By Catherine Tucker
Now that I’ve got most of my negative thoughts out there, I feel as though I am able to transition into happier, more upbeat posts. For this particular entry I would like to write about teaching and those oh-so-fun things that happen at school, which perhaps only native English speakers would understand. Most of the time these moments happen in your classroom when you are the only native speaker, making it difficult to share the enjoyment of the situation while also trying not to burst at the seams with laughter.
One of the more memorable of these instances happened during my first few days of teaching. Last term, when I was teaching older students, I wanted to review with them during the first days in order to gauge their knowledge of the English language. In one of my classes I decided to test their knowledge of past tense verbs. I found a great game online called Eat Your Verbs that I wanted to try out in my class. The game rules are as follows: the board is broken up into sections and on each section I write a verb. Following the board separation, the students are asked to race up to the board to first write the verb in the past tense and then write a sentence using the verb in that form. Things were going well in the class and the students seemed to be having fun. Needing an idea for another word, I looked in the textbook and found “disappear.” Going along with the rules of the game, I wrote disappear on the top of all three sections on the board. After I said “GO!” the 3 chosen students raced as fast as they could to get the specifications for the game written on the board. When the winning student had finished, I looked at her sentence along with the 2 others and noticed that 2 out of 3 students had written, “My pen is disappeared.” I’ll give you a moment to notice the discrepancy.
You see it?
How could I NOT be completely laden with laughter at this moment. I looked around the classroom trying to find someone to share the hilarity. Alas, it was just I to take it in and let the giggles burn inside.
Going along with this theme, my roommate Angela once relayed a story to me about some students in her classroom asking what a certain word meant. Angela teaches at the prep school for the University so her students are older, starting at age 12, and she has a mix of boys and girls. One day as class was letting out, a boy motioned her over to ask about a non-vocabulary item in which he was not only having trouble pronouncing, but also figuring out the definition. He repeated the word several times, saying some vague reference to the actual word, but was mispronouncing it so badly that Angela had to ask several times what the word was. A few of the boy’s classmates who were still in the classroom and knew what the word meant were in fits of giggles as the boy struggled to ask their young, attractive English teacher the meaning. Eventually Angela figured out that he was trying to say penis, and not in a funny sort of way, but in an actual quizzical sort of way. Once she understood what he was asking, Angela answered saying that it is “a boy’s private parts” while also hiding cracks of laughter that were trying to work their way through her and causing the boy to blush and his friends to laugh even harder.
What would you do in that situation? Would your face turn bright red? I know mine would. Knowing Angela, she probably handled the situation way better than I ever would have. An event like this is another time when you really wish you had a buddy around to elbow in the ribs slyly as the awkwardness goes down.
Some of these incidents, however, come from the students writing in their notebooks. Many times they confuse words or are not able to write out the thought they have in their heads so their answer may come out something like, “I want a CD in my hose.” Ummm, ok? Or perhaps they’ll tell you, “I use a pancake to write.” I’d like to see that!
Because these moments of hilarity happen unknowingly and happen often, they definitely liven up the life of an expat English teacher. When some days seem to be getting you down, just take a look in a student’s notebook and remember that, “My mother is plastic” and you’ll feel better.
Catherine, aka Catty Thailand, aka Catty T, aka Catty, aka Cat, aka Rainbow Bright, grew up in Memphis, Tennessee and likes the fact that she is from the South. After graduating from grad school, she decided to take herself abroad (after a summer of music festivals including Burning Man), and moved to Thailand to teach. This is where she resides now, living, learning, and traveling (not to mention partying) in the land of smiles.