Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Little Tramp Goes to School

Charlie Chaplin could have done a great little movie about getting a classroom ready for students.  And today, my experiences alone were ample fodder for such a film.  (The Little Tramp, by the way, was Chaplin's most famous character.)

My classroom was last used by a man -- so, obviously, it is a complete mess right now.  Yesterday, I stopped in for a moment to take a few pictures of it, and during the course of my visit, pulled down one of my maps and got it stuck.  In my first performance in the classroom today, I wanted to get the map to go back up on the roll.  Since I'm too short to reach the top part, I stood on a chair.  I started to fiddle around with it, when suddenly . . . BANG!  The map shot up so fast that it almost took me with it!  I was so startled that I nearly fell off the chair.

I next started working on clearing out the three bookcases in the back of the room (which I may move somewhere else).  Behind one of them were several posters, which I pulled out to look at.  Suddenly, about a dozen nasty silvery-white bugs came crawling at full speed (which was impressively fast), all of them clearly intent on reaching me and perhaps conquering me.  I dropped the posters with a yelp and leapt backwards!  I then promptly headed downstairs to ask the school receptionist if I could get some cleaning supplies for my room and also some bug spray.

I decided to work on my bulletin boards, and so I measured both of them with my twelve-inch ruler.  The big one, as I learned, is thirteen feet long and four feet wide.  The "small" one is eight feet long and about three feet wide.  Down on the second floor (my room is on the third floor), we have a teacher workroom with several rolls of paper for putting on bulletin boards, so I headed down there to cut my background paper.  Being stupid, I opted to cut two thirteen-foot-long pieces for the big board (the paper is too narrow to cover the board with just one sheet).  Since the workroom itself is only about fifteen feet long, that was a "fun" task.  Then, there came the task of folding the sheets.  Chaplin would have had a blast writing a scene with that!  I found the best/only way to do it was to put the paper over my head and fold it from "inside" it.  It's the closest I've ever come to being gift-wrapped.  Later, I went back up and did the eight-foot sheet needed for the smaller board, and got to be gift-wrapped again.

Have you ever tried to staple an eight-foot sheet of paper to a bulletin board?  It is not an easy task . . . needless to say, it took a while.  I am happy to report that contrary to what my parents are likely suspecting at this moment, I did not staple my finger.  Or my thumb.  I did stab myself with a thumbtack, however (I tack things up first, then staple them, to avoid mistakes).

Shortly thereafter, one of the Chinese janitors came up with cleaning spray and paper towels from me.  She tried to talk to me in Chinese, but since my Chinese is still in its infancy (it's still in the red, pruney, squalling, dripping with amniotic slime stage), I couldn't understand a word of what she was saying.  I informed her that my Chinese is pretty bad (using much less picturesque language than what I just used here), and she smiled, gave me a hug, and said "I like you."  Our entire Chinese staff is really sweet!  She tried then to give me instructions, using a lot of charades, which I took to mean that the spray would not be useful for killing bugs.  It was, however, quite useful for getting the dust, dirt, and grime off of my windowsills, desk, and bookcases.  After cleaning, I moved my desk to a better direction (I prefer to have it catty-corner in the front corner of the classroom), cleaned out all of the drawers in my filing cabinet, and also shook the dust out of my curtains (yes, my classroom actually has REAL curtains!).

Unlike The Little Tramp, my day ended quite happily, with dinner at a great little Korean restaurant followed by a movie with my roommate and the mom and daughter from the Finnish-Australian family that lives directly above us.  I am proud to report that my jetlag is finally dissipating, and I actually am feeling alive long past 2:00 pm in the day.  Also, I received a little certificate today from the Chinese teachers for having excellent pronunciation in class!  Who knew I would actually do well with Mandarin??

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"