Wanna hear a story?

Here it goes:

Once upon a time on a random Tuesday afternoon, a teacher set aside her lesson to scold her class of form ones (11-13 years olds). They had been behaving badly in recent times and they needed a shake up to try to bring them back to reality.

When the teacher was finished and the bell had rung signalling the end of the school day, she had scarcely reached her office and begun to pack up when she was confronted by another teacher who indicated that two girls who were part of the class to whom she had spoken earlier, had instigated a fight with another female student that very minute. The teacher was aghast. Hadn’t she just spoken to these students about their deportment and their lack of discipline? Was it simply a matter of her 35-minute sermon going in one ear and coming out the next? Had she lost precious teaching time for nothing?

The teacher went outside and proceeded to call the two girls who proceeded to delay in walking toward her. This got the teacher annoyed because she began to think about her own biological children who needed to be picked up from school a whole 60-something kilometres away while she had to be there dealing with that nonsense. She began to shout with authority at the girls about the mere stupidity of their actions and insisted that they go to the office.

Concurrently, one of the girls had a boyfriend who was in another class who decided that he would jump into the fray to save his girlfriend from the teacher who was admonishing her. Upon realizing that the boyfriend was addressing her, the teacher turned to the young boy and spoke to him directly, indicating that no one had called him and he should excuse himself. The boyfriend muttered. The teacher asked for clarity and indicated that if he had something to say he should come to her directly. The young boy bounced up, pointed a finger in the teacher’s face and said she should mind her business. Unrelenting in her purpose, the teacher told him that he had no authority to point at her to which he replied “Hush your cunt”. The teacher replied that she didn’t know that he was aware of any body parts belonging to her and then turned to the girlfriend and said, “You have great taste in men.”

In the office, while writing up the notices to see parents for the two young girls, the teacher’s annoyance switched to amusement.  In all of her years working at the school, never had she been so disrespected but she felt as though if it had to happen, it should have been someone a bit more worthy. She jumped in her car and went on her merry way, eager to give her husband the joke about these students’ obvious loss of mental capacity, ruminating on her strategy for the following day and boy would it be a good one.

THE END

EPILOGUE

The mother picked up her own children from school and after her usual pleasantries, realized that something was wrong with her son. He was unusually quiet. He then randomly asks (or maybe not so randomly) when was the next occasion for Confession at their church. This made the mother anxious. At home she realized that he was shadowing her and kept asking for hugs. She didn’t ask him anything but merely waited. Eventually he said he had something to tell her and after almost five minutes of fidgety eyes and playing with his fingers, he said that he knew she was going to get mad but he proceeded to outline what happened. Apparently he was part of  a WhatsApp group with boys commenting using very strong obscene language. A parent found out and the boys got in trouble at school with their teacher. He looked at his mother and said that he was sorry and he knew it was “out of his character” and that he got “caught up”. The mother sighed and said she was glad that he told her and she spoke to him about being responsible on social media and not bowing to peer pressure. She imagined that it would be the first of many like conversations but boy was she proud that he found it enough on his conscience to recognize his missteps and to come clean. She trained her son to be sensible enough (not perfect but sensible!) to identify a basic right from a wrong approach and wondered why other parents couldn’t do the same.

Bless up

TMIDM

Loss…

A student at my school died last night. I saw her at school walking around and chatting, left work, went to dance, came home and got an email from the principal informing all staff that she had passed. I am still in shock and totally unsettled.

Today was uncomfortable from the jump. There was no lusty singing of the national anthem at assembly this morning, glassy red eyes staring into invisible voids and an eerie silence that descended and quite frankly had me feeling like the school was enveloped into total depression and heaviness.

I accept death and the fact that it is part of life, what I have trouble with is the unexpected nature that it takes, especially when it relates to our young ones who have left and the ones who remain to whom it affects. I found myself drifting in thought to the student’s best friend. At age 15 or 16, how do you process that your best friend who you just left mere hours before on your way home, suddenly died? My heart hurt for her.

My heart also hurt for the child’s mother who is wrapped up in guilt. She was ill and depended on her daughter to help with the little ones, which she did and now that she is better, she can’t return the care and favour that her child showed to her. She can’t be the mother she intended to be to take care of the child who stepped up to the plate when she physically couldn’t. There isn’t enough sympathy in the world to bring the comfort that the mother needs right now. Time has to step in.

Of course when situations like this occur you tend to dwell on your own life, your past, your future, your children…you feel like you need to ‘go to the mattresses’ or like in Sons of Anarchy pull everybody in the MC, bring everybody in, give extra hugs, kisses, say extra prayers for protection because as selfish as it sounds you don’t want to feel that kinda loss although the majority of times it is absolutely unavoidable. That’s the very nature of life, you think the road you’re driving on is the right one and then something happens and you detour (or derail) and you head straight back to the start.

I tell my form class over and over, tomorrow is promised to no-one, so make the best of today. It’s an almost daily mantra that I use to try to get them to understand that life is not to be trifled with which seems to be the very nature of youth today. Today more than ever they understood the message as they came to terms with their peer’s death in their own ways. It is unfair but God alone knows…

Bless

TMIDM

Overheard on the radio this afternoon: Remember then: there is only one time that is important- Now! It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power. (“Three Questions” – Leo Tolstoy)

Resilience…

Some time ago I had to deal with a 16 year old student who seemed to be ‘tripping off’. He was walking around with a bandanna tied around his head shouting ‘why me boy?’, crying and ranting to himself. We finally got him sequestered in my office and attempted to get to the bottom of his outburst. To cut a 3hr story short, he couldn’t bear to see the ‘happiness’ of his classmates while he had to deal with a mother who neglected him, a father who ridiculed him, a brother who beat and accused him of stealing and forced him to leave home and a present life of hardship which forces him to choose between earning money to survive and going to school.

For a moment I didn’t know what to say, all I could do was listen because how does one extol the importance of attending school and getting a solid education when there is no support for the child to do so? (Maslow is perpetually on my mind). This is particularly in a rural area where education is secondary to making earnings and helping to support the family. The evidence of this is found by MANY parents of errant children saying to me: “Miss, ah go pull (he/she) outta school yuh know! Is bes’ (he/she) come and work garden with me because ah wasting money sending (he/she) to school’. It’s money over school not school as a means to earn money.

I’m not a psychologist neither a guidance counsellor but as a teacher, in the absence of same, sometimes the situation calls to wear the hat. To my mind, faced with what seemed like an impossible situation I thought to let him know that he need to keep resilient because the reality is that the world is not a magical place with fairy godmothers and rivers flowing with chocolate despite what tv and friends say. I told him that when you’re in a boat in the middle of a storm, you will never tell yourself to jump into the water, you would go to the bottom of the boat and hunker down. So sometimes when life is raining down on you and you can’t see your way, you have to hold on , be your strongest and wait for the storm to pass.

I don’t coddle my gremlinz but i’m not a Tiger Mother either. I think that’s it’s important to teach your children resilience, let them understand that life can be difficult and unfair with the possibility of becoming even more so. My gremlinz’ ‘problems’ and accompanying emotions are usually met with a straight face and the word: And?.  After this is the thrashing out, reasoning, advising and comforting or scolding if necessary. Yes it is totally human to react with despair, but it is even more human to choose to either be swallowed by the sea or to keep climbing on that surfboard.

Bless up

TMIDM

 

In loco…

are you my mother

NOPE.

On this Universal Children’s Day 2014, I told three of my students that they were behaving like realllll jackasses and I put real stress on the ‘jackass’ as much as my Trini tongue could muster so that it sounded as caustic as I felt. I was also very loud, one of the usual tones used when I have to ‘dispense justice’. You know like long time when you used to see the F-word written in public transport but spelt with an ‘O’ instead of the ‘U’? That kinda enraged tone.

I recognise that children have rights. I recognise all 37 of those rights including the right to health, education, a good family and standard of living, play and protection from abuse. I recognise that without these rights children are doomed. What I don’t recognise or rather what I don’t ‘see’ with the human beings under the age of 18 that I encounter on a daily basis, is an acknowledgement and appreciation of these rights.

I don’t normally descend into the quasi-obscene but sometimes the shock value is absolutely necessary. I told them they were behaving like jackasses because a teacher was in class and they decided to pelt each other with paper, one of which struck the teacher on the forehead. What made it worse is that this is my form class, what made it even worse is that I am also the acting Dean, and the icing on this particular dessert is that these children know me and know the kinda shit I don’t stand for so why raise the beast with this horseplay nonsense especially if you don’t do it in when I am teaching?

You know there’s a saying that as a teacher you are in loco parentis which means you take the place of the parents with those under your charge. To be honest it’s not only a saying, it’s also a legal requirement. So sometimes I feel that if I am in loco of your parentis (and as a Spanish teacher this term is especially thrilling), I should act that way. SO! if your parentis feel like it is ok to play de ass in school, me, as your parentis (in loco) will greatly beg to differ and I will open my mouth to indicate such. So if my children whose rights I should respect, coming to school with no pen but combing hair and brushing shoes in class, I feel I should say what I need to say as I am in loco parentis. If my children, whose rights I should respect, are leaving their free textbooks home and writing all subjects in one notebook so their bags will be light, I feel I should say what I need to say to point out the error of their ways. If my children whose rights I should respect, do no homework and submit no assignments, yet somehow end up in bacchanal and fights, I feel I should do what I need to do to steer them in the right direction because clearly school is the wrong direction? Clearly you doh wanna be here? And this does not even begin to touch the surface of gambling, sex acts and narcotics on the school compound in other schools in this country. If I’m lying God strike me down. Thankfully it hasn’t reached there in my neck of the bush.

Now don’t get me wrong eh. Teaching is a vocation i.e. not something to be trifled with. This is why I could allow my emotion to shine forth in the way I feel will be effective. This is why I have to keep impressing upon these human beings under 18 that school is the only way out of the poverty that they are all desperately seeking to escape. But it only works if you put the work in. If I didn’t care, I would simply teach my subject for my particular period and the effort stops there. However, this feeling lasts up to the very point where I realize that my sanity is being endangered, in which case I draw the line and remember it’s only two humans that have passed through my vagina and I need to keep my atoms together for them and that third one that I share a bed with. At this point I stop being the inspirational ‘Lean on Me’ Morgan Freeman and become this guy:

Bless up

TMIDM

And Counting…..(part 2)

Ok so it’s been over a week since my last post and with good reason. I have been dog tired to the point where in the evenings I couldn’t even open my eyes far less my laptop. I have just been doing the bare minimum preparation for the next day and although the end of the tunnel is near (July-August holidays) the light still seems further away than usual. So the good folks at SomeeCards are completely right:

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As I may have mentioned before, in addition to mommy chores at home and ‘mommy chores’ at work, a large part of this has to do with the distance I drive to and from every day. It is approximately 30 km to go and 30 km to return and apparently for most, if not all, first-time appointments in the Ministry of Education this is perfectly normal from ever since. So if you live Carenage, the “only space available” is Princes Town, and if you live Penal, the “only space available” is Matelot. You take the position because you want to work, you need to work and like my mother advised, “you need to get your foot in the door”. This is a reality for many of us in the middle who have mouths to feed and can’t simply afford to wait for the works of fate and all the bricks falling into the right place. So you sacrifice until you get that precious transfer which is a whoooooole other kettle of fish boiling with politics, miscommunication, delays, bureaucracy and plain idiocy.

Many people I’ve spoken to are usually aghast when I mention where I work, others say “well yeah dais a nice drive” and I agree. It is a nice drive for a Sunday…maybe every Sunday…..

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That last one there is my view from work in the carpark and yes it is a nice drive and yes the view is sublime but not…every…day……I’m thankful that I have co-workers to keep me company most times but it can really take a toll especially now nearing the end of the term. Last week a police officer stopped me by the junction in Valencia because he ‘thought I looked like something was wrong’. My head was leaned on the window pane and with my facial expression, he probably thought I was contemplating a misdemeanor. When I get home after an hour and a half of ‘zombie-driving’, picking up the gremz and listening to the tales in primary school-land, I usually roll out of my car when I get home.  Thank God they are big enough to take turns to jump out and open the gate.

The sad thing about this is that usually  I don’t even allow myself time to rest when I get home. My twisted logic dictates that I keep going when I reach, so I sometimes I will still be in work clothes all 6-7pm in the kitchen, helping with homework, still spinning….until I bathe and crash. In the past week it wasn’t so. I came home and sat. I came home and lay down. I contemplated bathing (*gasp!). I slept at 8 o clock. I deferred supervision of homework and study unless it was realllllly necessary (thankfully it wasn’t!) and today Saturday I am in bed, deciding which of my chores are realllly vital and which could hol’ ah burn til next week.

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So I’ve decided for the sake of my health and sanity, I’m letting THAT particular title go until I can take up the mantle again. In the meanwhile I’m still counting down…

Sidenote: Is it just just me or does anyone else feel like they can get every single thought-process summarized in a SomeeCard? Pure genius!

Bless up.

TMIDM

 

 

 

Great Expectations

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http://elenacordova.deviantart.com/

It’s one of those sayings that rings true for me as I am one of those homo sapiens who doesn’t deal well with being caught off guard. I overthink, analyze a situation to bits and I hate surprises. More and more I listen and watch the news and ask myself: “Self, how much more of these types of stories can i take?” I barely got over that pore-raising murder of Dana Seetahal, not to mention the “pace” of the investigation. Then there was man forgetting baby in the car,  Volney changing his mind, criminality surrounding Lifesport programme, a murder here, a murder there, corruption and cocaine video, thousand-man/woman march and now another video which (allegedly) shows the Honourable Minister of Sport locked in hotel room 201 with narcotics and chicks.

It is since that last video mentioned that my Son-Son is beginning to think that news is a form of entertainment as most nights there is something to drop the jaw as if we’re watching a summer tentpole movie. I am actually considering limiting his viewing which is incredibly sad yet I understand that at the same time he needs to be aware of what it going on. More and more though I need to keep explaining and in some cases correcting, justifying and reasoning. It’s as though I’m writing General Paper all over again.

I’ve realized that I have had to do the same at work many times when discussing current affairs and politics with students. Interestingly most of them see  politicians as liars and thieves, opinions which I’m sure have been influenced by parents on both sides of the political divide. I try to encourage them and give examples of historical, political figures both at home and abroad,  but it is becoming more and more difficult to marry that into present circumstances. I’ve reached the point where I tell students to ensure that their moral compass is pointing in the right direction and they will know right and wrong once they follow wise counsel and feel it in their gut.

Sadly though I teach in an area where marijuana is heavily cultivated and “yes it is illegal but only when you get caught.” Getting money is priority number one, education is priority number two. It is not a new phenomenon, impacting generation after generation and deeply vested into the culture of the community.  So imagine on one hand you are trying your best to influence students to put dong de weed, don’t do what your parents did, find a future for yourself…..and on the other hand we have Mr. Minister (allegedly) rolling and boasting in a hotel room, filled with girls….the good life….the kinda life my students crave. How do I justify that to them? Especially as he has been endorsed and supported explicitly by the Ministry of Communications and implicitly by the Prime Minister? What does the Minister of Education have to say on how this impacts primary and secondary school children? These children are the ones who are going to take the reins, the ones who people talk about when they complain: ‘We need new blood!’ Should I go ahead and tell them “well yeah, go ahead once you don’t get caught but if you do, make sure and deny, deny, deny and of course, ensure that you blame somebody else” (read: Rowley)

I dunno nah, I don’t want to believe that Trinidad and Tobago is going to hell in a handbasket but it’s hard when the evidence is stacked against me. I feel like I have to fight but it is hard not to feel disenchanted! In the meantime, along with other like-minded citizens who are not easily gaslit, I will continue to do what I must…keep hoping and keeping those expectations where they should be.

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Bless up.

TMIDM