January 19th, 2007


When She Says She's Not Hungry, She's Not Hungry

When She Says She's Not Hungry, She's Not Hungry - I get paid a good chunk of money to teach a two day workshop to 'gifted and talented' High School students twice a year. For the most part, I get to feel that my time is well spent because the students are largely intelligent and articulate, and I get to teach stuff I like. There have been a few downsides: outside one very beautiful assistant who was very into the course and threw in her own ideas, most assistants have just become an extra student and don't do much, and a few of the students have been less than desirable. There was one fifteen year old kid who spent an entire day picking his nose and eating it (or brushing it through his hair), and on the second day, when he got caught on that, began to then thrust his hands into his pants and fondle his genitals. When he wasn't doing that, he would say things such as, 'woman belong in the kitchen,' and other ridiculous and ill thought out ideas that the girls in the class would jump on him for. I usually don't talk badly about students publicly, but it was a few years ago now, and he was a very trying kind of guy, and I wasn't sad to see the back of him after two days. Neither was anyone else, for that matter.

At any rate, I spent the last two days running this workshop again, and it turned out to be a tiring navigation of events. It was two days on Experimental Fiction, which is to say, I spent two days showing twelve students how you could write in non-linear ways. This was the first time I had run this course--the one I taught before, Touring Speculative Fiction, had run through everyone who had any vague interest in it, so I came up with something new. To start the course of, I had Sean Williams' (ladnews) 'The Seventh Letter', a story that is about not using the letter 'g', and which I thought would be a nice, easy introduction to the ideas of the course. They would be cutting up newspapers and texts, drawing on themselves, and a whole heap of things soon enough, but a gentle introduction is good. Unfortunately, the photocopying machines were broken, and so it took me two hours to get copies of the Williams' story made. By the time they--and all the other course material--reached me, I had figured out a way to do the writing task without using the example first off, but there's nothing like having to toss your newly made lesson plan out the window forty minutes into your day. Still, I am nothing, if not adaptable.

I had an assistant, again, though I had long ago stopped asking for one. It's just been down hill since the beautiful assistant. Anyhow, this assistant had been a High School teacher for seventeen years, and had her own two children, and had requested to be in my class so she could watch the students and do an assignment on them. She's doing a course on gifted and talented students, and the world is all about recognising the 'special needs' of gifted and talented students, which I suppose is better than ignoring them. I'm not sure they interacted in any way that is different to any other student I have seen (gender divides, age divides, and the such) but who knows. Maybe there was something different about them. The older ones still wanted to shag each other, which is like the majority of other older teens I've met.

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For the most part, it went well, though I misjudged the timing of a couple of events in the morning, and we had lunch early. Still, everyone enjoyed being able to write the biography of their character upon their skin with body art textas, and they enjoyed walking around and having people come up and say to them, 'What course are you doing?' I enjoyed that, too. As I said to them at the time, it was because I'm a genius, and while modest about it, the fact that it is working is due to me and not the bright colours you all have splashed over you. Later, one of the girls told a complete stranger she had no respect for me, which I suppose is what I deserved for lying about my brilliance.

The problem of the afternoon, however, came when one of the student's was feeling sick. By this stage, everyone had adopted new names, and new personas, and had written it on their skin, to be them. It was Sophie--whose name is not really Sophie--who felt sick.

At lunch, she didn't want anything to eat.

I said, 'You sure?'

Sophie nodded, and looked pale.

Claudia--also not her real name--who was Sophie's best friend, for the day at least, said, 'You sure you're sure?'

Again, Sophie nodded. She still looked pale.

Then, the assistant noticed her. I was content to let the girl sit quietly, drink water, and kinda take it easy. If she needed anything more out of me, she would say. But not so the assistant. She said, 'She needs food.' I said she didn't want it. I passed her the voucher, anyway, figuring maybe the assistant had a Mother Thing I didn't and knew what was good for young sick girls. Sophie didn't take the food voucher. She gave it back. Then the assistant stood, walked over, and in her stern, adult, mother, teacher for seventeen years way, proceeded to find out what the problem was. Surely my way was just as good? Shortly after, she said, 'Sophie needs the vouchers.'

Well, why argue? I felt like saying, 'She looks like she just wants to lie down to me,' but I handed over the vouchers instead.

Sophie returned with a salad sandwich which, over the next hour, she ate half of. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

See, with their new identities, the students were now eager to do things they might not otherwise do. Such as walk into IT conferences and steal giant piles of cups. Sure, we needed the cups, but why didn't anyone listen to me, when I said I would do it? Not being covered in blue and green and red, I was a touch more inconspicuous. As Anna and Dorian--yes, this is not their real names either--left with a whole sleeve of cups, which is much too many cups for us, they were immediately set upon by some Fascist IT Official. Actually, he probably had every right to complain. I had a much smaller amount of cups, but told him I got them from somewhere else, kept walking, smiled charmingly, made sure Dorian and Anna were with me, and then we were free. Anna and Dorian had that recently chastised look, the assistant looked a bit frownish, but me with cups was happy enough, and everyone else thought it was a good laugh.

Sophie, incidentally, still looked a bit ill. I tell her if she needs anything, just say, and she sits on the floor, her half eaten sandwich on her table. The half she ate was picked at.

About twenty minutes later, the Ruler of the Workshops arrives, with a complaint from the Fascist IT Official that all his cups had been stolen. There were none left, he said. None! Some kids in face paint stole them! I set that straight and said I took about fifteen, and took the rap, which was of course much less for me, and sent the Ruler down to deal with the Heinous and Horrible Lies that were being spread about Dorian and Anna and now Rodney and Felix, all who were face painted. Felix had 666 across his forehead, but he also had 80 on his cheek, to signify his IQ. Could he steal cups, I ask you?

At about quarter to two, five minutes later, the assistant leaves to go pick up her children.

Ten minutes later, Sophie vomits her sandwich back up.

After that, everyone went back to being who they were--the fantasy needed to be ejected--and eventually got creative on the evaluation forms (the no longer named Sophie had her parents come out and take her home of course), but really, everyone was kind of ready to go. Being chastised twice and then navigating vomit kinda kills the mood.

Still, the workshop worked, for the most part, and I should totally be hired again for your child's educational needs.
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