Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Perils and Pleasures (or ploys?) of a Third Grade Classroom

(But only some of them)

As it turns out, not all third graders are assholes after all. This is good news, not only because it obviously affects my daily life as a teacher, but also because I was beginning to get a bit worried that if I ever had children, I might not be able to resist the urge to throw my spawn down a well on its eighth birthday.

And so my hat goes off to the parents of all the third-grade assholes I've known, for their personal strength and resistance (or perhaps for their inability to locate a well).  And to the parents of the nicer kiddlets, who have reassured me that with proper training, not all third graders need inspire an appetite for strangulation.

My stereotype of the Third Grade Beast turns out to be just that; a stereotype. But while stereotypes are certainly not applicable in every case, they do come from somewhere. Well, so does this one...

... Like Becky in Taiwan, who would run wildly around the room screeching like the Tasmanian Devil with a crazed look in her eye, foaming at the mouth as she swiped classmates' belongings off their desks and scribbled on their homework. Alternatively, she would insist on spending entire class periods under her desk, engrossed in some project that I never could quite figure out. She was probably building a bomb under there. She also liked to bring insects in to the class in paper cups. According to her mother, she had an interest in natural science. Yeah. Right. I say she had an interest in Gross.

Then there was a Shanghai class who would throw things, call me Big Nose, and try to trip me or slap my butt as I walked by. As you can see, I really commanded respect in that room. I felt like Mr. Ramjam, the substitute teacher we tormented throughout the 80s and 90s, and experienced a new empathy for what must have been a highly demoralizing career. (Fortunately, I only had to teach that class for a month.)

While the first and second graders were still young and cute enough to procure whole-hearted enthusiasm for whatever last-minute minimal effort activity I'd thrown together for them, and the fifth graders were mature enough to keep the mocking behind my back where it belongs, I concluded that third graders really were just assholes.

Enter my new school this semester - a breath of fresh air. As the only non-Chinese person on campus, I still attract a lot of attention, and still have children chasing and calling after me everywhere I go. But instead of "lawai, lawai!" (foreigner), I get "Good morning!" and "Welcome to Shanghai!" When I enter a classroom, instead of Big Nose I hear "Harro Ms. Jun!" Some students are even starting to pick up on the fact that Ms. Jun was their previous teacher, rather than a suffix added to "Harro", and are actually starting to use my real name!

I don't mean to sound overly cynical here, but I can't help wondering if this is somehow a trap...


  1. Seriously, i've thought about substitute teachers before, and i can't really imagine what it must be like to go home everyday and feel like you've just done a crap jobat work just cause kids are mean.

    I also find it genuinely hilarious to call third graders assholes, for some reason.

  2. Mr RAMJAM!!!! hahahha