Archive for October, 2014

Contextually correct swearing.

October 29, 2014

I have a potty mouth. I’m sorry, I just do. I think it’s because my father has a potty mouth. He swore like a trooper as I grew up, so I guess I picked it up off him, but what does it matter, I am what I am, and I swear like a trooper. I could probably make an effort to change, but I can’t. I’ve tried.

Anyhow, I’ve said this before, but bears repeating it again here. I teach in China, and I spend a lot of time trying to get the students to speak English. It’s hard work. I’m in China. The students are Chinese. They’re going to want to speak Chinese. It’s a battle to get them to speak English, but I’ll keep “fighting the good fight.” till I leave.

I said all that to say this. I was asking the students some questions, when I got a surreal comment from one of the students. He said “Wait, wait, I f***ing know this.”, which made me laugh. Now I don’t usually laugh at swearing, but as far as I’m aware, that might be a correct time to swear. What surprised me was the comment I got off a colleague when I related the story in the staffroom. I was told it was “disrespectful” to me and all staff. Now don’t get me wrong, I told the kid if he said it in future, it wouldn’t necessarily be appropriate,, but swearing comes with a context, doesn’t it? He didn’t mean to be rude by it, so I didn’t offence. It’s not the words that are the offending item, it’s the intention behind them that’s important, and this kid wasn’t being rude, he was just getting excited.

I am right on that aren’t I?

I had one of those “Wait, what?” moments today.

October 15, 2014

I’m the Head of Science at a school in China. It’s a good school, and the kids are decent, but we still get some staff “churn” because we’re foreigners in a foreign land, and China is very different.

Now we’ve a new Science teacher start this term. At best, at the moment, he’s “just so so” (as our students say when their life is ho-hum), so I was worried about him passing his probationary period. My line manager felt the same, and told me that it’d be a “real feather in [my] cap” if I got him through.

So I met with him weekly, discussed what he would be teaching each week, and gave him pointers about how to structure lessons. The result was that in his most recent observation, he got another solid review. He still has a long way to go, but he’s showing signs of progress.

Anyway, after the lesson, my line manager came to see me, and told me that he’s “learning how to deliver the lessons you give him….” but that I’ve “got to step helping him, and telling him how to teach.” It was at that that I had my “Wait, what?” moment. Call me a dumbass if you will, but if you’re an HoD with failing teacher, don’t you try and give the guy the structure he needs to give him the chance to dig his way out of it?

The Latinos in Hollywood display at LAX

October 7, 2014

I was at LAX airport on Sunday, and they had this big display about Hispanic/Latino actors and actresses in Hollywood. This shouldn’t be a surprise. Los Angeles has a large Hispanic population, and it’s always good to display positive examples of ethnic minorities (if for no other reason than to say to potentially bigoted white folks that there’s nothing to fear).

As I was looking at it, I decided to make a list about who expected to be on display (it was set up so I couldn’t see all those on display immediately). On my mental list were Desi Arnaz, J-Lo, Martin Sheen, Jimmy Smits, Héctor Elizondo, Edward James Olmos, John Leguizamo, Michelle Rodriguez, Andy Garcia, Danny Trejo, and Eva Longoria.

I mean no disprespect by this, but my list was better than that on display in the airport. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that I missed some (I’m not a 12 year old girl, so didn’t think of Selena Gomez, I don’t watch crappy reality television, so Missed Mario Lopez, I’d never heard of his wife, so missed Courtney Mazza, and I didn’t recognise the older Hispanic actors they mentioned because I don’t know much 1960s American TV). I’m slightly embarrassed I missed Anthony Quinn, and I was surprised to learn Madeleine Stowe and Rita Heyworth is/was Hispanic.

The ones I got that the display missed were Martin Sheen, John Leguizamo and Danny Trejo. I tried to think why these actors were missed out. I could immediately see why Danny Trejo might not be included. He’s a good actor, and he’s cleaned his life up since he was a kid, but he did have “issues” in his youth which might make people risk averse. to him

The thing that irritated me was the exclusion of Martin Sheen, and I started wondering why. He’s famous enough, so was it because he had an Anglo name? No because they had Anthony Quinn and Madeleine Stowe up on display. Was it because he’d changed his name (making him less authentically Hispanic)? Well he might have been born Ramón Estévez, but Anthony Quinn was born Antonio Rodolfo Quinn Oaxaca. Was it because he’s only half Hispanic (if there can be such a thing, his mothers name is Mary-Ann Phelan)? Hmmm I don’t like the argument, and I don’t believe they’d use it. Is it because he doesn’t speak Spanish (I have no evidence for this, but I read somewhere that J-Lo doesn’t speak much Spanish, and she was up there. It can’t be because he wasn’t born in Los Angeles either, because Selena Gomez was born in Texas, and Andy Garcia was born in Cuba.

Part of me thought “Meh, maybe they just forgot him.” till I read the sign by the picture of Jimmy Smits which said “one of the first people to play a Latino President on network television”. That sentences reads to me like gymnastics to avoid including Sheen, and that really does make me wonder why.