My class went very well today. Several kids were ill or just plain didn’t show up, plus one had to leave early because of a family party or some such thing. So we were a very small group. And – lucky for me – the disruptive kids were all absent.
After doing some reading comprehension and grammar exercises, I remodeled the class towards the end into a sort of impromptu creative writing workshop and had the two budding writers in my class talk about their current stories. One girl is a budding fantasy writer who writes manga-inspired Japanese flavoured fantasy full of girl ninjas who are also fashion models, living shadows and shapeshifting companion animals. The idea of a fashion model moonlighting as a ninja certainly has potential. I imagine her suddenly going all ninja during a shoot and kicking the arses of obnoxious designers, stylists or photographers. The girl has full blown Japan-mania. She even has a Japanese phrasebook to help her understand the Japanese names and words in her favourite manga. She is pretty good for a 13-year-old, by the way. She even has a surprisingly good handle on POV, which is very rare for a writer that young.
A boy writes science fiction with a definite tendency towards space opera and alien invasion stories (well, for teenaged SF fans that’s usually all there is). The same kid is also making a film, SF of course and featuring aliens, cause he loves aliens, with some friends. He does show an inordinate amount of interest in the technical details of spaceships, so we may have a budding hard SF writer there. He’d still have to work on the hard bit, though, cause the kid’s grasp of physics and technology is rather limited at the moment with spaceships “taking a wrong turn at the Milky Way” (as a pun, it actually works in German) and being refueled via a fuel hose. Well, at least it’s not powered by slaves shoveling radium in the atomic furnace. And to be honest, I wish that space travel really did work as depicted in Star Wars, Star Trek and that sort of thing, because space opera was so much more fun before it got hard.
We also talked about the Bermuda triangle, discussed whether superpowered ninjas could break into Buckingham Palace (well, if in a world where there are superpowered ninjas, I suppose Buckingham Palace would have superpowered guards – BBC willing to tackle that one?) and also briefly touched upon the different meaning of November 11th in different cultures. I told the kids to look out for poppies worn by British politicians, royalty and celebrities (I just spotted some worn by Harry Potter stars on the news and the kids are certain to see that) and explained the meaning. Because in Germany, November 11th, 11:11 AM is traditionally the beginning of carnival, while in Britain and the US it’s Veteran’s/Armistice Day complete with poppies and a minute of silence at around the same time people in Cologne and Mainz are congregating in public places to yell “Helau” and “Alaaf”. There is a day of rememberance for the war dead in Germany, but it’s always on the second to last Sunday of the church year, i.e. next Sunday. And it’s not a big deal, a few speeches from politicians and a few old men laying down wreaths at war monuments and my Dad was engrossed in watching some docudrama about the Battle of the Somme on TV yesterday. But there are no minutes of silence or thank you blogposts. And I’m fine with that. As far as I’m concerned, November 11th is the beginning of carnival.
Still, days like this remind me why I like teaching. Because the rampant creativity of these kids is just such a joy to watch. It also makes me very angry at the inflexible German school system. Because both of the kids I mentioned and lots of other kids with potential got shuttled into the lowest educational track and already have many opportunities closed to them. I finally understand why so many teachers oppose the three-track school system altogether. It’s because most of them have seen too many kids screwed by the system. And since they started dividing kids after grade 4 instead of grade 7, it’s gotten even worse, because very few kids display their full potential at the age of ten. In fact, the only people who actually are in favour of the three-track system are certain parents (the “My kid is better than all others and shouldn’t have to share classroom space with that rabble” type of parent) and politicians who are after the votes of those parents.
Anyway, following that serious note, here’s something to smile about. This is what one of the boys in my class had to say about looking at the offerings of a certain website, where amateur pornographers can upload their homemade porn clips – popularized in Germany when the country’s biggest tabloid published an outraged article about all that filth on the internet and helpfully included the full URL of said filth:
“Well, I looked at that and it was sort of interesting, but I don’t really get it. I mean, why? What’s the point?”