Stick a fork in me

It looks like I’m done.  This past week were my “final exams” or what passes for them.  After final exams there are no classes although officially school goes until June 30.  So here I am stuck in China’s number one tourist city (I kid you not, they have a sign that says that), until we depart on June 27th.  I love doing nothing but it would be nice to have a few things to do to break the monotony.

Tonight we are going to a “barbeque party” that one of my classes is having.  I was honoured to be invited by them.  They first told me I was the only teacher they invited and then it changed (I think) to they invited other teachers which is fine.  Maybe I’m full of myself (and I can be at times), but I know that I am their favorite teacher.  Maybe not everyone, but more than 70% of the students.

I like to think of myself as the whirlwind that blew into their lives and showed them that things can be different.  Class doesn’t have to be the teacher talking, the students listening, and then the students leaving.  One student told me it was “disrespectful “ to tell a teacher you don’t understand they understand.  How fucked up is that.  I tell them that if they are listening and they don’t understand, it’s my fault and I need to explain it better.  I also tell them that if they don’t understand, there are at least 5 other students who don’t understand.

Does it matter?  Not now.  School year is over, they may never see another teacher, and I highly doubt they’ll ever have another crazy person like me.  And the things they learned (I hope) about how a class should work and students should learn are useless to them in China.  It’s a shame.  A big fucking shame.

I had one on one interviews with all my students this past week.  I heard some students speak for the first time.  I was amazed.  It takes forever to get over the shyness and the years of training to keep your mouth closed in class.  I think they all agreed they were free to speak in my class and some students told me they were afraid of some of their other teachers.  That’s sick.  How can you learn without a dialogue?  But I’m only a foreigner.  I know it’s the culture here, but the culture is wrong.  There is a better way to do something, so you change the culture.

I feel a little guilt showing them the other side and giving them something to miss.  But I have to be me and hope some of what I do sticks to them.  I thought everyone knew I was leaving the school but some students told me they hoped I would be their teacher next year.  It’s nice to hear.  And I will miss many of them.  I do care and wish the best for them.  I hope they push themselves to get into university.  I told them to stay in touch if they want and I’ll write.  We shall see.

I broke my rule.  I asked 2 girls if I could hug them.  There was another one who I wanted to ask but she seemed kind of nervous so I let it go.  One girl (and it was a surprise) asked to hug me.  Still waters run deep.

Only one girl cried and it was Mandy.  I knew she would cry.  She likes me as a person who she can observe different ways of doing things from.  I am so fond of Mandy (and Shujie adores her too).  I like in this country and I want to see more of it, and I want more mature students, but I will miss a lot of them.  I was nice to everyone and wished them all the best (even if I didn’t like them), but I did tell some of them that I enjoyed seeing their faces every day and it was true.  If you see the kids that care it takes a lot of pressure off and you can be yourself.  Of course being myself still involves putting on a show, but if I have the listeners, then I don’t have to care about those that don’t care.  I’m not their father.

I asked everyone what grade they felt deserved and most of them were in the ballpark which pleased me.  Some were on drugs.  I asked one student who I trusted how they could ask for a 90 where I feel they are lucky if I give them 65.  He told me that if a student comes to class and is never late, they get a good mark.  Good for them.  That’s the way to teach them.  Being on time doesn’t really count for much.  I don’t debate their arguments because I want them to talk.  And you get a few students who go too low so I will raise them.  Some students I told just told them how freaking happy I was at their improvement and that they made me feel so good.

I lasted a full year.  I did some good (I think).  I fell in love with some of my kids and they fell in love with me.  I know in 5 years (and probably much less) they won’t remember me.  But right now they have warm feelings and I will linger a bit in their minds.

I didn’t blubber which is amazing for me.  I worry for many of them.  How will they get out of this hole they’ve dug for themselves.  (This school is the hole.).  Maybe they learned and they can take an exam after the 2nd year and if they pass they can go to University.  I hope many of them try and succeed.  I only see their English and being good in English doesn’t mean you’re smart.  But I just have a feeling they can do better if they chose to.  I really hope I’m right.

I wish we were leaving this week.  I’d rather sit in Toronto and do nothing.  For a while anyways.

It’s funny.  So many people from North America tell me I’m crazy to do this.  There’s no money in it and what about your future?  All I can say if I am rich with this and other experiences.  I’ll die one day and then nothing matters.  But my trip there will be interesting.  I think I’m going to have to get an illegal passport to shave 10 years off my age so I can do this longer.  It’s not easy, but it’s not like work.  I learn, they learn.  I communicate (sometimes).  I’m a lucky guy that I can do this.  I’m lucky that I have a wife who doesn’t think I’m crazy to do this.  My kids, mother, and sister think I’m crazy, but they’ve always thought that.  But we’re all different and we chase our dreams in different ways.  My way is to see some of the world as a “resident” and not a “tourist”.  I have been one lucky S.O.B.

And if you’re in Baotou next winter (when it’s really cold) please come and visit.  I wish those that think I’m insane could see part of my life and what I get from it.  I write this blog but it doesn’t really catch the flavor.

I had one girl tell me she deserved an 85 (and I agreed) and one of her reasons was that she won two “Oscars” for the plays we did.  I got them to things they’d never done before.  I got them to show some responsibility (not all of them, but most of them).  I am so pleased I didn’t underestimate them like everyone else does.  They are not Einstein’s but neither are they total morons (or most of them aren’t).

I showed “The Green Mile” last Tuesday and it wasn’t mandatory to attend.  We had a big crowd and half the headphones for sound didn’t work.  I asked one girl who rarely comes to movies why she went and she told me that she wasn’t going to get many more chances to see me.  She didn’t talk to me but I guess she was showing her love and respect.  What can I say?  I ‘m honoured to have drawn out those feelings in her.

I will probably post once more before I leave.  I don’t know about the summer.  It might be quite sporadic.  In the fall I’ll be back in business but I don’t want to change the title from “adventures injuring” to “adventuresinbaotou” because my 2 of 3 followers may have trouble following me.

I’m happy.  I did the year.  It was a success.  I an do this.  I have a talent.  I touched some lives.  Some lives touched mine.  I’m one freaking lucking guy.


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