Sunday, November 22, 2009

Adventures in Munchkin Land

I swore I would never substitute teach again, but that old adage about desperate times and desperate measures has forced me to swallow my pride and lower my expectations for decent human behavior in order to bring home some very lean bacon. This is a slap in the face because I am trying to get away from teaching, but now I'm doing it for much less pay, no benefits, and I went from the best and brightest students to the kids at the bottom of the barrel. All of my classroom experience is at the 9th-12th grade level. I have subbed at a few different points in time, and once in college I subbed 1st grade for one day, one very very long day, and swore off elementary school forever. But, in my effort to work every day possible, I'm having to take some assignments in the lower grades. Needless to say, I have renewed respect for elementary teachers, and I have been really tired lately.

My adventures with the little people get off to an auspicious start when the principal stops me on my way to the kindergarten classroom and tells me one of the kids in this class has been going to the bathroom and defecating in the trash can. He asked if I would please monitor restroom usage. I must have looked pretty horrified because then he said, "other than that, this is a great group of kids." Yeah right, the "good group of kids" ship sailed at the word defecate. The fun continued with an afternoon of squealing, snot, crying while flailing on the floor (a kid not me, although I was tempted), tattle-telling, and general destruction to the classroom. You saw Kindergarten Cop, right? The only redemption was that it was a half day assignment.

Round Two: Another campus, another kindergarten class, another half day assignment (thank the good Lord). Everything started off great. Then came the Six Crisis followed shortly by the Seven Crisis (luckily in kindergarten they can't count very high or this could have gotten much worse). An adorable little boy, we'll call him Adam, who had been coloring quietly, spontaneously burst into tears. Not just a trickle of tears, but full on sobbing, gasping for breath, snot running, eyes red crying. I thought surely someone must have put a freshly sharpened #2 pencil through his hand. I rush over, scan for blood, find none and ask what is wrong. "I can't write a six. It is impossible," says Adam. Impossible sixes quickly turned into a dislike of having to write his name so often-"on every single paper"-and a hatred of school in general. Being a gifted educator, I had Adam sit on he carpet with me and I asked him to write the letter "C" on his paper and then add a loop on the bottom to create a pretty darn good six. Crisis averted...or not. After looking at his six and comparing it to mine he burst into a fresh round of sobbing because his wasn't good enough. This time there was no consoling him despite my giftedness as an educator. He is becoming a distraction for the entire class and I have to do something to regain control. It is here that the apples come into play.

Whoever came up with the apple system is a genius. There are many variants of the system, I remember airplanes when i was a wee tot, but I'm partial to the apples now that I have witnessed their power first hand. When nothing else would make Adam stop his tantrum, I was forced to utter these words: "If you don't settle down right now, I'm going to have to move your apple." A hush fell over the room, eyes widened to the size of saucers, Adam made a weak attempt at cooperation. Then the reality of a moved apple overwhelmed him, and the fear sent him into a fresh wave of paroxysms. By this time my empathy reserves are depleted and he is no longer adorable, so I move his apple. There was an audible gasp from the class. Adam finally pulled it together and went back to his seat. Now, I have no idea what happens when an apple gets moved, but it must be bad. Once the other kids knew I wasn't afraid to move an apple, I had their total cooperation for the rest of the day. These are some powerful apples. At what age does the apple cease to instill a sense of dread? Can you imagine if our penal system was based on the apple chart?

So I thought after all this it would be an uneventful afternoon. Adam had other ideas. I give out the next math packet which requires me to tell them what shapes to draw. Reading from the directions I say, "Draw seven triangles." this sends Adam into orbit. "Seven! Seven triangles! That's impossible! Who can draw seven triangles?!?" I'm silently thinking, "Everyone in this room but you," but I was very proud of myself for keeping that thought to myself. He goes on to say, "If you had said to draw four triangles I could, but seven is too hard, it's impossible." I'm seeing a tough road ahead for the kid who thinks writing "6" and drawing seven triangles is impossible. Now starts a new snot, tear, sob filled hissy fit that any latte deprived celebrity would envy. Adam is saying, "I hate school. Why does school have to exist?" I'm momentarily distracted from the snot by his excellent vocabulary and sentence structure. "I just want to learn at home. This is too hard and it is only going to get harder. I wish school didn't exist! I want to go home immediately!" Except that last bit sounded like, "I want to go home immediatwy!" I tell him there are just two hours left until he can go home, but he keeps saying "I want to go home immediatwy" over and over and is getting increasingly loud about it. How much air can five year old lungs hold? Every time he says "immediatwy" I get tickled and the more he says it, the more I start to lose it which just makes him more upset. I can sense this spiraling out of control, so I remind myself I am the grown-up in this situation and I rein it in. I finally tell him he doesn't have to draw the seven impossible triangles if he will just sit down, be quiet, and stop crying. Three minutes later he was fine, but I wanted to go home IMMEDIATWY!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Shopping for Spouses

I recently saw a show on National Geographic or some other educational cable channel about American men who get wives from Russia through web based services. I have often heard the term "mail order bride" in movies and on TV, but I guess I never gave much thought to what it really implied. It always sounded antiquated, but apparently it is a thriving business in the modern era. I am disturbed by this phenomenon for myriad reasons:

Category 1: Sad Reasons

These women have pretty poor prospects for a decent life in Russia and are willing to marry odd, unattractive, American social outcasts. It is sad that their lives are so bad they will leave home and family and come to a place where they do not speak the language (none of the women featured spoke English) and only know one person. This puts them completely at the mercy of these men and does not give them a Plan B should things not work out. (The men pay the travel expenses to get them here and their families would be hard pressed to get them back.) There is at least one known case of a Ukrainian girl being murdered by her American husband. Once she got here, she no longer wanted to have sex with him-for very obvious reasons-and he ended up killing her. How sad that the state of things in Russia is still so bad that this is a viable option for women.

Category 2: Eww Gross Reasons

Seriously, what kind of man does this? There are 300,000,000 people in America, you can find someone here! One man said American women were too independent and he wanted a more traditional subservient wife. He felt that Eastern European women were more appreciative of the life he was offering. For one guy, this was going to be wife number three. Hmm...two failed marriages already, maybe you shouldn't be married, or maybe some counseling is in order. This guy was a total creeper too, and I'll give you a dollar if he isn't a closeted gay. In some cases the age differences were disturbing; 18 year old girls and men over 40. There was one guy who, despite being a bit unfortunate looking, was not bad. He had a good job, was in shape, and didn't seem like he had any bodies buried out back. He seemed very sincere about finding someone who he could really love. I am sure he could find a nice homely American girl, but I sensed the prospect of old fashioned dating and the potential rejection that come with it had this guy terrified. He actually went to Russia to meet the girl he'd been emailing. It seemed promising, they looked about right for each other (I should note these are not Russian beauty queens) and were both really excited. He even brought her a really pretty diamond necklace; shiny gifts do a lot to improve the physical appearance of an ugly guy. Their dates, however, were excruciatingly awkward and painful to watch. She spoke about five words of English and he spoke no Russian. They had a translator (the woman who ran the Russian side of the web site's operations) part of the time which made things even more uncomfortable. The humor did not translate either direction and there were lots of awkward pauses. Now I can, and have, imagined scenarios where not speaking the same language is in no way a deterrent to, and may even enhance, a very successful short term relationship. This however involves copious using of the lips for activities other than talking. In this case, I don't think the guy had ever kissed a girl before, and half the time that pesky translator was there trying to seal the deal between them so she could get a commission. I have a vivid imagination, but I cannot imagine any situation where this type of matchmaking is not strange.

Category 3: Selfish Reasons

Give me a freakin' break. As a single 31 year old woman I cringe at the notion of men from the country in which I live paying big money to buy Russian wives. Now, I should clarify that there is no way in hell I personally would ever have anything to do with any of these men, nor would any other woman I know. BUT, we can't have these guys importing wives. We need them to hook up with the weird and unattractive women of our own country who, because of their unattractive weirdness, are willing to go to great lengths that more attractive less weird women will not in order to snag one of the few decent single men still in the pool. These women are wild cards and they are screwing up the odds! There is also the possibility that men willing to drop some cash on a wife could siphon off a few gold-diggers here and there, further tipping the dating odds in favor of normal women (by normal women I mean me and my single friends).

Just a quick recap: I DON'T THINK AMERICAN MEN SHOULD BUY RUSSIAN WIVES. It is just creepy gross. Man up and go through the pain and humiliation of dating that the rest of us Americans suffer through. Hopefully, it will payoff for all of us someday.