Wednesday, June 29, 2011

In Memoriam

I was 6 months into my new, shiny career as a high school teacher. The confusing world of policies and protocols, class rolls and room changes were still unfamiliar to me, and the tiniest change in routine threw me off, in those first 6 months. (Well, sometimes it still does, to be honest!)
Everyday, there were new faces to remember, new phrases to practice, phrases like "That behaviour was inappropriate, don't you think so?". Phrases that served to demarcate the line between teacher and students, the line between a 16 year old and a 22 year old and demonstrate the power balance. Me-teacher, you-student. You cannot treat me like a familiar acquiantance, don't blur the lines child, swearing at me and manipulating me with guilt like you would a disgruntled girlfriend. It does not work. Not on me. I think. Sometimes.

I remember being called a bitch! in class, the emphatic 'itch' end of the word ringing out across the shocked faces of the rest. I remember another girl, her face distorting and folding in on itself with the admission that yes, she was cutting with the lunchtime bell almost drowning our her words that yes, she wanted to die. That night.

Of course those moments are bookended and punctuated and blurred over by the rush of teaching, the momentary joy, the long-winded meetings, the hopeful lesson plans, the mundane and the monotonous paperwork. Yet no moment is as staccato loud as the afternoon on the couch when an email came through, an email with names and the mention of a crash.
What was I doing, emailing and working on a sunny Sunday afternoon? Ah, yes. I was only 6 months in.

The email, detailing only the bare minimum of 'students who had been involved in a tragic car crash', was ominously short and formal and sent to the school at large. Names were then sent out, a few hours later, notfiying and informing. Names that rang a hollow bell, for, hadn't my colleague just been talking about those very girls, and how they would make excellent candidates for a class play we were planning?
Oh, God. It must be them. Is it them? What class? Which homegroup? It must her kids involved, I remember hearing one of their names and wondering "How did she end up with such an exotic name?". For then, as now, the 'students' become our 'kids', we refer to them as 'ours' and we, at least I do, become truly invested and involved and IN our students lives, for better or worse.

I dialled my colleagues number, I needed to know if she knew. Her voice calm and sunny, the words lost now, but no doubt bright and welcoming. I didn't know if she knew, I didn't know if she had read the email, hoping that perhaps, yes, she knew, and yes, she was ok.

But I was to be the dreaded messenger, the cloaked and hooded harbinger of ill report. I was to be the hoarse raven, the black crow.

She didn't know, hadn't read the email and wasn't going to be ok. Not for a while at least.

I must've mumbled something about a crash, two dying, and then their names.....I remember my own face crumpling and bottom lip shaking as I spoke theithe syllables making out their names.

I'll never forget the un-self conscious, naked, raw, trembling cries of "F**k, f**k, no, God, no, f**k!" when the realisation darkened and we both understood that two of her kids, her students, two of them, in one fell swoop, were gone. The sharp edge of the knife had not yet slid in deep enough, as I remembered he saying that they were her two brightest stars.

There are always some students who shine out, who call out answers, who laugh at jokes, who find you at lunch just to say hi, who smile with genuine pleasure, that become etched in our memories. And such were these. Cliches wouldn't do them justice.

I didn't even teach them! But still. I remember them.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

I live in my head.

Sorry about all the wah-wah sooky la la posts lately....I turn to blogger to vent in those emotional moments where nothing else will do and trying to tell someone will only have me blubber and mumble something incoherent. Oh, and when my husband is sleeping. Which is pretty much always as his body clock is quite screwed - up at 2am for work, and ready for dinner by 3pm.

Lately, I've been thinking about that book I want to write, the one about my parents and my homeland and how we all got here, in this wide open red-sand land. I really do want to finish it, more than I realised. And yet, I think I might be too impatient to write, as I've heard that stories, the good ones anyway, take a long time, and a lot of tears and re-writes and I'm not sure if I am cut out for that. Surprise, surprise, the English teacher wants to write!

But who doesn't? I think I do.

Manic Thursday

Wow. I have not had a morning such as this for a while now. My days usually progress in the same manner, calm, paced evenly and well-structured. And, what's worse, the confusion and panic and mixed-messages are all my own fault. Initially, it was a case of lack of communication, no one told me where to get the exams from, which ones they are, and so some class right now might be working on a completely different exam. That was out of my control. Then, I was in the wrong room, apparently, there'd been a swap. Again, I was totally unaware. No worries, off to mark some of my own work back at my desk when I am given an 'extra' class. I check the roster; no such thing recorded, but alas, off to the 'extra' class. Upon arrival, not only do I see it is my usual bunch of students, but apparently, this is my own scheduled class, that is on my unchanging timetable! How can this be? I was meant to be on exam supervision, no? Ah, but you silly girl, the timetable does not lie and you were indeed meant to be teaching your usual load, I simply did not double-check my own timetable and have caused all this confusion on my own. To add confusion to confusion, the unit of work I was teaching? Yes, wrong. Apparently, the message was meant to have been received that we are now looking at an entirely different set of work until end of term. Aaarrrgggggghhhhhhhhhhhhh. And now to face 25 fourteen year olds who have overheard this exchange and my only thought is 'How to save face?'. I face them, explain, and yet am met with the usual complaints and whines when their structure or routine changes in the slighetest. This infuriates me unnecessarily, and yet I cannot help but allow my annoyance at the morning's events to come out in my strident voice and implacable face. Maybe not so implacable, after all, my lack of a smile and laugh speaks volumes.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Why do I let it get to me so much? Why does it crawl under my skin and itch? Why am I so unexplainably bothered and embarrassed by it, and reduced to the chubby 13 year old with glasses again? I hate the bile and spit that rises up in my throat, the enflamed cheeks that accompany the forced grin and fake laugh. Even now, as I type, my body is stiff with barely restrained anger. Anger not at the words, or the ones who uttered them and laughed (okay, maybe a little anger towards them), but mostly at myself. For I cannot explain this reaction, and the fact that I cannot even explain myself makes me furious.

And the merry-go-round does not stop for a minute, for here I am again, entangled and ensnared by the self that I want to be set free from. What is there in me that cannot simply laugh it off? Give a careless toss and shrug of the shoulders and flick the words away into the air? What is there in me that can't just 'relax' and 'chill' and not be so 'dramatic.' For those are the small rocks that I pick up and place ever so carefully in my coat pockets each morning, and take out each night, the rocks that say I am too dramatic, I exaggerate, I over-react, and ultimately, how I feel is not based in reality and therefore I am simply.......hysterical.

Female hysteria; said to be caused by disturbances in the uterus. From the Greek word, hystera, meaning uterus.

Haven't we all heard some version of that? "Oh, stop being so hysterical, you're overreacting." " Here we go again, the emotional woman is crying, what a surprise" if this thing called 'uterus' is the origin of disease or dysfunction. As if our very womanhood is a liability in this world dominated and purported to be structured according to male 'rationality' and 'logic.' Haha. A joke.

And what a tangent I have veered off onto.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Aching heart

You just don't get it! You don't get it, do you? I love you, I want nothing but your good, your growth, your joy, your forever happiness. I want it so much that I will do anything, anything for that to happen, even make myself invisible and cut you off and remove myself from your life. Because if I don't, you will never grow, you will rely on me to a degree that is unhealthy and you will be forever trapped within this self-perpatuating cycle of dependency. But this kills me. You have no idea how much it kills me.

Every time you take a step, a risk, a move forward, step into your destiny, I want to reach out and rejoice with you, celebrate it all with you. But I cannot. Because then it will start all over again, your recriminations, your accusations that I wasn't there for you, that I only what something for myself, that I don't love you, your cries of "Where WERE you?". But OH! If only you knew how close I am really am and much my heart aches for you. It aches when you doubt my love for you, when you question my intentions, my actions. If it could be any other way, I would do anything to have it any other way. But it has to be this way. The pain of it, the separation, is a necessity like a surgeon's knife that slices into the aorta to save a life.