Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Talent

Oh, my goodness. I wrote a blog post last month sometime and forgot to post it. Now that exams are upon us I will be busy for the next couple of weeks, after which I will be heading to New Zealand for six weeks (SIX WEEKS!), but for now, here is something to keep the blog alive. A bit rambly, but never mind.

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So here I am, sitting in the teacher's room, alone. I don't have a class this period, and everyone else is in their classrooms, teaching. I have marked all the tests that need marking, all the homework that has been handed in, and I'm just sitting here listening to music on my headphones and enjoying the peaceful bit in the middle of what is my busiest and most frantic day.

But any moment now the other teachers will burst in and start complaining about their students. Whoops, here's one now.

… And that is where my blog writing collapses. THERE ARE TOO MANY NOISY TEACHERS. But oh my goodness I work with some interesting people!

But never mind, it's two days later and now I have my students grading themselves using a oh, bugger it, here's one with a question…

All right. A day later and I'm in class and students are writing busily so I have a free moment. I have them writing about what they CAN DO, what they're GOOD AT, and what they LIKE DOING, and the plan is to have them switch papers and come up with suggestions for jobs for each other. What amazes me the most about my students when they write is how I can sit here and listen to pencils (yes, PENCILS, at UNIVERSITY) scratching on the paper for what feels like hours, then said students proudly present their papers to me, on which are written three malformed sentences. How can they write for so long, and with such concentration, and produce so little and so badly? It is an endless source of fascination to me, and makes me feel like a bad teacher.

… (Two days later.) After that particular exercise, however, there was another surprise for me. It was getting near the end of class, so to hurry them up I told them that when they'd finished they were to bring their papers to me for checking and then they could go. That worked to hurry them up but not necessarily to make their brains work better. Even though the entire chapter of the textbook we'd just done was about jobs, and qualifications for jobs, at least half of the papers that were turned in had sentences like:

"I am good at tennis. I like playing tennis. I can play tennis."

To which their partners, understandably, had responded,

"I think you should become a tennis player."

Or,

"I like listening to music. I am good at listening to music. I can watch TV."

And his partner had written, somewhat stymied,

"I think you should become a musician."

(Yeah, RIGHT. Listening to music turns you into an instant musician.)

This is why these students are studying business management. It's so they can become tennis players and musicians.

But near the end of the class, I was handed a paper on which at first I only read the final sentence (because I wanted to leave by this point). His partner had written,

"I think you should become a professional cleaner."

This caused me to glance at the student, who was, unexpectedly, one of the cool kids. It also caused me to look down again and read what he'd written, instead of saying defeatedly, as I had been doing, "OK, you can go."

He had written,

"I am good at cleaning bathrooms. I am good at cleaning floors. I am good at cleaning toilets. I like cleaning. I like cooking. I can clean kitchens."

I looked up.

"A professional cleaner?" I asked.

"Yes," he replied.

I stared at him. I could not wipe the grin off my face.

"When did you leave home?" I asked him.

"March," he answered, slightly puzzled.

"Did you cook and clean when you lived at home?" I asked.

"No," he said.

"But now you've learned how to do it yourself?" I said.

"YES," he said, proudly.

I paused, watching him closely, trying to figure out whether he was winding me up. I was also trying to figure out what to say.

He stood up straighter.

"And I'm GOOD at it," he added, in case I hadn't read that bit. He really wanted me to know.

I thought about it.

"I'm sure you will be a FANTASTIC professional cleaner one day," I told him, finally.

He was still beaming happily when I left the classroom.

You just never know what to expect when you do stuff like this in the classroom. A declaration of a new-found passion for cleaning toilets was certainly not what I had expected, anyway.

3 comments:

Kay said...

What a happy thing, here in the gray, rainy Pacific Northwest, to find badaunt first thing in the morning! Such a breath of fresh reality 'midst the digital humanities tweets.

Judy (kenju) said...

I imagine that he didn't think he would do that when he still lived at home, and be good at it.

Char said...

That was so entertaining. Thanks for sharing it with us. I'd like to say that I don't like cleaning, and I'm not good at cleaning and yet I spend a lot of my life doing it - and I don't get paid for it. If only there was a job that involved reading for pleasure.