The School Festival was something I had been anticipating for a while. Basically it’s a day where all the classes get cancelled and my students are set loose into the field to enter various booths to complete activities of various stripes: art, science, handicrafts, cooking. Released from the horrors of learning, my students become actual children again. Even the walking corpses that form most of the grade six student body suddenly perk up when given a chance for yard time. For MichaelTeacher, this meant free time as well: carousing the booths myself, taking photos, and fucking off with great elan.
But then: terror strikes. “Michael, you will help me with the English booth?” It is phrased like a question, but it is meant like demand. It feels like a knife across my face.
To add to the humiliation, I was told to wear a white shirt and black pants, to appear like a lowly waiter to serve the students. They would enter our booth, spout some English from a menu, and could then receive a yogurt drink if they managed to say anything resembling what might be asked for in a restaurant.
It was sluggish, boring work, one which most of my students barely understood the purpose of. Served prop foods, they were left bewildered as to whether they were actually allowed to enjoy their yogurt drinks. But we filed the great masses of the student body through our shanty for several hours, emptied our boxes of Yakult (I know), and sauntered off, happy for the rest of the day. I even got to interact with the grade ones and twos, who heretofore saw me as a meandering specter, a haunt of rumour and mystery, discussed obtusely by their older siblings and rarely seen but through windows and around corners. But we were done. Freedom!
Then: further horror.
“Michael, I heard you are supposed to run the booth for 3 more hours?”
Where did you hear this, pray tell? And can I set fire to them?
“Supervisors will come to school this afternoon for ceremony. So maybe Vice Principal wants to keep school festival going for longer time. I don’t know.”
I instantly went into responsibility-shirking mode, claiming to my oblique and confusing business, and preparing to be away from my desk for the next few hours so no one could reach me. When I was caught, I tried to attack the problem with logic. “But we have no more yogurt? But every student has already done our booth? But by 2, all of the students will have gone home?”
“Vice-president says until 4.” [sic]
There are certain times at my school where I simply don’t fight. I know that, ultimately it is better to make a show of being long-suffering and simply submit to whatever stupid ideas I am presented with than to make any overt attempts at mutiny or rebellion. The truest path to righteousness: do it so half-assed you are eventually released from responsibility. Our booth closed at two. Victory!
*Also, this was the day one of my grade sixes decided to shout “What the fuck?!” right in my face. Apparently my expression was enough to communicate the exact nature and intensity of my displeasure, because as I took him off to stripmine his very soul, he began shouting “Whoaaaa! Whoaaa!” loudly in dismay to everyone around him, looking desperately for assistance. They knew better than to interrupt.