Saturday, July 21, 2018

Notes From A Teenager, A Decade On

It's been years since I've gone on one of those highly opinionated endless rants, raving at the injustice of the world. Or the education system.

But today, on Facebook no less, there was a prompt to share a memorable one-liner from our teachers.
Someone answered it, and in the comments were an endless stream of similar stories. 

Belittling, horrible mean things that were PERSONAL ATTACKS to these individuals when they were kids. 
Including someone who was referred to as an "Ang Moh Pai" (White person wannabe) who would never excel at the Chinese language.
(ps, said person now regularly works with suppliers and manufacturers across the China border) 
All of which are basically things I've had firsthand experience of, growing up in the education system in Singapore.

My shared post became a rant that I thought deserved to be published alongside all my other rants and rails against the world. 

This, but also the stories in the comments is what gets me. Being raised in the eduction system here - we all have those stories.
From being yelled at across the rooftop gym
"Your parents must be so disappointed in you" /
"Girls you don't want to go to EM3 that's where are the kids from broken families go." /
"(snide scoff) and who, might I ask, has faith in - you -?"
Even, get this:
"But you must know, I am right because I am your teacher and I am older than you." 

If you ask me why I deliberately went back and spent 9 years teaching in the Singapore system, it's because in a world of
 " No" and
 "You'll never be good enough" and
 "Class, just leave him alone - he's autistic, he is always going to crawl around the classroom like an animal. Just ignore him."
I wanted every kid I ever taught to know that they're worth it, and that there's something they can be good at.

During introductions, at the start of every single one of my programs, when kids mumble their names and say they don't have a hobby and that they "have nothing to say",
The first few things I tell every single one of them is:
1) they deserve to be heard; I want to hear what they have to say 
2) there's no right or wrong answer in my class.

If they wanna make Roméo & Juliette a tale about intercultural romance, or a gay love story where their parents come together to persecute them - go ahead.

And every single piece I've ever seen in all my classes over 9 years, has been successful and amazing and something they can be proud of. 


My youngest sister at 8 years old, came home from school one day to tell me about à classmate who
"Isn't very blessed".
"What?!" I asked, "I'm sure she's 'blessed' in ways that are different from what you can see."

"hmm. No" she told me definitively.
"My teacher told my class that's she's just not very blessed. She comes to school and her uniform isn't ironed and her shoes are kinda dirty."

"Well maybe she's blessed with talents like art or math or..."
"No, she's not good at maths or Chinese. I mean Chinese she's okay. But my teacher (WTF RIGHT?!?!) says she's just not very blessed. She only lives with her father at home, she doesn't have a mother."

To which i had to say,
"Well, when I was your age in primary school, (our) daddy didn't live with jiejie either. I only had my mummy. Do you think I'm not blessed?"

Because seriously,
If this is what I'll get, putting my kids into local schools, and local methodist schools at that,
Then honestly,
Fuck you.

Fuck you because I'd rather my kids get arrested starting protests for something they believe in, than graduate with top grades and zero humanity.


When we were in school, my best friends and I were the subject of lots of blog trolling by the disciplinary committee. 
One, because lots of us were gay and if we were doomed to eternal damnation the school thought we deserved to have a taste of that damnation in our youth, whether we did well in school or not. 

But also, presumably, because we wrote and had mouths on us and teenage life is the best time to teach kids the meaning of defamation and the charges they can bring.

So imagine that, whether online or offline, everything we wrote or said or even hinted at came under scrutiny. Our opinions could, and would get us into trouble.
And guys, I'm not even being dramatic here okay, because we've been hauled into discipline offices, had our parents called in, been made to take down posts - you name it. 

So, now here we are. 
Close to two decades after that period of time with pseudonyms and delicately phrasing what we wanted to say, or not saying it at all. 

And this time, 
I hope my old teachers find it. I hope it makes for a lovely weekend read for them.
Because this isn't me, being a sullen vindictive teenager trying to flame the system. This is me, the same individual, still heavily scarred by all the things that system was. 

This is me saying, openly, 
That every day that I woke up and went to school (on the days I fought it off lone enough to get to school) I wished desperately that a car would hit me. I crossed the road slower, I stepped off the curb too early all the time, and I cut myself up in the toilet in between classes since I was 13.
I wished so fervently that I would be either dead or stuck in a hospital, because that would be better than bring caught in their endless cycle of bullshit. 

And now... 
Now I have kids, until I stopped teaching, I had kids, who sit with me, trying to find the words for the intense migraine and the suicidal thoughts that play on loop in their heads -
And they ask me why. 

Well, that's the million dollar question isn't it?
Perhaps that is one question they will be able to teach us all in class. 

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