We are teachers by trade, complainers by role – 3rd February 2021

Let’s make a list
So we can feel like we’re accomplishing something
So we can feel like we’re working together

Let’s sit in a circle adding to the list
As we move around the room one by one
As you make a suggestion begin sternly
– you take no shit –
To give credence to your semi-constructive argument

Tomorrow we’ll wonder where this generation
Gets their priorities from
Tomorrow my heart will skip a beat
As it does every morning nine months of the year

It has to do with this list
Before the bells even ring
Before the hair is even combed

Will the approach ever change
Or will it begin as I’ve said
And end with a lighthearted twist
To prove we’re all adults?

It has to do with this list
Which we’ll put in our pockets
To throw away at a later date

It has to do with this list
Which makes me feel more uncomfortable
Than I’ve ever felt
More apple pie than I’ve ever been

We are not housewives, executives, or entrepreneurs
We are teachers by trade, complainers by role

– Let’s Make a List by The Van Pelt

I really love the Van Pelt’s subdued musical tone and the singer’s talk-sing delivery. The lyrics here struck me deeply as these days, once again, I wake during the night thinking about how I could help this student or that student and really make a difference to their lives – if only there was enough time.

Let’s make a list
So we can feel like we’re accomplishing something
So we can feel like we’re working together

Lists and meetings – throwbacks to my office days – useless, endless, time-wasting meetings. Lists have their place but may also be overrated – yet here we are, in the absence of a better solution, doing the same so that we can feel like we are doing something. I like the playful sarcasm of these lines – it appeals directly to my Englishness.

Let’s sit in a circle adding to the list
As we move around the room one by one

See that list, let’s mindlessly add to it – we are accomplishing a list. You’re turn next.

As you make a suggestion begin sternly
– you take no shit –
To give credence to your semi-constructive argument

If I speak louder then my information must be more important. Oops – there’s my own sarcasm manifest. I must also remember not to use this strategy when I’m teaching – or in every day communication, come to that. Recall the stereotype of shouting louder to non-English speakers in the misguided belief that this will help them understand.

Tomorrow we’ll wonder where this generation
Gets their priorities from

I hate the kids! That’s what we are supposed to do, right? Yet, I don’t – I love them all very much – even the angry, lazy, nasty ones, the ones that remind me of myself. But I am not one of them and I shouldn’t expect them to bend to my equations, to live up to my expectations. That’s a useless frustration. I felt my grandparents look upon me in that tut-tutting way but my mother showed me and taught me to find my own way. It was the struggle I needed. It is the struggle I still endure and have learned to love.

Tomorrow my heart will skip a beat
As it does every morning nine months of the year

Every day of school I have to pretend I am a teacher. I am purely a teacher based on my mother tongue and my age. But I consider myself a student first. When I feel joy at seeing the student’s grow – I see my own journey. I feel grateful to them for teaching me about myself.

Will the approach ever change
Or will it begin as I’ve said
And end with a lighthearted twist
To prove we’re all adults?

These were the lyrics that really stood out when considering the education system in government schools in Thailand. I was told by other teachers that I would never be able to facilitate change in the system here. I took that as a coward’s statement. They chose the easy way, the way to not ruffle anyone’s feathers, to not take to task the inefficiencies that all can see. Even the students are aware of the low quality of education they receive and have made it part of the protest movement of this past year.

Anyway, the nail that sticks out gets hammered down and that is what had happened to me before here. But, the feathers were ruffled enough to make some change – I felt the sacrifice worth it and the lazy and noncommittal can benefit from it. Of course, there was no sweeping change to a utopia but patience will be rewarded. It may take another 100 years but I’d rather be a lit match that started a tiny fire than a bucket of water. I feel sorry for the kids – how can you hate them?

It has to do with this list
Which we’ll put in our pockets
To throw away at a later date

Ouch! Isn’t that the truth?

We are teachers by trade, complainers by role

Where do we get our priorities from?

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