After having taught English for 16 years, now comes a moment to admit defeat. I guess I’m ultimately stuck with a bunch of 16-year old high-school kids. Out of sheer despair the other day, I broke down and told them honestly I think there’s a glass wall between them and me.
What is supposed to be a class on World Literature and where most of us (excluding those who watched Manga the entire night before and rest up for the sequel during class time) would, in an ideal world, zealously engage in joyful discussions of opinions and rave about the art of mood depictions, we instead struggle with the most atrociously basic communication.
“Teacher!” – a question begins. My eyes start to sparkle; finally, after 6 weeks into the term, there’s a volunteer. And it seems they want to ask me something. We can do this.
“Window” – question ends.
“Do you mean to say – I reply, turning pale and start seeking a happy place quickly in the back of my mind – that you’re feeling hot and asking for permission to open a window?”
A submissive nod follows. Nod, I do, too, but my head doesn’t come back up, it stays floor-gazing until I crawl back in slow-motion to my table and fact them again.
What shall I do to make you at least string two words next to each other? How can I expect you to debate over The Raven or The Scarlet Ibis if a simple request is so frugal with syllables?
“You could always give us sweets and chocolate” – an answer comes in whisper, its effect dramatised by a childish blush. At least, this is eight words. Something is happening. We might do this.
My eyes shut down and I reel the images of those long evening hours when I create my lesson plans, compiling lists of ideas to encourage group work, adding some thought-provoking questions to do presentations on, Youtube vids, images and films that may inspire them.
Perhaps all this is vain and instead a certain per cent of my salary should be put aside for feeding these little rodents in this pro-snack menagerie? A momentary gimmick, I’m wanting to hope. I’ll say my prayers.