Friday, March 09, 2007

Hangman game!

from tori amos:

"And if I die today, I'll be the happy phantom
And I'll go chasin' the nuns out in the yard
And I'll run naked through the streets without my mask on
And I will never need umbrellas in the rain
I'll wake up in the strawberry fields every day
And the atrocities of school I can forgive
The happy phantom has no right to bitch

Ooo-hoo, the time is getting closer
Ooo-hoo, time to be a ghost
Ooo-hoo, every day we're getting closer
The sun is getting dim
Will we pay
For who we've been?"

When I was in Korea, I had great moments, profound moments, sad moments, shitty moments...all kinds of moments. I'm thinking Perry Smith's time in Korea was filled with more of the sad and the shitty, what with him fighting in the war police action and all. I only hope he had some of the profound, too. I'm also thinking that in my time on Earth, I have been privy to more great moments, overall, then he had in his time on Earth.

"So if I die today, I'll be the happy phantom
And I'll go wearin' my naughties like a jewel
They'll be my ticket to the universal opera
There's Judy Garland taking Buddha by the hand
And then those seven little men get up to dance
They say Confucius does his crossword with a pen
I'm still the angel to a girl who hates to sin

Ooo-hoo, the time is getting closer
Ooo-hoo, time to be a ghost
Ooo-hoo, every day we're getting closer
The sun is getting dim
Will I pay
for who I've been?"

One thing I had in Korea, one thing that was more than a moment, was in fact a thing that filled my mornings, my thoughts, my evenings and occasional weekends (what with field trips and telephone teaching and graduation...), and in the end also filled my heart: this thing was pre-school. Ahhh, my pre-school. I love those little five-year-old nutcases. I might add that they were some of the sharpest tools in my Ding Ding Dang shed. I have chronicled many of our (mis)adventures, but today I recall a particular thing that delighted them.

They liked to play hangman. They liked it a lot. And I, in turn, liked to play hangman with them. Liked it a lot. Because it was easy, and ate up like fifteen minutes of the class, and it was in fact a great way to learn the language. Without exception, my older classes hated it. If I turned to the board and started drawing the little upside-down L-ish thing, they would chorus (here, imagine the tone of an eye-rolling teenager), "Ohhh, teacher. No hangman game!" But preschool? Quite a different story. As soon as my dry-erase marker had drawn that 90-degree angle, fifteen little voices, a couple of whom could ordinarily be counted on to speak about as much English as I spoke Korean, would cry in unfettered delight, "HANGMAN GAME!!!!!" And we would play.

(Don't forget the added benefit it had of helping them practice an important sentence structure: "Is there a D?" "No there is not a D" etc. Correcting the ones who said, "Is it an A?" and so forth)

I just finished reading In Cold Blood. First, some of their fellow inmates on death row, and then, Dick Hickock and Perry Smith themselves went to the gallows. It was pretty intense.

I was thinking about the game of hangman. I was thinking about how sometimes people admonish me and sometimes I admonish other people to be careful of their word choice, even in seemingly innocent instances of usage. For example, the other day I was irritated in Civil Procedure when my teacher spoke of an "astonishingly sexist article by a feminist professor," eliciting a laugh with his loaded words, which laugh I think he cultivated. Even if he was trying to prove an opposite point, he was playing into dangerous characterizations of the f-word, a word people willfully, obstinately refuse to understand. For another example, the other week I dashed off one of my law school "e-newsletters" to friends and family in which I self-deprecatingly referred to myself as "hippie-dippie," contrasting this state with the "just plain ignorant" state of some of my classmates. My friend Kim rightfully called me on it, urging me to be careful with my word choice, lest I bolster the negative perception of a certain free-spiritedness come to be known as hippie-dom. You can agree or disagree with me about hippies and feminists (I rather like being known as either of those things, actually, and I loathe most labels) and you can still understand my point.

Which is, how is it that I can have a room of five-year-olds ecstatic over the prospect of a hangman? A detached, literally disembodied, dangling "man" on a dry-erase board, his fate in the hands of some children who have no idea that they'll have better luck with R, S, T, L, N, E and should stop guessing Z, X, and Q right off the bat. And then, when either he is dead or they are triumphant, they whose fates are briefly intertwined with this hanging man, then the points are distributed to the winners and everyone cries, "Let's play again!"

"And if I die today
And if I die today
And if I die today
A-ha, chasing nuns out in the yard..."

---'happy phantom' - Tori Amos---

1 comment:

Melissa said...

in my Korean classes, the kids always won. I would add hands, feet and then toes and fingers if I had to in order to insure the life of the dangling dude... isn't that interesting? Life at all costs? Or just wanting the kids to win?