Sunday, November 3, 2013

My Favorites

It's the second day of a three day weekend here in Mongolia.  Engrish, Blondie, and I originally planned to go to Sainshand for the weekend, Engrish's old digs.  When we learned on Wednesday that the tickets were all sold out, we were disappointed, but decided to go to Amarbayasgalant Monastery instead.  When Enkhaa talked us out of that move - he thought they were closed - we shrugged our shoulders and planned to go to go to Terelj.  Again.  Thththtffffffpt.  (I might be a little bored of Terelj at this point).  I was hoping to redeem it by swinging over to see Giant Chinggis on our way home - which would have been great, since tomorrow's holiday is in celebration of his birthday, whenever that might be, and would make an interesting post - but that didn't work out, either.  So, since I blamed my fairly crazy last week on my students, and since they are a huge consideration in why I am about 95% sure I'll sign on for another year, I thought I'd write about them this weekend.

I love fireworks.  There's something magical about their showers of sparks that appeals to my not-so-inner child.  I've watched them in Iowa from the hood of my old Wagoneer, the Beast, I've watched them from a barge in Venice's lagoon, I've watched them explode literally right outside my window in Shanghai.  And nearly every explosion prompts me to declare, "That's my favorite!" with absolute sincerity every time.
GDA Christmas Show, 2005
I wanted to begin talking about my students there because I feel much the same way about them as I do about fireworks.  I am constantly declaring one or another of them is my favorite.  They laugh at me, and I have to admit, this must make me sound fickle, but each time I say it, I mean it.  They really are all my favorites - each one of them is so bright and unique.
My Saudi-Cuban "daughter" in Bahrain, 2007
Over our trip to Bayan-Olgii, I was having a lot of fun freaking Geek out with the threat of killing her and hiding her body with a sky burial.  There were two problems with this plan - we were in Kazakh country where they don't do sky burials, and the fact that being a murderer would not make me a very good role model for my students, a fact which Geek took some degree of comfort in.
Young belly dance enthusiasts at SUIS, 2011
I wasn't one of those kids who grew up wanting to be a teacher.  I wanted to be all sorts of other things, including but not limited to: a cat, a ballerina, an artist, and a concert flautist.  I gave up that last dream and turned to education when I failed to get into UMKC's conservatory for the second time.  I did not live and breathe for my education classes.  In my Foundations class, I spent a lot of time drawing in my sketchbook.  My classroom management course I ditched several times.  When it came to becoming a teacher, I was not a very good student.  But learning how to manage a classroom, or knowing why our education system is the way it is really had nothing to do with why I wanted to be a teacher.  That boiled down to the fact that after spending some time with my younger sister and her friends, I felt not only that I liked working with kids, but I also thought that I could be a good role model for them (although Heaven forbid they hear me say that!)
I've been teaching eight of the nine years since I graduated from college. In that time, I've had parents that were constantly up my ass.  I've had students that made me want to crawl under my desk and weep.  I've taught ESL, art, and kids from the age of 3 all the way up to 18 or so.  Some days I just want to pull my hair out, and I understand why my elementary gifted teacher used to blame her grey hairs on us; I've gotten a few white ones myself over the years.  But I consider myself to be pretty damn lucky.  Not only am I the motherlovin' art teacher, I can go anywhere in the world and work.
So why am I really REALLY thinking of staying for another year (besides Engrish's obvious attempts to bribe me)?  These kids, that's why.  One of my eleventh graders told me I would cry when this year is over, and the truth is, it's probably going to be harder to leave Mongolia than it has been anywhere else except for Korea.  I've never enjoyed teaching as much as I have this year.  These kids are funny, and talented, and clever.  Some of them are, let's be honest, a pain in the ass.  I like them anyways.  Some of them are sweet.  Some of them are quiet.  Some of them I can't get to bloody shut up, and a few of those I don't really want to.  But they are all so marvelous that some days I feel so happy my heart could just explode, because they make me so proud.

Some days they make me want to cry.  Sometimes they say things that are profound.  Once in a while they say things that make me angry...usually not at them, but at other people, or at the world we live in.  On rare occasions they say things that reveal their weaknesses or fears.  Normally I hope that my students don't come across my blog; I swear too much on here, and I've been known to write about places that aren't exactly age-appropriate.  But if they DO find it, I hope they read this one, because even though I would sound totally cheesy if I said it in person, I think the world of them, and I want them to know it.  I believe they can do anything, and even when they don't live up to that expectation, I'll keep on believing in them.  They are so much more amazing than they give themselves credit for.  They are enough - smart enough, good enough, strong enough.

Middle school and high school make up a lot of rough years.  I know; I lived through them, and I wasn't perfect, either.  I had arguments with my parents, embarrassed myself (a LOT), had acne, got bullied, drove my car into a ditch...TWICE!...but those experiences helped make me who I am today.  And today I am STILL a person who makes a shitload of mistakes and embarrasses herself quite a bit, but I am also a person who is confident and strong and never gives up.  With any luck, I hope that one day they will be, too.

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