Yesterday's demo? Went off without a hitch. Which, in my mind, is some kind of goddamned miracle considering it took an hour and a half to coax my terrified kids into coming along. Were they scared of performing in front of 200 people? Well, if I go by their enthusiastic response from the day before, then no. They've done these kinds of demos a thousand times. They've done them on TV, in front of crowds OVER 200, in front of photographers, family members, government officials and foreigners from all over the world.
They were terrified of their teacher. Specifically, their Chinese home-room teacher.
We were supposed to leave at 1:00. I was outside waiting, they weren't. I got a call from H at 1:15 and she told me there was a problem and she was coming down to discuss it. When she arrived, she told me that the demo was still on, but now the kids didn't want to go to it. Frankly, I was stunned. These kids LOVE to perform.
"Mandy," J added, looking troubled. "Kitty and Happy were crying."
Okay. I stormed past them and headed upstairs with my entourage of office people/ The kids were brought out and we went into another room to discuss what was going on. Apparently, their Chinese teacher had THREATENED and INTIMIDATED them into saying they didn't want to go.
The Chinese staff from the office went first and talked to them calmly. Kitty was sitting off to the side, tears pouring down her face. She was dead white from fear. I told her to come sit with me and she grabbed my hand like it was a freaking lifeline. what the hell happened?
Apparently the teacher had yelled at them, threatened them with negative marks or comments on their end of the year reports, all because they were going to miss her class for the day. And for what? Because MY classes are nothing, because this demo was all about making money for the company, and apparently nothing at all to do with the fact that they are our star students and their PARENTS were THRILLED to have their kids go along.
I was livid. And the office person wasn't helping - using a gentler approach but essentially still guilt-tripping them - "We really hope you can come, we planned this for you, we need you," etc, etc. I cut her of and told everyone to get out. The kids were discussing it amongst themselves, and we - the office - were going to talk to the Headmaster again(who apparently had no idea what was going on) and we offered a private tutor for them to make up the classes they would miss (using my class time tomorrow and on Monday).
I almost left too but the kids asked me to stay and talk to them. They were scared - absolutely terrified that their teacher would take it out on them if they chose to go. Apparently she said that if they went, they would not be welcome in her class anymore. Emotional blackmail for the fucking win, y/n?
Long story short, there was more tears, many comforting hugs offered, reassurances given, and my personal assurances that nothing they chose to do would ever make me upset. If they decided not to go because of their teacher, then they would stay behind with my full support and blessing. To hell with the company and everyone else.
These kids are under intense pressure and this was just one more thing added to the pile and I could just THROTTLE their homeroom teacher. The parents had given the trip the green light. The headmaster had originally said yes when we told him about it 3 weeks ago. The kids wanted to go. The office wanted it. Everyone was in full support except her, and she punished THEM for it.
The kids had nothing to do with it. WE were the ones who arranged the whole thing. If the homeroom teacher was 'so concerned' for her students as she claimed, she should have made her complaints to ME or the company, or the headmaster. You. Do. NOT. Emotionally blackmail CHILDREN for something over which they have little to no control. Only VERY STUPID PEOPLE do this. And if you are exceptionally stupid, well then, you do it in front of ME.
The kids talked it out together - a brainstorming session that astonished the people there (H told me later she was stunned at the way they were talking it out together and working out a solution they could all live with. She said she could definitely see bits of ME in their speech (Chinese, but still) and that usually Chinese kids just do as their told, not negotiating like they were) and mutually decided to do the demo, have the catchup sessions with the tutor, and basically stand together against her.
In LinAn they had a good time, they beat the high school students in their verbal tennis match, and their debate was a tie, which made me very happy. I didn't see them today, but I will tomorrow, and I intend to make sure that their teacher hasn't done anything to them.
I can't get over how pathetically SAD this situation is. I had a few teachers I didn't particularly like in high school (especially the one that made the snide comment about me apparently having no life because I like to read history books), but never EVER did I fear any of them - especially at the level I saw yesterday. Teachers were always at the back of my head as a safe haven - if you needed help as a last resort, or even as a first resort if you were so lacking. What I saw yesterday both enraged me and broke my heart.
But you know, as much as I want to drop kick Miss Pang off the side of the school building, a very small part of me wishes to thank her. After what I saw, I solemnly vow I will never, EVER put my students into a situation like that. I will strive not to guilt-trip or blackmail them and will encourage them to always do what they think is best for themselves first. And I will NEVER hold it against them if they are pressured by others to do something negative to what I say or do - at the very LEAST, i want to be someone they can confide in, and make sure they know there is at least one teacher who is always on their side.
I will be seeing most of these kids in my Saturday advanced class next year, but even those I don't have, DO have my email address. What is common for us in North America - being able to go to an authority figure for help - is something very lacking here. Parents exact huge amounts of pressure for their kids to be the best. Teachers threaten them. The police don't give a damn. I didn't think much of Kitty coming to me and grabbing my arm as hard as she could - I was upset at the sight of her trying not to bawl in front of the group - but again, apparently students just don't do that in China, and the fact that my kids felt so comfortable with me that they were able to let down their guard (even with strangers there) was just unheard of.
Which explains why teenage suicide rates are still so high here.
I think I still have a lot of work to do here.