“What am I doing here?”
I let my forehead fall with a resounding thonk onto the cool whiteboard, its infinite white blankness threatens to erase me as easily as the felt pen markings I’m smudging out with my finger.
I know they’re watching, waiting for a response of how I’ll deal with ‘the situation’. But I can’t help it. I can’t bear to face the archipelagic minefield that sits behind me. I wait a little longer, hoping they’ll be gone by the time I turn around.
Alas, the student soundscape reaffirms its monstrous presence; a continuous twitching and shuffling of youthful impatience, wanting to be anywhere but here. I inhale slowly to calm myself, inadvertently taking in the rich pungency of children’s sweat and after lunch-farts, their bodies already rotting.
“What am I doing here?” I mumble, like a prayer. I look at the clock. One minute down, forty-nine to go. I take another deep breath, wanting to dive into the whiteboard, that will somehow transport me in a blinding flash, back to Australia, away from the crowds, the pollution, the noise and them.
Laughter mutinies behind me, overpowering my cool teacher’s silence. I swing round to tame it.
A fat boy in a tracksuit tries to hide behind his American English book, snared in paroxysms of spluttered giggling.
It’s him… again ‘Irk Boy’. The bane of my Teaching English experience, creating another ‘situation’, making me look stupid. Only a week ago, Kevin had become a human rocket, after strapping on a fire extinguisher and setting it off in the class. We had to evacuate the building due to the noxious old smell of its insides. In response to the melee, the principal, Dragon Lady Josephine, applied leeches to my conscience. “You must exercise more discipline over them!”
The nightmare appears to be unfolding again, as for the umpteenth time this lesson, Kevin, has ‘lost it’(although, I’m not sure if he ever really ‘had it’). I’m don’t know what he’s done, but I’m convinced he’s done something. After all, I’m the Teacher. I must be right.
Like a demented Ken Doll, I freeze him in my sights, frustration clenching my speech. I have reached, as other teachers may know, Pedagogical Meltdown – the cruel urge to do more than just teach a student.
I haul Kevin out of the desk and drag him over to the window. “Time for something different!” I declare to the class. Kevin just stands there, muttering Mandarin at the other befuddled students. With a suppressed grunt, I open the window. I stare wildly at Kevin then out the window again. I go over to the whiteboard and explain to the rest of the students what the present continuous is. After I think they’ve understood enough, I move on to examples. I point to Kevin.
“The present continuous. Walking, swimming, talking and…” with superhuman strength, I haul Kevin up by his collar and without much ado, fling him out the window. “And flying. See? Kevin is now FLYING! Out the fucking window!”
I break from my reverie. I’m staring at the whiteboard again. I turn around. Kevin sits at his desk, twitching and uttering strange nonsensical noises to amuse his desk mate. The rest of the class are busy working away, copying my notes from the board.
“What am I doing here?” and as I say this, the bell chimes, and I’m the first one out of the class.