January 30, 2008

An Observation About Uniforms

The billingual school where I teach has an elementary school and a junior high school and a complement of uniforms that are the color of socks that have been entrusted to me to wash. 25% grey sweat pants and top with a white stripe sandwiched by two navies on the leg and sleeve.

The uniforms are universally despised by the students, but this is Taiwan, and I don't see any of them making any obvious modifications.

I like my students. They're really good kids, especially when compared to the kids in another class one of whom, when asked by their teacher to write a sentence from the workbook on the blackboard, responded with "Fuck You!" as well as the very aggressive two-handed gesture that goes along with it. This was one of the girls.

Some of the boys in the class did not wish to be outdone, especially in a pissing contest with girls about being offensive. Seriously, where's the honor in being beaten by a girl when it comes to being vile and pernicious? So, one joker decided to introduce a running gag where every time the teacher left the room, he told the teacher to "take his time" while masturbating in the toilet.
All semester we listened to his complaints that he had difficulty controlling his students, and we agreed that we had similar problems, but he didn't tell us the whole story until he handed in his notice. I'm sorry to see him go, he was a nice guy, one of the most patient people I've ever met, and an excellent conversationalist.
Up until the day he told us about the animals he was tending to in class, I thought my students were a gang of unruly gorillas. I mean, some of them spoke Chinese in class! I mean, I mean, some of them talked without raising their hands! Good GAWD people, some of them used to come to class without a textbook! My biggest complaint was that there was a kid who blurted out the answer to every single question I asked, even when the question was framed with multiple references to the inquisitee, so charged with competitiveness is the atmosphere here, this kid was launching himself out of his chair before the question was completely asked. This was my biggest complaint. No one ever said Fuck, shit, or even "Got Dandruff, some of it itches" until I taught them.
So, I didn't appreciate my students until well into the semester when I realized how bad it could have been if the dice had fallen another way. And I made sure to tell them all that no matter how much I had complained about them, as a group, they have really done a fine job.
So, yeah, I like my students. I've got three groups of mostly 8th graders mostly trying to keep a low profile and get through the day without being asked to do anything that might cause them to look stupid in front of some pimply uncoordinated member of the opposite sex. Just like 14 year olds anywhere in the world.
But, goddam, those uniforms! Institutionalized. Grey pants, shirts, socks, faces, answers, souls. Every day. But not Saturday.
Nope, Saturday is the day for the Jr High kids to be peacocks. During the school year I only saw them on Saturday one time and I was shocked by the difference in their mood & attitude. It was refreshing to sit in front of a class of brightly colored kids with smiles on their faces.
Today is Wednesday, but it's Winter Camp time. That is, most schools around the city are out for Chinese New Year, but my guys are here getting a jump on their college entrance exams or something. No school for them on Saturday during winter break, so Wednesday is the day when they all drop their uniforms off at my house so that I can make them as grey as my socks, and they look like Western 8th graders.
I'm walking a fine line here. Not wanting to judge books by their covers and all that, but when the covers are all different, their eyes are brighter, and I can't help but like them a little more.
Yesterday, a student half-heartedly flipped me the bird yesterday from a bridge at the school. To make sure things don't get out of hand, I chased him down and threw him off a roof. Then I gave him three demerits. Oh Yeah Baby!
What does it all mean? Probably only that I've finished my exams, report cards, and next semester's plan and I'm procrastinating on the last task of the week. Ok, I'll get on it.

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