Getting An F-Grade

, , , , , , | Learning | January 19, 2020

I am an American working as a foreign English teacher. Most of the two-hour classes for the three older age groups are done by two teachers. One teacher teaches the first hour, and then there is a fifteen-minute break followed by a second hour with a different teacher. 

For one of my higher-level classes for the seven-to-ten-year-old age group, I am the first teacher; however, my co-teacher is unavailable this day. This is not uncommon, and usually, another teacher would be assigned that slot to substitute teach for that day. However, in this instance, I am the only teacher who has that hour free and is qualified to teach that level. As such, I find myself in the rare position of covering my own class. 

The students are not informed when they are having a substitute teacher, so after my hour is done, I gather my materials for the second half of today’s lesson. I walk back upstairs, open the door, and see seven surprised and confused faces wondering why I have returned when they were expecting my co-teacher. One of my ten-year-old students decides to vocalize his surprise with a western colloquialism he has picked up.

“What the f***?!”

Well… at least he used it correctly.

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Something Fishy About That Name

, , , | Learning | November 27, 2019

(I am an American teaching English in China. Sometimes there are extra one-off classes that parents can sign their children up for outside of their regular classes. I am teaching one of those this morning. For regular classes, I have a roll sheet with all the students’ names. This is very helpful when I cover a class for another teacher. Unfortunately, the one-off classes do not come with roll sheets, so I have to ask the students for their names, which I write on the board. This one-off class has a range of kids from different classes in the lower to middle levels for the seven- to ten-year-old classes. One of the students has recently started the first-level class for that age group, so he only knows some of the basics and his pronunciation is not always very clear.)

Me: “What’s your name?”

Student: “Salmon.”

Me: “Salmon? Your name is Salmon?”

Student: “Yes.”

(A lot of parents pick strange names for their kids. I’ve met Run-Baby, Dinosaur, Lemon, the list goes on. So, I write Salmon on the board and continue on. During the class, I ask the students about his name.)

Me: “You know salmon is a kind of fish?”

Student: *doesn’t seem to understand me*

Me: *brings up a picture of some salmon on my phone* “It’s a salmon.”

Student: *looks surprised* “No fish! No fish!”

(I chuckle and move on with class, but for the remaining of the hour, when I call on him, before he answers, he always first says, “No fish!”)

Me: “I know. You are not a fish, but your name is a fish.”

Student: “No fish!”

(The class ends and I gather my materials for my next class, which is a first-level class for the same age group which I am covering for another teacher, so this time I have a roll sheet. I walk into class, and to my surprise, who do I see there? Salmon! I realize something is not right, because I would have remembered seeing a name like Salmon on a roll sheet of ten students. I look down at my roll sheet and see a single S name: Simon.)

Me: “Oh! Your name is Simon!

Student: “Yes!”

Me: “Not Salmon.”

Student: “No!”

Me: *face descending into my open hand* “That’s why you kept saying, ‘No fish.'”

Student: “No fish!”

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If You Tell Him What It Means China Will Censor It

, , , , , , | Learning | November 14, 2019

(I am an American working as an English teacher in China. I am working with a class of five five-year-olds through the unit on describing the rooms of a house. With us is a local young woman who translates and assists me as needed. At the beginning of today’s lesson, I review the names of the rooms with the basic sentence structure using our large flash cards. Towards the end of the review, the class clown starts messing around.)

Me: *holds up card* “What is this?”

Four Students: “It’s the kitchen!”

Class Clown: “[My Name] is in the kitchen!”

Me: *holds up next card* “What is this?”

Four Students: “It’s the living room!”

Class Clown: “[My Name] is in the living room!”

(The review is now over, but I decide to give myself something to chuckle about with my coworkers later.)

Me: *holds up the closet card* “[Class Clown], what is this?”

Class Clown: “[My Name] is in the closet!”

(Usually, the locals that work with us part time have a fluent understanding of English but do not understand colloquial expressions, and I assume that this will slip by my TA, but it turns out, I underestimated my current TA. She cracks up when she hears [Class Clown] “outing” me.)

Me: *To the TA* “Oh, you know what that means?”

TA: *nodding while laughing*

(This creates a problem for me. [Class Clown] realizes he has said something funny. [Class Clown] loves nothing more than to be funny. [Class Clown] is not going to forget something he said that made him funny, even if he doesn’t understand it. For the remaining weeks I have with them, he will randomly shout at me, “[My Name] is in the closet!” Even when they graduate from this level and move into another class, it does not end. Sometimes, we pass each other in the halls or in the waiting area, where there are many teachers, employees, and parents, and he points at me and yells:)

Class Clown: “[My Name] is in the closet!”

Me: *sighing* “I deserve this.”

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In China, Buses Come Fully Equipped!

, , , | Learning | August 24, 2019

(I work in an overseas school teaching English. I also tutor after school. I am working with one of my students one afternoon.)

Me: “What did you do on Saturday?”

Student: “I went swimming on Saturday.”

Me: “Very good. What else did you do?”

Student: “I took a bus.”

Me: “Where did you go on the bus?”

Student: “No, I took a bus.”

Me: “Yes, where did you go?”

Student: “No… I took a shovel!”

Me: “Okay… What did you do with the shovel?”

Student: “I got clean.”

Me: “Say again?”

(She was trying to say, “bath,” and, “shower.”)

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You’ve Got To Face It Eventually

, , , | Learning | July 26, 2019

(I am an American working as a foreign English teacher in China. I have high-functioning Autism and it causes me to be face-blind. This evening, I am in our kitchen cooking some treats with a class of five- to six-year-old boys while their regular teacher has a progress meeting with their parents. Towards the end of the hour, the teacher comes to visit us. It is then I notice something about two of the boys.)

Me: “Wait… Why are these two boys wearing the same clothes? Are they identical twins?”

Teacher: “Yeah, you didn’t notice?”

Me: “No. I’m face-blind, remember?”

Teacher: “Oh, yeah.” *points to two other boys* “They’re identical twins, too.”

Me: “Seriously?!”

(Yep, I went through a full hour of class with eight boys without realizing that I had two sets of identical twins.)

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