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.

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.

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.

 

Tiny Tales: Volume 1

Hello, it is I. I know, a bit surprising for those of you who tuned into this week’s broadcast to hear the haunted and haunting musings of the ghost of Sir Laurence Olivier. Said event has been delayed to an indeterminate date due to a miscommunication between myself and the psychic hotline. You see I ordered a medium and they sent me a large.

I’ve been having trouble getting this post off of the ground. I attempted to get it finished for last week, but it was not to be. I’ve had a few legitimate reasons for not writing. Not enough to occupy the amount of time between the last post and this one, though. I guess I’ve been living with a case of post event blues. The festival I attended two weeks ago at this point was a great experience, and even though it was only for two days it felt like this grand extended adventure. In the wake of this massive mental typhoon I have been finding it difficult to return willingly to the rigors of average life.

I have likely mentioned this before, but over the last six months I have been here I have been attempting to develop a better repertoire of habits than those I used to fall into. I am trying to keep this blog running. I’m attempting to learn at least conversational Hungarian, have I mentioned before that it is a difficult language? I am trying to spend a little time each day improving or maintaining my art skills. I am trying to improve my physical condition too by working out a little bit more than the not at all that plagues me. During my really productive periods, I somehow managed to fit all of these improvements into my schedule. Any time that I take any time off though, I seem to be resetting the clock on my progress. The rhythm of events that I have been attempting to cultivate these last six months has been unseated by a two day vacation.

I had originally planned on continuing to regale everyone with my terribly feeble struggles through teaching. However I believe a minor detour is in order this week. As I have been retelling my story these last twelve weeks, I have glossed over a number of smaller stories and concepts that have been too small to merit their own full posts. Think of today’s post as something of a variety show with each of these topics being brought up briefly only to be inadequately explored leading me to do another clip show down the road.

Anyway, returning to my ongoing saga, we interrupt your regularly scheduled me griping about how hard it is to be a teacher to change tact and get into the things happening besides work in those few weeks. In retrospect, I was actually spending relatively little time at work. Although, to be fair, all the way until the middle of October most of my free time was still being spent writing those lesson plans. There did somehow end up being more to my life than just the moments I was getting used to teaching. Somewhere along the line a few minutes were squirreled away into things like making friends and pursuing hobbies.

At the school at which I teach there are four Americans employed in teaching the children English. Now, I may be living in Hungary with a partner who provides me support and companionship but one person does not a social network make. In a land where even the ordering of a slice of pizza involves the mispronunciation of words and a spirited game of charades, it can be at times difficult to feel like you belong. Every action comes packaged free with a sense of minor alienation. It feels nice to cut through the language barrier and just be able to communicate with people. This can often lead to many Americans abroad forming small social lifeboats of common language, oases of English if you wish to muddle the metaphor further. With three other American compatriots within arm’s reach, one such cultural cluster began to form. Following the patter on most things I have done in Europe, these relationships were made more loud and rowdy with liberal application of social lubricant. There have been many a domicile hootenanny for us to get better acquainted with our partners in linguistic learning. Games based around the slurping and sloshing of drinks meant for sousing are played and played readily. Events like these still emanate the feeling of college parties.

So, I keep stating that I don’t want to give off the impression that we are all just raging alcoholics swigging our way overseas, but at our local café/pub/bar our group came to be known for its American style raucous joviality. In a story that is slightly hazy on the details, but heavy on unwarranted singing, our little foursome somehow managed to make such an impression on the barkeep that whenever we enter the bar she plays the greatest in hip hop hits from the 80s and 90s. Truly we give the finest of impressions about the average citizen of the United States. There are also a number of people from the original orientation that we keep in contact to date. It feels a little ironic, but after moving to the other side of the planet I have made more American friends than Hungarian ones.

Before I leave off for the day, I do have one humorous story that isn’t about teaching or drinking. Surprising, I know. Because bureaucracy is the eternal, the ceaseless, and the unstoppable force that rules all of our very souls; there was a minor mountain of paperwork to be copied filled and processed before, during, and after arriving in Budapest. This all culminated sometime in the first few weeks. It was impressed upon us that if we had any hopes of being paid for the first three months of working here, we would have to surmount the Everest of bureaucratic efforts and attain our residency cards. This little quest would require everyone in the program to gather all of their papers before heading into the immigration office in Budapest in the middle of the week. All the while we had to hope against hope that our paperwork was in its most arbitrarily correct state. I am not afraid to say that I was more than a little concerned that I had not brought all of my documents into this country.

So, while the paperwork proved as advertised to be some kind of hellish sphinx riddle, we discovered something unexpected when we reached the immigration office. The English teaching program which we are teaching through has a Hungarian liaison in country, and her job title may as well be the problem fixer. From the very start of the orientation we had been told that if we were to have a problem that we should just whisper her name into the night’s breeze and she will emerge from the shadows to end whatever issue ills us. When we arrived at the building she was there awaiting us, running the show. We were told to wait outside in a line. It was a hot day and the line promised to be a long wait, but whatever I’ve been to Disneyland passing around small talk while standing uncomfortably is nothing new to me. As a plus, everyone who was in the line was from the orientation. Because I avoid social media like a plague of chirping locust, I had not heard from any of these people since reaching my school. It was a fun miniature reunion which served to pass the time until we were allowed inside.

In the middle of our conversations the doors opened before us admitting us inside. What was waiting for us inside was a notably strange occurrence. The government building was empty. It was just us, the English teachers, and the immigration employees. This was a sight so very baffling to us. Hungary is a lovely place and it is many things, but what it is not is convenient. If there is something that must be done, you are expected to wait in line like everyone else, and likely you are expected to speak Hungarian to get anything done. This absence of inconveniences was a great shock to everyone. What I mean is that this convenience awaiting us either meant that our problem solver had emptied out the immigration in the middle of the week just for us to expedite our application process, or she had somehow forced a government office which was already closed to, again, open specifically for us. This brazen display of authority has led to the widespread and mostly believable rumor that our Hungarian powerhouse has or currently is involved in some kind of high ranking mafia activity. She has a heart of gold though as she chooses to use her power to benefit the youth of her country. This does not abate the fact that her influence over government offices, postal services, daycares, and random passersby on the street is strange and mildly terrifying.

Things went slowly and officially and eventually our paperwork was processed. Pictures were taken and signatures were provided and eventually we were told that we could leave. The word was that we would need to return in a few weeks to pick up our finished residency cards. Because we had co teachers covering our classes for the day we were released into the city to enjoy a beautiful day off from work. To give our story a fun little finish, a few weeks later we did return to the immigration office, but this time alone, without the Hungarian Hammer. Without her we were considered normal human beings, and as such took our place at the back of the line in a crowded immigration office. After several hours of waiting it turned out that my girlfriend’s application had some kind of issue. Even though we had been told by the government to show up at this time and place, they had not seen fit to tell us that there were any issues. I guess even the fear of a pair of concrete shoes was not enough to solve every problem. A week or so after that misadventure my girlfriend finally did receive her card which brought an end to the immigration fun for this year.

Well, there were we go, just a few of the smaller stories that I have been meaning to get out there. Look forward to future installments that will most likely involve stories of drinking, because I am a creature of habit. Thank you for tuning in. To all of you out there, I say good day, good night, and good reading.

 

Fun note, apparently I’ve never spelled the word bureaucracy correct in my entire life.

 

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.