Not settled

I feel like I am drowning. I can’t pinpoint why. I suppose it was the dance performance last night combined with a contact from C that I never had time to get settled with combined with lots of work that isn’t getting done, and working with VP Ma’am, who stresses me out more than I expected. We had club yesterday, and so we spent an hour together, but it was more my club than the last time. I don’t know if that helped me or not. I just didn’t have patience for it, at the end of a long day.

It might be cultural, to some extent, and it’s a part of the culture I am shielded from normally, because I create my own little world most of the time. I mean, it is my class. The students have to follow my rules, and my rules are the ones which make me feel comfortable enough to teach. I suppose I should ask someone about it, because there are two ideas bumping around in my head. One of them is that in Western cultures, one person speaks at a time. There is not a lot of wait time between speakers—it is less than in most Asian cultures (minus Country X)—but generally if one person persists in speaking, all of the other speakers drop out. I suppose it has to do with monochronocity, or whatever it is called. We do things one at a time. We wait in line. We take turns. We speak one at a time. As much as people complain we are constantly multi-tasking, come here and you’ll see how it could be worse.

Here, typically six people talk at once. If I call on one particular student, that student will mumble something unintelligible and six people whose voices I don’t want to hear will speak loudly all at the same time. It does not just happen to me. I have witnessed them doing this to other teachers.

The difference is that this reads to me as disrespectful. I did not give you permission to speak. I am your teacher. You need my permission to speak, and I did not give you permission to speak. I need to ask about this. Because students were talking yesterday during club time while VP Ma’am was speaking. They were having side conversations. Now VP Ma’am is in her 50s. She is one of the most experienced teachers at the school. The students ought to respect her, and having a side conversation while she is talking seems to me utterly unacceptable. And yet she went on. She tolerated it. I did not. Last week, I did not say anything, but this week I couldn’t take it. I said something to the student about it. I can’t remember what.

The thing is, very important people will come to the school and speak. They will come as the chief guest and get tea served first and have a wooden bowl full of fruits placed before them and get all of the best treatment, and the parents who have come to the event will talk the whole time they are giving the opening speech. They will stand when the person arrives to show respect, and then ignore that person from there on out. They will stand up and leave while he is speaking if he is giving a closing speech. I am not kidding.

So while I can’t cope with everyone talking at once, I don’t know if it communicates the disrespect I feel it is communicating. I still can’t allow it to happen when I am in charge, because then there is not clear communication. When students are not proficient in English, then checking for understanding is very important, and it also makes them safe. In Country X, instructions are usually not clear, the person with authority does not check to make sure the message is understood, and the students are punished for not living up to expectations they were not aware of, and they cannot ask for clarification because then they will be scolded for not listening carefully. So they are in a bind. I try to make absolutely clear expectations are communicated clearly so that students know what to expect. If they are punished, they know exactly what they did wrong and why. It is not coming out of the blue. So I check. I try to speak clearly and to check before going onto the next topic that the previous topic was well understood, so that they don’t have to feel the anxiety of not knowing what to do or that they might be punished arbitrarily.

And this is not the Country X pattern. The Country X pattern is to wander well around the point and then vent your frustration on your underlings because they didn’t understand. It is hard for me to fathom how this happened, except that maybe nothing new has had to be communicated until recently, and people have not learned how to do that.

But I think this is really the least of my issues today. The hard part is much more that I went to the dance performance, and certain students appreciated that I came. C was not there—her performance was a few weeks ago and I did not go to it because I was tired and she was so dysregulated that week—but other students I knew were, and I also thought about her and remembered the times I have seen her dancing. I had all of these memories of her, of being in our multipurpose hall during activities, and of seeing her dance at various times during the last 2 years, and I had this appreciation from other students. I suppose it was a lot, and I cannot get settled today. I couldn’t get settled yesterday, and I cannot get settled today.

I can’t get a handle on it.

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2 thoughts on “Not settled

  1. Rachel March 31, 2016 / 11:48 am

    Some days it is just hard to get a handle. It is hard to be in that unsettled place. For days. Hope you can feel settled soon. I’m also struck with how different your values are than some of Country X’s values.

    • Ashana M March 31, 2016 / 1:22 pm

      Well, keep in mind, I usually write my complaints. The things that are going well just happen and I don’t comment. The move away from the family and the tribe as your basic source of loyalty towards a national and public civic sense is very new. Also, people are kind of impulsive about their behaviour, so there is not a lot of follow-through on good intentions. Things happen a few times, but not on an ongoing basis. Probably that comes with education (being able to plan and sustain effort) and that’s very new here. Almost everyone but royalty and a few government officials were illiterate 40 years ago. It is still about half the parents who leave a thumbprint on our parent-teacher meeting registers because they cannot write their names.

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