November 3, 2009

Friday, August 21 2009: It Doesn't Matter Who's Wrong Or Right

The end of my first full week of teaching comes without much in the way of fanfare or any "congratulations! You didn't screw everything up immediately!" from my colleagues or superiors. I guess this is because I have been trying to disguise the fact that I have no idea what I'm doing, and my faux-confidence seems to be doing the trick. I, on the other hand, am thrilled with my relative success (or lack of failing disaster) and silently praise my own accomplishments. I tend to be my own biggest fan sometimes, but this helps keep my chin up and allows me to live independent of the opinions of others, which can be fickle or damaging to the foundations of my self-esteem. There are, however, a small number of opinions I value very highly...I'm sure you know who you are...

Today in summer school my class is to perform the song "Wonderwall" (if you want the full effect, you can listen to the actual version here:, but no one in class seems nearly as nervous as I. This is probably because, of the 18 eight, nine, and ten year-olds in my class, only four or five have decided they are going to try and sing the lyrics. The rest are content with mumbling along incoherently or not even making an attempt at all. It's a shame; apathy seems to be claiming younger and younger victims these days. I remember being at LEAST twelve before doing this kind of thing in school became lame. Regardless, as the hour of our "performance" draws nearer the lack of participation begins to unsettle me, not only because I fear I will be the ONLY person singing to a room full of Taiwanese children but also because I do not want the faculty to think me an "uninspiring" teacher. Time to pull out the secret weapon: choreography.

It is a well-known fact that children love to beat on things and to make as much noise as possible. Why is this? My theory suggests that because society has deemed loud children to be annoying and their creative expression - at least when it bursts forth in the form of shrieks, yells or disruptive, deafening banging sounds - is to be suppressed and not tolerated, kids naturally rebel against this oppression whenever possible. Its almost sad because at some point most of us lose this spirit of individuality and rebellion; the world says "we don't want to hear what you have to say," so we bite our tongues, tie our shoes, and keep our heads down. What ever happened to "making a joyful noise to the Lord?" Or simply allowing our voices to carry into the heavens, the waves rippling out into space forever, tiny pulsating evidences of our fleeting existence echoing off the walls of eternity?

It is also a well-known fact that Taiwan has a readily available supply of disposable wooden chopsticks, of which I now had in my possession thanks to a Chinese teacher who had raided the local 7-11's condiment and food accessories section hours earlier. Lucky for me, "Wonderwall" just so happens to have nice drum fill about halfway through the song, which I meticulously and skillfully choreograph by saying "Okay, GO!" and telling everyone to start banging on whatever is around them with their miniature, flimsy drum sticks when they hear the rapid snare drum pops on the CD. This creates both noise and laughter, and suddenly everyone is enthusiastic, knowing that maybe their small contributions will be heard. Never mind that no one can hear the music from the weak boom-box speakers anymore; at least we are having fun.

The performance comes and goes, my class does about how I expect them to - very little singing or enthusiasm, but their efforts are applauded and no one seems to be looking at us disapprovingly. After all of the classes finish their respective songs, the encore is herded onto the stage and subsequently steals the entire show. The "encore" is actually two elementary students, named Rex and Yuta (pronounced almost like the state), who have been coerced by fellow students and faculty into singing Michael Jackson's "Beat It". I am told that we have another Foreign Teacher to thank for teaching them this, a quiet-spoken Philippine, Maynard, who plays the original song through the computer's speakers while Rex and Yuta sing, from MEMORY, every word to the King of Pop's hit. I am floored, and cannot stop smiling as I exalt to everyone around me, "This is the GREATEST THING I HAVE EVER SEEN!" It is truly a spectacle, to see two ten year-old Taiwanese boys belting out a song usually reserved for drunken 2 a.m. Karaoke nights. I honestly can't imagine a better eulogy.

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