Friday, March 30, 2012
There's a war brewing between two homeroom teachers in the building that is none of my freaking business but I'm going to totally make it so.
I know this kid. I've taught him for three years. He's no cheater. In fact, he's pretty amazing. Quiet. Strong. Honorable... three months ago when Princess was trying to get me fired and I was ready to quit the school he wrote me a note...he said, "Teacher Brian. Don't you quit. If you quit, Princess will win." How cool is that? So I went to the director. I went to the administrators. I pleaded their case. I told everybody I could. I back-channeled. I worked the system. And today when I saw the kid with his trophy I felt a sense of relief... but it wasn't enough, because Princess has yet to apologize or be held accountable for her words. The answer I got was...it is between the homeroom teachers. Everyone is just hoping it goes away. But somethings never go away. They don't. They just burn brighter. Even though no one talks about them anymore, they forever live inside us, and we carry them to our graves, and this is one.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
I've got this student who is a complete horse's ass. He is rude. Belligerent. Won't bring a book to class, has no pencil, won't keep a journal, vandalizes his desk, scratches his name on the chair, stares off into space during lectures, belittles me, curses me under his breath, flips me off when I turn my back, carries on full conversations when I ask him to be quiet, gets up and walks around the back of the room during discussion, and refuses to do any kind of work.
Monday, March 26, 2012
My list of plays include:
Hamlet and Eggs
Bada Bing Bada Boom The Taming of a Mafia Princess
Much Ado About Yo Mama
Midsummer’s Night High School Comedy
Arden MTV’s As You Like It the Real World
Three Act Romeo and Juliet
The Jedi of Venice (performed in my absence)
Mac-Backstreet A Tragic Tale of Murder, Corporate Witches, and Asian Boy Bands
Rock + Roll Romeo and Juliet: A Beatles Musical
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Teacher Tabitha is at it again. This little 4 foot 11 powerball who best resembles Eva from Wall-E with her lazer death ray eyes hovering around students like heaps of trash she can blow away. She's reading the riot act to Stanley,the autistic kid, just shaking her finger and cursing him in the main lobby of the school
You see, Asia doesn't really know what autism is, and there's certainly no word for it in Chinese...or if there is, this professional Taiwanese teacher doesn't know it... or she wouldn't curse, scream, belittle, strike, or humiliate Stanley every day in front of the entire school. We've had our run-ins before. I've confronted her in the staff room, but she has a list of defenses... Stanley's mother asks me to do it... if I don't publically scold him he will think his actions are okay... he needs me to strike and slap him so the other students are satisfied... I do it to help him.
In Taiwan, special needs kis are usually placed in the corner of classrooms, beaten, ridiculed, or imprisoned in schools. In fact, during test week, Stanley doesn't even participate in any way. Rather, he is placed in the center of the main office where he rolls a pencil up and down his desk for 8 to 10 hours and then goes home. The reason Teacher Tabitha was scolding and striking him today was that his pencil rolled off the desk, continued to roll across the floor and stopped at the bookcase. Stanley got up to get his pencil but saw an electrical outlet... this fascinated him and he stuck the pencil inside it. So Teacher Tabitha took him into the lobby of the school, in front of the main doors, and proceeded for ten minutes to scream at him.
This is an every day occurance. And I have brought this issue up to every administrator and English speaking teacher in the office. So... again, today when I passed and saw it, I walked into the main office. There is only one English speaking staff member there... and said in very simple Chinese..."Excuse me...but... he...the boy...the student...he is special...and she...the woman...the teacher... is bad... she can't do that...okay? She can't..."
Blank faces on office staff members is a pretty usual experience for me... The one who speaks English said..."We know. We know." Then they continued filing their paperwork and chatting among themselves.
Stanley... I'm so sorry. What I really want is to punch that teacher in the face. I wish you were in my class. Our Shakespeare adaptation of Julius Scissorhands is for you.
Sunday, March 18, 2012
I’ve got this kid named Tonya who has this twin called Saul. The brother’s one of the cool kids in class. He carries his ping-pong paddles in a special leather case with his name engraved above a golden zipper and has this orange utility belt that holds the thin plastic balls like bullets in a gunslinger hip holster. Not kidding! It’s sweet. I mean, if you’re a thirteen –year-old Taiwanese boy and the only foreign movie, restaurant, or person you can name is Transformers, McDonalds, and Jeremy Linn, then a ping-pong ball utility belt makes you the Steve McQueen of your generation.
You see, Tonya is toxic. She’s overweight with brown teeth and this half-retarded mouth breather stare like she licked too many paint chips as a kid. Saul is constantly laying into her. How she’s fat, and farts, and how she’s ugly and stupid and when she reads the boys make cow sounds and when she walks by they throw garbage at her, and basically she is the class punching bag.
I keep pulling Saul aside and telling him to lay off. That Tonya is his sister, that he needs to stick up for her, to defend her honor, to help make her shine, that’s what big brothers do, but Saul says she was born first and that she's on her own. Besides, look at her. He points in the corner where she is standing at the chalkboard drawing a rainbow with one hand and rubbing her bulging gluttonous belly with the other. Her hair is gnarled and pulled back into a smiley face scrunchy, and her mouth is agape. Saul says, “If she was your sister, you’d be ashamed.”
He’s right, of course. Tonya is not my sister. She’s not my daughter either. She’s my student. My responsibility to her lies in a different direction.
I see this a lot in schools, not just Taiwan. School is supposed to be this safe place but instead it becomes a battleground. The weak, the weird, the wacky, all get washed away in this collective pummeling. There's no voice for them, nobody to even wave a white flag.
Of course... that got me thinking.
It was Christmas time about two years ago and we had returned to America, back to Colton to the family farm for carols around the fire, my mom's amazing pies, and all the gifts wrapped up perfectly around a fresh smelling Douglas Fir my dad had cut out of the back yard. It was magic, really.
Sacked out on the sofa curled up with my three daughters twisted and contorted and pinning me down in one of those moments where you dare not move or somebody will awake and so mercifully a family member wraps an afghan around you and leaves you alone. When, wouldn't you know it, the 1990 Tim Burton movie, Edward Scissorhands came the TV.
Damn you, Johnny Depp.
I... Love...Edward Scissorhands!
I love everything about it. I love that he squeaks and rusts and creaks and barely moves else he cuts the room to shreds. I love that people are so afraid of him but yet his own face is covered with slices and scars. He's perfect. Laying there, unable to move, my arms and legs going numb under the weight of my daughters...I hatched out a plan to use Edward as a Shakespeare character, and Julius Scissorhands was born.
But the thing is...I really thought I was kind of alone. I had no idea of the mass appeal of this movie. I mean, you start to think of all the cool Johnny Depp characters... Cross dressing Ed Wood, murderous barber Sweeny Todd, cocaine smuggling George Jung, wise cracking Donnie Brasco, bank robbing John Dillinger, and Peter Pan writer James Barrie... not to mention Willy Wonka, Ichabod Crane, Don Juan, Gilbert Grape, the Mad Hatter and...oh yeah...that pirate guy... Johnny Depp is basically the Steve McQueen of my generation.
Which makes him, of course, perfect to poke fun at... or at the very least someone who I can use to show how others get poked and prodded and made to look like fools.
So that's kind of the message of Julius Scissorhands. Yes, it's a Shakespeare adaption, but really it's about engaging the kids in a larger conversation about this beloved character that gets murdered in jealousy and rage for nothing other than... he's different. A Tonya of the world.
Saturday, March 17, 2012
Narrator: In the ancient days of Ping-Pongtopia, young boys and girls dreamed of only one thing: To be the greatest Ping-Pong player alive! It was a time of Gods!
Zeus: (Enter a bearded boy wearing a toga with a lightning bolt) I’m Zeus. God of Everything... Yeah, I'm immortal!
Leonidas: (Enter an asthmatic and weakling looking King Leonidas from movie 300 carrying sword) This is Sparta!
Narrator: It was a time of monsters!
Medusa: (Enter green faced Medusa wearing snakes in her hair) My name is Medusa not “La-duza”!
Pompey: (Enter Pompey wearing tank top, short shorts, high tube socks and a massive bush of black hair under his arms) I am Pompey! Yes, I have ping-pong paddles for hands (He lifts up his arm to reveal serious black arm pit hair) Fear my arm pit hair!
Medusa: Ew! I think I just got turned to stone!
Scissorhands: (Scissorhands enters in white shirt and black pants, his face is painted white with black circles around his eyes. He lifts up his hands to reveal large scissor blads for fingers) You know, it’s really more of a hobby than sport.