am in the middle of explaining a difficult part of English grammar and I hear a fwip as the bottle leaves the hand and a loud bang as a liquid filled object slams into a table, my own personal Mr. Hyde comes out to say hello. It doesn’t help that the dumpster babies that do this are almost always the children who are the most openly hostile towards classroom rules.

Whereas the youth of today have largely grown tired of PPAP allowing it to mercifully rescind its siren song back into the depths of irrelevance whence it belongs, the bottle flip and the dab continue to erode the very fabric of polite civilization all the way to the present. Although I have come up with an elegant solution for the bottle flip and that is to confiscate any bottle which achieves liftoff during school hours.

Now before I get told that I am spewing bile in every direction but my own, I am not above saying that I too was a fool. The only difference is that I didn’t have to teach myself at this age. I would have desired to bring to an end my dumpster baby self under these exact same circumstances. I mean anyone who lived through the 2000s with any amount of television knowledge should tragically remember the whazzuuuuup craze. Then those people who remember it should then promptly begin weeping and gnashing their teeth at the remembrance of such madness. To this day I still fall victim to the easy reference for laughs, I am not greater developed or above the same activities that I have just angrily complained about. Essentially I wish for everyone to take my venomous comments with a grain of understanding that I am somewhat of a hypocrite, however I do hope that no one has been subjected to my jackassery against their volition.

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Hoo boy, this post feels a little more wrathful than usual to me, but I guess that’s what happens when I talk about children. For those of you who have not given in to the dark side, I do apologize for the negativity. Final disclaimer, any of my readers who have actually derived joy from any of these internet institutions, I mean no disrespect or ill will against you, as you have made the informed decision to enjoy these memes whilst not near me. I thank you for that kindness. I hope you enjoyed the longer one this time. To all of my readers, I say good day, good night, and good reading.

 

Disciplinary Actions

Welcome back folks. I am in a little bit of a rush to get this post out of the door this week. I will be attending a native Hungarian festival Friday through Sunday. It’s one of those fancy festivals with hundreds of years of history and tradition and penises on sticks. What? What was that thing about the phallic poles? Really I’m not sure what your fascination is with that one aspect of things. There is going to be drinking and revelry and fire and hand carved masks and wooden noise makers and all you want to hear about is the naughty bits. Really, Margaret, I didn’t realize this is how you act around penile imagery. Get ahold of yourself, everyone is staring. Anyway, if I don’t finish this now, the chances are it won’t get done for another week. I can’t do that, I have imaginary deadlines that I have to stick to for mildly nonsensical reasons. For those of you who are actually interested in hearing about said crazy festival, there will be a full report on said adventure in some blog post in the far flung future. At the rate that this blog is coming along look forward to reading about it sometime around Thanksgiving. What an interesting opening I have prepared for you all today, wouldn’t you agree? All of this talk about genitalia is truly the best means of introducing my main topic today which is children. Truly, I a master of theming, witness my genius.

Back to the glacial narrative I weave. Because no celestial event had impacted the flow of time, the second week of teaching had proceeded towards its expected point of cessation. Truth be told, the portion of the job that involved me interacting with the students had actually gone well. The multiple teacher format had served me well, making classes fun for me and fun for the students. It even felt that by the end of the week they had improved their language skills if ever so slightly. Somewhat less of a resounding success, the lesson planning continued to be a source of unending suffering and ill spent hours. However, with the close of the week, the period of time that I was set to have in class supervision had also drawn short. This meant that I was staring down the barrel of being let loose into the teaching pits with only my wits to save me. I learned as many lessons as I could in those first two weeks. The training wheels though were soon to come off, and this baby bird was about to be mercilessly ejected from the nest. Each week from here on out I would be solely in charge of the English education of these children. Flap those nubbins faster little birdy.

I had made every preparation I was able to, and then the moment was upon me. It was minutes before 8:00 Monday morning and there I sat in my classroom with sixteen empty seats before me. I had gotten there early to make everything ready for my lessons. As the clock signified those passing seconds, the students began to trickle in. By the moment the bell rang I had sixteen seats filled with children who I had met, but in no way remembered the names of. This is what you may recognize as minor problem. I did moderately well at playing it cool, finding as many creative ways to sidestep the use of actual names. I am not terribly ashamed or worried about not memorizing the names of over one hundred students Hungarian is a difficult language which unsurprisingly has different naming conventions from English. Fun fact, Hungarian surnames come first followed by given names. In addition to that is the fact that the five vowels that we have in English are subdivided with various accent marks to make twelve distinct sounds that I cannot tell the differences between. I reiterate that Hungarian is a difficult language.

Anyway, back to the solo classes. In many ways those first lessons alone were very similar to the week prior. The children were terribly loud shriekbeasts sliding their way through the hallways in a cacophonous mess. When in class, the quiet kids were silent and the smartasses intelligent butted. The only real difference was that there was the conspicuous absence of a safety net in case of unexpected falls. The children were very smart; they followed instructions, and listened to the things that I asked of them. All seemed to be proceeding with only minor issues. As school neared its final bell students became restless and less receptive to orders. It was small things at first, things that a knowledgeable instructor would end immediately but a less knowledgeable one would let slide. Residing firmly in the latter category, I allowed inklings of control to slip loose through my fingers.

Monday dragged its burden of work through to Friday, and on each subsequent day it was a similar scene. Because, like prisoners, middle schoolers can feel a lack of discipline as a tingling in their spine, the number of liberties taken with the rules was on the rise. Like untrained dogs they will run with as much of a leash as you give them. A precedent was being set with every choice of inactivity. I did not display a strong control over my wards early on in the year. Ground was lost in every battle for supremacy of the classroom, and I hadn’t even realized there was a competition. These are all observations that I could only make through informed hindsight though. This process proceeded invisibly before my eyes.

I had been stripped of the Hungarian symbol of power which was my lifeline to controlling the children. Here’s a bit of knowledge for those of you who are perspective teachers or parents, just because children behave in front of a person sitting next to you it does not mean that they will behave for you once that person leaves. The reason everything seemed so easy in those first two weeks was because the Hungarian teachers were present and ready to stifle dissent. At times I very much miss that degree of control that I wielded and squandered in the beginning. Every mile lost to the opposing front has been a bloody sortie that I have had to fight to regain.

More than just a lack of experience led me to acquiesce to the little goblins in my classroom. In my everyday life, I am just the most relaxed person. I do not get annoyed or angry with other people under normal circumstances. I’m cool like a cucumber, probably because I seek to avoid conflict and am fond of the color green. I internalized much of the annoyance. In relationships, I hope this leads to me being an understanding and forgiving person in all things. However in a teaching position, this is the opposite attitude of what will help you. You don’t have to be mean, just have a measure of stern resolve. Interpersonal conflict is just as much of the job as actually teaching new things. I attempted a soft touch as much as I could, and it was not the right tact without a base of discipline already intact. I had to change my reactions to stressful situations. The lack of discipline is a problem that will get much worse before it gets better, but don’t worry that part is going to be written soon enough.

If it sounds like I am negative about children, I’ll let those of you who do not know me in person in on a little secret. I am not a big fan of children. In fact throughout my adult life and most of my adolescence I have been doing my best to avoid them in every way shape and form in my personal life. Now, don’t get me wrong I have nephews and… cousins? Second cousins? I’m not sure what my relation is to the offspring of my cousins is, but them. I have a few of those. (First cousin once removed, thank you Google. Now don’t let me hear you say you didn’t learn anything from this blog.) I do have familial relations from baby to middle teens, so I am speaking from hopefully a range of experience. I have opinions about children that are not actually popular with those in my life who possess itlings. I do not find them cute or sweet simply by virtue of them being smaller humans. I see them as miniature adults who have not learned morality or basic human decency.  Therefore the merits of being within shouting distance of a child is entirely dependent on said child’s individual personality and it is not entirely a given that I will tolerate proximity to a shrieking hellbeast. This is fine for children I am related to, ones I get to see often. I am able to observe them in their natural state and get to know who they are as human beings. Then I get to judge accordingly.

To those of you who love children, love to hold them, to play with them, and either have or one day wish for a baker’s dozen of them, I likely sound like a heartless Grinch monster hating on all of the little miracles living and breathing around us. I don’t hate children; I just refuse to give them the benefit of the doubt. I would apologize if I were sorry. However, this is my blog which equates to you perusing my ideals.

All of that concern about my lesson plans, I mean it was well worth the investment of time, don’t get me wrong. The problem I most faced was an internal struggle. My success in this enterprise entirely depended upon me fighting the laziness within. I allowed myself to be led down the path of least conflict. As I was still developing my teaching legs, I was worried about halting the progress of the entire classroom just to deal with a mildly disruptive child. This is a dumb fear that is counterproductive to the healthy flow of a class. It concerned me so much though, because I was still secretly terrified of standing in front of a classroom with nothing happening. All of the teachers who I asked for advice told me methods I could take towards fix my issues. However, I am more of a kinesthetic learner and just hearing something does not mean it passes into my brain. I had to suffer my way through all of the misbehavior to get where I am now.

Ok, I hear what some of you are thinking loudly at the screen. Mr. Miscellaneist, if that is your real name, why would a self professed child disliker want to take a position where the job description is to literally be surrounded by said miniature animals all of the time. To this I respond that Mr. Miscellaneist is my father, just call my Misc. You’ve been inside some of my deep head thoughts; we could probably drop the formalities. To answer the previous question though, it was everything surrounding the position which enticed me into application. Also, money isn’t exactly a deterrent in this case.

Please excuse me while I take a little time for a peak behind the curtain as it were. So, seeing as it has been over a week without a post, I appeared to have missed my deadline for this last week. I apologize for being late in my work. Surprise of surprises and wonder of wonders, I somehow managed to misuse the time I had set aside to get this blog done early. Do forgive the tardy nature of my composition. For once though, the reason for my delay has been that I have been out living my life as opposed to retreating into an internet fueled spiral of laziness. Hopefully I am not begrudged too much for making this judgment call. To all of my eager readers out there I do plan on making up for lost ground and writing another post to be published this week. As always a special thanks to those of you who tune in to my misadventures. To you I say, good day, good night, and good reading.

That’s The Plan

Welcome, one and all to the blogstravaganza. While writing this blog I find that the part that I have the most difficulty with is coming up with the intro and the outro paragraphs. Since I stepped off the airplane some seven months prior I have been writing down little notes about my mental state and the state of events that I think would be somewhat fascinating for people to hear about. Every week when it comes time to pry myself away from idle pursuits and start tap tap tapping a post out, I reach into the metaphorical hat and fish out a few juicy thoughts that I feel I can verbally meander into a thousand words. This means that the meaty word substance that comprises the middle sections is somewhat preplanned. At the least there has been some prior thought expended over what will be said. Unfortunately a random jumble of thinly strung together concepts drawn from notes taken months apart does not always lead itself to the cohesive narrative that I am pretending connects events. So, what do I do? What would be the smoothest way for me to transition gradually and naturally from last week’s post into the topic of today? It is a good question, one that I gladly ignore. Instead, my dear reader, I give you a two hundred and thirty three word non sequitur before cold opening into…

The first week of school had flashed by in a notebook scribbling haze. For my efforts I had gained four days of observational experience. This meant that I now had some idea of how I would be spending my time at school. After having witnessed how each teacher handled their job day to day, I didn’t believe that my higher ups would expect more of me than from their actual accomplished teachers. I now had a baseline understanding of what the expectations were for me. Back in the flat, we were still living the life sans internet. An appointment had been made that guaranteed us a speedy reunion with the great information cloud in the sky. My free time went towards exploring the city and spending time with my new improved and not quite sick girlfriend. I had a positive outlook for the future. This whole teaching deal seemed to be really easy from what I saw the professionals do. Surely it would be as easy for me and I would have no unforeseen hardships cropping up in the future. None. At. All. Entirely easy. A can do and a positive attitude were definitely all that stood between me and that sweet government distributed Hungarian currency.

Towards the end of that first week, I had many a discussion with my fellow English teachers. They would very thoughtfully ask me if I knew what I was going to do when the classes were entirely my responsibility. Somewhere along the way I had somehow developed an unwarranted overconfidence in myself. This would lead me to respond in the affirmative that I did indeed have a plan. Fortunately for foolish me, my teachers saw through my foolish foolish claims that I had a handle on the situation. They imparted me with as many tips and tricks as they could condense into the limited time before my tenure as teacher began. I am immensely grateful to them for all of the help they have given me in the process of tricking the students into believing that I am actually a teacher. In the next week of work the difficulty was to take a slight upwards tilt. It was set to be a reverse of the first. I would teach the entire class as my co teachers would sit back and take notes on my teaching style.

My first week at my new profession drew to a close. As those lovely days of rest at week’s end worked their way towards Monday morning, I had some homework that had to be completed. Now that I was going to be the driving force for these classes, there would need to be a lesson plan in place before work came back around. So I aped the actions of others, with slight variations on the formula accounting for the new materials students were learning from week to week. This seems like it would be a simple process. Ha, ha. How hilarious that joke is to future me. I likely need not mention that there are worlds of difference between practice and experience. It was most certainly not the simple thing of which I had anticipated. Even with reams of notes and a solid skeleton for me to hang each lesson’s delicious meaty knowledge on, it took me an inordinate amount of time to create that heinous lesson plan. So on Sunday night I, with great vigor, wasted equal hours on cobbling a lesson plan together and watching videos on youtube to procrastinate that very action. The great beast was slain though and I sat hunched over a chair in victory.

With my notebook filled with ingenious means of instructing the pupils, I was ready to take the reins of this classroom and plunge headlong into my time as a English as a second language teacher. The classes went well. The students were excited to be taught by their brand new foreigner. They were responsive and actually quite intelligent, maintaining a rather firm grasp on the English language. If any confusions were to become an issue, my co teacher was ready to lend a word of Hungarian to keep the class moving along. My daily stint ran its course and then the other instructors would come to me, and discuss the minutia of the day. They told me what they appreciated about my methods, and they told me what could be improved in the future. Then I would ask how they wished for me to proceed over the coming days. Day to day, much was the same I absorbed a little more about how a school runs. Each class had its own individual challenges that I would in turn deal with as they arose. I created a set of class rules with every group with basic ideas like speaking in English during class and raising your hand to speak. The students were all receptive to the transfer of control to this new entity. Then, upon retiring for the day back to my humble residence, I would on average spend eight hours alternating between writing the lesson plan for the next day and trying very hard to find reasons to not write the lesson plan.

It quickly became a source of misery in my life. For reasons unbeknownst to me, I had erected a mental barricade to stop myself from just doing the work and making my life easier. If you have ever put things off to your detriment you will understand the feelings that flow through you when there is a deadline imminently approaching. There’s the fear of not meeting the time limit. There is the self reprobation that you put upon yourself because you know every moment you waste only makes the inevitable struggle for accomplishment that more difficult. You know that you are doing it to yourself. The emotions permeate your mind with stress which only makes you want to retreat further inwards and seek refuge in those same comforts that delay you. This was the point at which I realized that procrastination had become a strong instinct in my life. It was my method of coping with external pressures, and it needed to be addressed.

I know I keep referring to my lack of experience when talking about my problems but in a job like this lack of experience is almost your biggest problem. I didn’t understand how to roll with the momentum of a class or to restart progress when a lesson stalled. I couldn’t just improvise what to do without having backup plans for my backup plans. The thoroughness of your lesson plan is inversely proportional to your experience as a teacher. A more comfortable teacher doesn’t need to necessarily write out a detailed description of moment to moment action in the classroom. You learn what works and for how long, and you can draw from memory. I was so afraid of the empty void of not knowing what to do or how to proceed. The lull of a class with nothing to do was like a physical pain reminding me that I had no idea what I was doing. This led to me writing out actions on top of actions, trying to prepare for every eventuality. This was the only way that I could attain a level of comfort in the classroom. It was highly neurotic, which was a trait that I never associated with myself. It was also the reason that I was spending hour after hour banging my head against these lesson plans every day.

Whereas that first week rolled on by like a jet piercing the sound barrier, this second week was an uphill slough through the mires of uncertainty, procrastination, and self induced suffering. All I could do was tough it out with the help of those close to me. I continued to meet the problems head on until they began to abate. Unfortunately for me, this process took me months of continual work. Eventually I did start getting accustomed to the demands upon me. I gained comfort in lessons and lesson plans, and if you want a good indication of just how much my process of preparing for a class has changed in these seven months, here is an example of the lesson plans for my very first day versus the lesson plan I wrote for yesterday.

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That’s how it went, my first two weeks of school done and chronicled. That got a little personal in there; but seeing as how I am using this blog as more of a diary than anything else, I hope no one will begrudge me too much for the self indulgence. For those of you who have been reading along with my little adventures I do appreciate it, and I hope you have been able to derive some benefit from what I have been writing. To you I say, good day, good night, and good reading.