I've been told many times that my writing is very good for someone that can't speak English. Well, I guess I should be honoured, if it wasn't for the fact that I am from an English speaking nation. The problem is, that despite the fact that I am from Canada, born in Ottawa, (the second most boring City in the province of Ontario, Timmins, Ontario, still holds the record as first), I have never really lived here. December 15th, 1999, marks 10 years that I have returned here. And I still can't speak English properly.
When my family decided to return to Canada, bringing me back to their reality and shattering what I had grown up with (mostly confusion, as we moved from France to Germany, to Egypt and then Italy), I found myself sitting in the last 6 months of an elementary school understanding every word (and mostly insults) by the people around me, but unable to say anything that made any sense. I seem to still have that problem today.
Once high school hit, I was so lucky, I had to endure classes called ESL (English as a second language) with other kids that were all lost and unable to comprehend any word, as we read "Pygmalion" or "Wuthering Heights". Twitch. It didn't take much to tell that the books sucked, despite any English major telling me they are great pieces of writing. I hated them.
On the bright side, I understood enough to see why I hated them. Everyone else in my class hated them because they couldn't parse a single sentence.
By the time I was done with ESL, I was in Grade 11, taking Grade 9 and 10 English. I had to take two more English classes per semester in Grade 12, and I still wouldn't had been able to graduate as I needed a total of 5 English credits. ESL wasn't considered English enough. My only mean to graduate in time and escape from the clutches of evil (High School), was to take summer school.
Summer school is an oxymoron by itself. Why would anyone want to take school during the wonderful sunny days when one can sleep in or do crazy things with his friends? None-the-less, I had no choice.
Class was being held at De La Salle, a high school that looked more fitting in some Sir Arthur Conan Doyle book, than in the middle of Toronto. Completely Victorian style, squeaky wood floors, ancient photographs of graduating classes from 1906, and run by priests who were a bunch of vicious fucks (it wouldn't surprise me if I'll hear in a few years about sodomized boys from that school). I was just expecting Robin Williams to pop up from behind some counter and scream from the top of his lungs "CARPE DIEM CARPE DIEM CARPE DIEM!"
Of the 6 people in the class, three went to my school. Not bad for a city with a population of 6 million people. Karl, a big, strong kid, backward Chicago Bulls basketball hat, constantly saying "ya know what I'm say'n?" (actually no, I can't understand a word of what you are saying, and why are you faking that accent?) and a Chicago Bulls winter jacket (Hey, Karl, aren't you hot in that jacket? It's like July. -- Hot? Nah. Makes me cool! Ya know what I'm sayin'?). If he wasn't skipping, he had his headphones on listening to music so loud, I don't know why he even tried to hide the fact that he was.
Then there was Peter and I. He was in the same class for reasons that escape my mind at the moment, but we were both far from thrilled in being in there, especially with a fine example of our school such as Karl.
The other three were girls that were trying, for reasons we couldn't figure out, to improve their already high marks to something higher. Clearly out of our league, we didn't even make the effort to learn their names.Karl, however, never gave up trying to smooch up to them, moving one hand as if he was a (c)RAP singer, and the other holding on to his balls. (Hey, look ladies! I'm holding my balls! Do I make you horny? Ya know what I'm sayin'?)
The teacher was a pretty young woman, probably in her late 20s. I don't remember her name, but it was clearly something Italian. She had of course as much Italian in her as Karl had Jamaican. She introduces herself, and then we have to go through that degrading process of introducing ourselves. Peter and I just mumbled some stuff about how we were very happy to be in this class, rather than outside in the sun. Karl had nothing to say. The girls gave us a long and extensive introduction to themselves. Fortunately the school slide-projectors were unavailable.
Now, for some foolish reason, I was expecting this to be like any regular English class. You read a boring book, you get tested on it, you learn about colons and semicolons, write an essay about something insignificant, like third world hunger or Canadian politics, do your exam and you are done.
But not this time.
The teacher makes us pull out some paper and she starts dictating off about the English language and the grammar structure. After we're done writing this page and a half of silly drivel, she makes us rip it. Peter and I rip the paper to shreds thinking already at what a "cool" teacher she was going to be. Karl didn't rip anything because he hadn't written anything. The three girls were taken aback by that. I could feel their shock, their horror! I mean, ripping useful information about English that they could later regurgitate? How could she!
After feeling rather witty that she had "shocked" us by making us tear a piece of paper from our notebooks, she rolled in a TV and we had to endure "Dead Poet's Society". Staring at Robin William's giggling face, and watching all those rebels read poetry at night in a cave really inspired me to live life to the fullest. Karl must've felt pretty inspired too, as after that he either skipped or paid more attention to the cRAP coming out of his headphones.
The rest of the semester pretty much went by with her nagging at us anytime we did something that was not as good as what the movie had shown us. If it rained, we were encouraged to run outside in the rain, because running outside in the rain, with the risk of catching pneumonia, was to live life to the fullest. When it was sunny, we'd go outside and sit under a tree and read our books or do our classes there because that's how life had to be lived, until of course one of the priests noticed we were stepping on the grass and we never went out again. Grass has got a right to live to the fullest too, you know?
Peter and I eventually took this to our advantage. When she'd ask us for homework, we'd explain how we didn't do it, as going out and having some fun was more important and living life out fully, than sitting lonely at a desk and writing an essay on what we thought was the climax of Anna Frank. Surprisingly she accepted that, and complimented us for being so "alive".Sometimes we'd submit badly drawn cartoons, and she'd automatically accept these as poetry or as essays, telling us how the creative part of us was showing and we'd soon be out of our boxes. And as far as exams went, we never had any. Somehow we managed to pass, but I'm still not sure what I did in there, other than draw cartoons back and forth with Peter (What are you doing? -- We? We're drawing poetry together!)
I guess she was trying to be cool and different, being a new teacher. I think that everyone that starts teaching as their job want to be different from their teachers, and stimulate the students in being more active and interested. However, it's just a matter of time. Soon enough she will grow tired of repeating the same lesson every semester, of seeing ungrateful little bastards like ourselves take advantage of people like her (students just can tell if they can fuck around or not), and she will turn into one of the many zombies that roam around the English department, throwing the book at us, and waiting for her hour to be over for her cigarette and coffee.
In the mean time, who knows. Maybe she'll see Dangerous Minds and want to educate ghetto kids next.