The Trauma Is Punishment Enough

, , , , , | Learning | March 29, 2021

This story takes place in the 1970s when corporal punishment is still allowed in English schools. At my school, we have a headmaster who is known to be quick to take the cane to children who have been sent to his office for bad behaviour.

One day, there are two of us waiting on the bench in the corridor outside his office: me for talking in class and a girl I vaguely know from another class who has apparently been talking back to her teacher. On the bench next to us is also a large wooden box. 

The girl is nervous about having to see the headmaster and begins to talk to me to take her mind off what might be coming.

Girl: “What do you think is in this box?”

Me: “Probably the head of the last kid that had to see the headmaster.”

I joked with a touch of gallows humour.

She laughed nervously and then unclasped the box lid, lifted it, and looked inside. The horrified scream that emerged from her was loud enough to get the headmaster out of his office in an instant and have teachers emerging from nearby classrooms to see what the emergency was. After the adults had managed to calm the poor girl down, we were both sent back to our classes, all punishment forgotten.

What was in the box? Well, the local red cross had arranged a set of demonstrations that day for the older children, and for safekeeping between sessions, they had left the equipment in a box outside the headmaster’s study. The unfortunate girl had opened it and looked inside, only to see, staring back at her, a head with a sightless face and its mouth open in a silent scream. It was a CPR dummy.

This story is part of our Best Of March 2021 roundup!

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, , , , , , | Learning | March 26, 2021

We’re in a Zoom class. One of my classmates doesn’t mute her microphone before trying to get her dog to leave the room.

Classmate: “Out! No! No, girl! Out! Out! Bad girl, let go of that! No! No! Out! Vade retro, canus!”

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Fass Gas And Fass The Class

, , , , | Learning | March 25, 2021

I am teaching English as a second language for high-schoolers and adults. This happens in my Beginner’s 1 class. At the beginning of every term, I usually write down the parts of the syllabus on the whiteboard. I explain them one by one and ask whether anyone has any questions. One serious-looking adult student raises his hand.

Student: “Miss, what is ‘fart’?”

I’m surprised because I did not say anything about “fart” during my explanations, but I know he’s not trying to disrupt the class.

Me: “I’m sorry?”

Student: “What is ‘fart’?”

Me: “Why are you asking?”

Student: “You wrote it on the board.”

Me: “I did not write ‘fart’ on the board.”

Student: “Yes, you did.” *Points and reads* “‘Fart one, introduction. Fart two, fresent tense.’”

The rest of the class and I had to hold back laughter. It turns out that [Student] is fluent in Arabic, which made him develop a habit to say all Ps as Fs because there is no P sound in Arabic.

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“Oof” Isn’t A Strong Enough Word

, , , , , | Learning | March 18, 2021

I am an American teaching English in China and my current class is a small group of preteens. One of my students is an eleven-year-old boy who is legally blind. He sits at the front of the class, I reverse the colors of the digital whiteboard to white writing on a black background, and he can more or less make it out.

I’m playing a game where I quickly ask the class questions on something we just read and call on students to answer them. When they answer correctly, I toss them a piece of candy.

Me: “What was Moe’s secret ingredient? [Blind Student].”

Blind Student: “Salt!”

Me: “Very good!”

I toss him a wrapped candy and he makes no attempt to catch it. It bounces off his face and lands on the floor. He fumbles around for a few seconds until he finds it while I stand there frozen, contemplating what I have just done.

Me: “Perhaps I should not throw things at blind children.”

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This Material’s Not Too Hard To Grasp

, , , | Learning | March 8, 2021

I am an American teaching English in China. During this hour, I am teaching a class of students in one of the upper levels for the seven- to ten-year-olds. At this level, they can have some intermediate-level conversations but nothing too in-depth. This unit, they are learning about different materials and describing them — i.e. “It’s made of metal,” and, “It isn’t sparkly enough.”

I’m going over the material vocabulary by showing them some items. I hold up one of my boots.

Me: “It’s made of leather.”

Class: “It’s made of leather.”

I hold up a coin.

Me: “It’s made of metal.”

Class: “It’s made of metal.”

Since they seem to have a good grasp of the grammar point and the assigned vocabulary, I decide to throw in an extra term for them.

I pick up one student’s backpack.

Me: “It’s made of nylon.”

Student: “What’s nylon?”

Unfortunately, a lot of students in China are afraid to express confusion and will often pretend they understand something when they don’t. I decide on a whim to test if that is happening here, so in my best EFL teacher voice, I say…

Me: “It’s a synthetic petroleum-based polymer.”

The student gives me a forced smile and nods.

Student: “Oh.”

I chuckle and take pity on her for that and I break my no-Chinese rule to tell her what nylon means.

Me: “Nílóng.”

The student’s eyes light up with understanding.

Student: “Oh, nílóng! Nylon!”

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