Bringing our A-Game...and sometimes our C-game.

Photos 1-4: They look like angels, but these were some of the worst behaved kids in our school's history. For proof, check out the "Warning Clip Board". On it, it says, no clear leader, Hank and Ian miss all day's recesses, this class is hopeless.

We are really lucky. We have a brand new, beautiful school, high above and far away from Taipei City, with a river at our front door. Our teachers are super qualified, not to mention funny and cool and awesome. We have decent food for every meal, catered (it sounds fancy, but it's pretty home-grown) by a local restaurant. We run a tight program filled with flag raisings, classes, games, hikes, a nightly program with songs and skits, and we even let the kids call their parents the first night they're with us.

It sounds like a foolproof situation, right? Um, no. One of the things I've found is that people make all the difference. And by people, I mean the students, and our own mental and physical well-being.

Everything changes when we get a group of listening/obeying-challenged kids. Take Week 5 for example (about 4 weeks ago). We had a group of students from a school and this 5th grade class had the reputation for being the worst behaved class in the entire school. And they proved it to us. Somehow, they had the idea that because they were at "camp", with Americans, they would be able to get away with more. Not only did many of these kids have attitudes that were shocking, but they acted so much older than they were. THEY ARE 5TH GRADERS! And yet, we had problems with kids pooping in the showers, boys with those rebellious Japanese haircuts who had no problem saying "BOO-YOW" to any and all teachers (that means "NO"), and girls who decided that they would teach each other how to french kiss. Yes, real life girl action-heartbreaking. The instigator got sent home early.

By the end of the week, we were all frazzled and tired of running camp like prison. We had a dozen kids who had to eat in solitary confinement (at a table by themselves), the rest had to sit in silence, all of them had to stand in line way too long, we gave out over 20 green slips (discipline sheet that goes home to school and parents), and our average weekly green slip disposal is about 7 per week. I felt bad for everyone-for us, for the kids that weren't bad at all, and even for the bad kids who were missing out on a great experience because they want to be disrespectful.

The week ended and we were all grateful, and hoped this would be the worst week ever (it has been so far).

However, sometimes we as teachers definitely don't bring our A-Game. Last week, for example, I had lost my voice and was using a voice box with a microphone to talk. My patience was already thin and my body was week from being sick all weekend. There were even several instances where when I was teaching, I felt like a robot-merely regurgitating my teaching script and completely neglecting to engage and integrate my students into my lesson. Our whole team was tetering between getting this nasty bug and trying to fight it off and none of us were really gung-ho about the week. Our kids were so mediocre and we felt no reason to celebrate each day and tried to get through the week as well as we possibly could.

For some reason, and I'm still baffled by this, by Friday morning, no matter how the week went for the kids or for us, we have a Good-Bye celebration and really cherish each other and how we got to know each other through the week; our daily annoyances with a kid whose only English word is actually a buzzer sound effect, or the kid with the worst attitude who cries when he has to leave, or the fascination the kids have with the command "Present Arms!", or the very tall girl to whom everything is such a big deal (aka Drama Queen)-all of these seem so precious in those final few minutes together and we teachers just laugh and laugh at the funny kids. And they we hug and say Good Bye.

So whether we or the kids bring our A-Game, in the end it's all love. Let's just hope we bring more A's to the court than C's.

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