Sunday, April 3, 2011

Whatever Happened to Eggletina?

(Spent the day yesterday at the amazing Taipei zoo with the girls. But our nights have been spent deep in the Mary Norton classic, The Borrowers.)

Rough week at work, without a doubt. The Taiwanese, whether you like them or not, are social climbers without an on/off switch, and one can’t help but be involved just by walking in the door. They butcher and backstab, beat, betray, and bureaucrat each other to death. The most innocent conversations and glances can be misunderstood and turned into festering evil wars that explode, unbeknownst to you. Co-workers start rumors about you, spread lies, make assumptions, pass judgments, and all because you tried to show up for a job on time, did your best, and therefore became a threat.

(The Borrowers follows the little tiny family living under the Grandfather Clock of Pod, Homily and Arrietty, which my girls love.)

The Chinese speaking, Taiwanese teachers hate the foreign teachers. They are resentful that they have to follow a National Curriculum and we get to be inventive and come up with our own benchmarks and assessments. They want us to follow a standardized formula, which we do, but we smile and laugh, play games, have fun, try to get to know kids. This should never be done. Kids are here to study, not play, not learn about themselves, or develop a sense of wonder. Drill. Practice. Drill. Test.

(Believe me, Mr. Malaysian Sun-Bear, that's how I feel exactly... but my girls give me the strength to rise up and face life again.)

And worse, this ill-feeling from the Taiwan teachers is passed down to the students. If a Taiwanese teacher says in his native language to a student, “You don’t need to listen to the foreign teachers. Their education system has faltered, they are morally corrupt, they don’t care about your futures because they make a joke of school by “playing”(focusing on creativity) instead of “studying” (drilling endlessly for hours), then the kid is going to be rude, unfocused, belligerent, disruptive, lazy, forgetful, and unprepared for class. It is rampant now, and the foreign teachers at our school have to scramble at times to keep up with all the bad things said about us.

(Eggletina is a cousin to Arrietty, who vanishes one day while 'borrowing' upstairs. It is presumed that she was eaten by the family cat.)

Some of the rumors spread this week, where yet another of my friends and colleagues were attempted to be fired, are: 1. Teacher John had gone through a divorce therefore he is a failure in life. He was not a good husband and so he has no business teaching social studies because he couldn’t keep his marriage together. 2. Teacher Bill is morally corrupt. He is young and has a Taiwanese girlfriend and probably sleeps around. We’ve seen his kind before and he needs to be watched. 3. Teacher James is an idiot. He cannot control his class. When he tries to bring the class to order the students jump on their desks like wild animals. They throw books at him, knock over chairs, play with Rubik’s cubes, throw chalk at one another, and fail their exams. 4. Teacher Alice smells funny. She is obviously unclean and many of the students complain of stomach cramps when she enters the room. These were on a list of complaints given to us by the Chinese teaching staff.

(To find out what happens to silly little Eggletina, you have to read the books... but rest assured... she's quite fine afterall.)

Oh, and I was on the list too. Apparently my problem is that, again totally unbeknownst to me, I have two students who are trying to pass a National English license exam not taught in our school. (It is sort of like resume padding back home, where instead of organizing a car wash or creating a food drive for the homeless, kids put feathers in their academic hats by passing leveled tests written at cram schools) I had no idea it even existed until a few weeks ago.

(Now as for me, on the other hand, most days I feel like I'm in the monkey house.)

I have two students, weaker students, that failed the test twice. Again, I’ve never even heard of it. Therefore, I was fodder at the Chinese staff meeting to be discussed for over an hour. The parents came in and addressed the 40 Taiwanese teachers at their meeting specifically using my name: What is Teacher Brian doing? (None of the teachers knew. So they started standing around outside my class trying to listen.) Why are they laughing so much in there? Why is he playing music? Why is he using the TV? (They tried spying on me) I saw heads in the windows. I saw the director of the school popping his head in the door and hurrying away.

(But I'm made of sterner stuff, and will always find a way to prevail. I hope at least. Thank you, Mary Norton. Your books have always made me smile.)

At the meeting they talked about replacing me. About doing away with foreign teachers. About how we are not qualified. It’s soul-crushing. Oh, and who would replace us? Who would move into our schedules and take up the banner of English education at the school? Who would be the savior / hero? Oh… there are people lurking, people waiting on the periphery. They’re coming. I know it; and I'm ready for you.

1 comment:

  1. The bear looks like my 8th graders after an MSG filled lunch. Yes, it was an impossible week. Keep the faith, Teacher Brian. We're counting on you.