Sunday, January 10, 2010

Funny Thing That Happened to Me at Work, Part VII

This past Tuesday, I had to be into work an hour early (at noon) for a completely pointless New Year's meeting. I went to the gym at 9:30 and got back to my apartment at 11, only to discover a "don't forget about the meeting today" text from my manager Michael on my phone. I completely spaced the meeting! DRAMZ!

I proceeded to rush through jumping in the shower, primping, and putting on six layers of clothing to prep for work in my non-centrally heated school. Hair still slightly damp from a half-assed blow-out, I slicked it into a side ponytail and clipped my bangs over to the side with a bobby pin--a slight departure from my usual brush it/Do Nothing routine. My father gave me these great stud earrings for X-Mas, and though ear jewelry is something I normally never deal with, as an afterthought I threw them on. I hopped into my awesome new Muklug-style boots and hustled to work.

These are not my boots. Mine are better.

One of the freakiest things about teaching is how many little differences kids notice, and how many of these things they comment on. I swear, I could shave my head and I would have friends/family members who wouldn't register the difference for months. But I change three things--hairstyle, earrings, boots--and it's like I've had a complete head-to-toe makeover. The comments just wouldn't stop coming:
"Teacher, very beautiful!" (Aww.)
"Teacher, baby?" (I get this one a lot, when I'm wearing a shirt that poofs out in the front, or many layers. The kids I student taught back at home also asked me if I was pregnant a lot. Students are just turds sometimes, no matter where you are)
"Teacher, hair changey." (The silent "e": gets 'um every time)
"Teacher, ears new."
"Teacher, boots very cute."
"Teacher, boots very warm."
and my personal favorite,
"Teacher, Style Up!" said with a grin/thumbs-up.

This Super Sonic Kid Perception also works against me, however. My students totally know when I haven't planned for class and am just bullshitting my way through a lesson--in fact, I think most of them are constantly waiting for me to make a mistake, so they can point it out, compromising my authoriTAY, and rile the rest of the class into a frenzy of "TEACHER, GAME!" shouting.

Example. Two days ago in one of my classes, I passed out vocabulary tests. There was a new student whom I wasn't expecting, and alas! I didn't have a copy of the test ready for her. Panicked, I riffled through my folder and found a copy--completely blank, save for the name of another student, Jackson, written at the top. Jackson was absent--definitely not taking his test. Perfect, I thought, I'll just (neatly) tear the "Name" portion off the top of the test so this new girl can have a go at it, and leave this class with the impression that I am a Good Prepared Teacher and not some Helpless Foreign Monkey Girl. But shit! Jordan, a particularly loud-mouthed brat who sits the closest to my seat, saw what I was doing, and yelled at the top of his lungs "TEACHER, JACKSON'S TEST! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"

Of course, every student looked up from what they were doing, faces full of concern. Jackson is popular and well-liked--maybe they thought that he had quit hagwon-ing or something, which is why I was busy ripping his test apart in front of everyone. My face turned beet read, and I sheepishly turned to the new girl and said "Sorry! No test today. Test tomorrow."

For me, one of the hardest parts of teaching is constantly having to watch what you say and how you act (which is extra difficult when you're a Space Cadet Captain like myself). You never know which impressionability youth might be looking your way when you slam your finger in the door and scream "shit!". Or what they might be thinking about foreigners in general when you kick a chair across a room in a rage, or forget to photocopy tests or forget what page you're on in the classbook...

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