Monday, April 2, 2012

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Lend Me Your Ears

Julius Caesar Theme #3:  Friends are Fickle

Samantha has a sob story. She’s shaking and wheezing and rocking back and forth at my desk with her arms folded across her chest. If she were allowed to wear make-up it would be running down her face. If she were allowed to wear earrings they would be tangled in the knots of her hair. She is trying to breathe. Hyperventilating and mumbling in weepy bursts. All I can do is hand her a tissue and watch her crumble to the floor.  Then here it comes.
She explains that she wants to attend prestigious Our Lady of Hope Secondary School for Girls. It’s a prestigious international school in Taipei, I’ve heard of it. Over a thousand girls apply a year for 30 spots. She was a finalist but didn’t get in. Her placement test score was 297 and she needed 300. She’s out. That means public school… and public school…well…. you don't want to attend Taiwanese Public High School.
Public school means tests. That’s it. Just tests every day. No literature. Just grammar and vocabulary for the next three years. Taught by Taiwanese teachers. Sounds like a tiptoe through the tulips, doesn’t it? That’s why she needs me…. That’s why she’s always needed me… that’s why she comes to me now…to sob and weep by my desk…couldn’t I… just one more time… go out of my way to help her.
Here’s the back story. I’ve had Samantha in class for years… she’s a backtalking trouble-maker. She blabbers when I talk, she yacks at her desk and has full laughing fit conversations when I am trying to teach, she barely pays attention, she gets low assessment marks and then blames me for not doing a good job…which she tells her parents… it’s just a reality.
I combat this with giving her the lead in our Rock and Roll Romeo and Juliet musical…because she says her dream is to be an actress. I help her. I show her the way. I write an entire play with her as the focus…and what does she do…. Well, nothing.  Instead, Samantha has spent the entire year disrupting my class… in fact, the only thing I really remember her saying is this…. It was a first period class… she was talking out of turn and I said her name…”Samantha…. Samantha please focus….hey! Samantha Chen!”
Deftly she spun around in her desk and snapped back, “My name is not Chen it’s Ch’en.”
That was it… that’s really the only interaction I’ve had with this kid all year…and now…she’s at my desk weeping and asking for help. Could I please write her a letter of recommendation? This school is her dream. This is all she wants… if she could just get in…all her dreams could come true.  So I write the letter... no, it's not the most glowing letter of recommendation I've ever written, but it suffices.  It detailed a meeting I had with her father once... trying to explain the problems of his daughter and how no one cared.  I thought it was eloquent and appropriate.  After two hours of working on it I fell asleep and awoke ready to mail it, which I did.  A week later I asked Samantha about the school and she snapped at me...."What?  I don't want to go there... I'm going to Canada instead."
So I went back to my desk and deleted her file.

No comments:

Post a Comment