Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Let's enjoying English!

My students are an endless source of entertainment. They are always saying the most unintentionally hilarious things. Here are just a few gems from the past two weeks:

You are a little shit

I was teaching adjectives to one of the Grade 7 classes. The students were using the adjectives to make basic sentences. For example, “you are friendly” “you are pretty” “you are kind” “you are funny” “you are tall.”

The Japanese teacher asked them to write down three different adjectives to describe one of their friends using the “you are _____” pattern.

I was walking around the classroom correcting their mistakes when one boy called me over to his desk.

“What’s this in English?” he asked, pointing to his hip.

“Hip,” I said.

He looked at me, looked at my hips and said, “You are big hip!”


Flattery gets you everywhere

For some reason, the students at my school go crazy for stickers. They love stickers. They are obsessed with stickers. They fight each other for stickers.

There is nothing more surreal than having a group of the biggest, meanest, angriest, most intimidating teenage boys with shaved eyebrows and spiked hair walk up to you after class and ask for a bunch of teddy bear stickers.

It didn’t take long for me to figure out that cute stickers have incredible power and influence over these kids. I amassed a collection of stickers and put them in a file, which I carry around from class to class.

The stickers are supposed to be a reward for participation. But the whole thing has spun out of control. The minute class ends, I am swarmed by aggressive students demanding stickers.

They’re like a pack of vultures swooping in to pick clean my entire sticker collection. They try to rip the file out of my hands. They jump on my back, screaming, “Sticker! Sticker!”

I once made the mistake of letting a group of boys play “rock, paper, scissors” for one of my coveted Canada stickers. The competition got so heated that punches started flying.

The sticker situation escalated from harmless fun into an out-of-control crisis. I had to stage an intervention.

I stood in front of the class and asked the Japanese teacher to translate. I explained that I was no longer going to hand out stickers for no reason. The students had to earn them. If they wanted a sticker, they had to say something in English first.

Without missing a beat, one clever kid yelled out, “YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!”


Not far off the mark

The students in one of my classes were talking about their plans for summer vacation yesterday.

I was asking them where they were going this summer and they had to respond by using the sentence structure “I will go to ____.”

Most of the answers were pretty standard (well, except for the one kid who said, “I will go to Sarah-sensei’s apartment.”)

A few kids answered the question by saying, “I will go to USJ.”

USJ is Universal Studios Japan and every Japanese kid I’ve ever met has either gone or dreams of going there. USJ is a huge deal.

One of the kids who answered, “I will go to America” was excited about his upcoming trip. He wanted to know what USA stood for.

“The United States of America,” I told him.

The poor kid looked crestfallen. I had single-handedly ruined his summer vacation.

He had thought USA stood for Universal Studios America.


Aren’t you a little young for that?

In the classroom the other day . . .

Me: “What were you doing at 11 last night?”

Student A: “I was sleeping.”

Student B: “I was watching TV.”

Student C: “I was stripping!”


And your point is?

I was walking down the hallway between classes when two boys yelled out “SEX!” at me.

I backed up and asked them to repeat what they had just said.

“SEX!!!” they cried, even louder this time.

“Would you care to elaborate?” I asked.

They looked at each other, obviously not understanding a single word I said, and ran away.


I’ve created a monster

I was hanging out with the track team after school when one of the kids decided to initiate a conversation with me.

“Sarah-sensei,” he said. “You are from Canada, right?”

“Yes!” I said, delighted with his perfect English.

He narrowed his eyes and looked at me as if I was a complete and utter moron.

“No, no, no!” he said. “Not ‘Yes.’ Yes, I am.”



One of my favourite students came to visit me in the staff room between classes.

“Do you have a boyfriend?” she asked.

I told her I had seven boyfriends.

Her eyes widened.

“Seven boyfriends?!?” she said.

Yup, I replied, and they’re all Japanese.

“What are their names?” she asked.

Shit. I had to think fast. I made up a bunch of names on the spot. Tanaka Jiro, Kato Yuta, Mori Akira.

She looked at me suspiciously. Her eyes kept flicking between me and the Japanese textbook lying open on my desk.

She picked up the textbook and read through some of the dialogues where she found the names of my fictional boyfriends.

“Tanaka Jiro! Kato Yuta! Mori Akira!” she said, flipping through the textbook. “You are liar!”


And the Student of the Year award goes to . . .

I was giving a presentation about my trip to Borneo to one of the Grade 9 classes. I showed the students photos of some of the spectacular national parks. I talked a bit about the natural history of the area and the importance of protecting the Borneo rainforest.

After I had finished, the Japanese teacher asked the class what they thought.

“Isn’t Borneo beautiful?” she asked.

One boy raised his hand. I was surprised to see him volunteering to say something because he never participated in class. He was probably the most quiet and serious student in the entire school. Now that I think about it, I don’t think I’ve even seen him smile once all year.

Anyway, he raised his hand and spoke up in class for the first time ever. In all seriousness and sincerity, he simply said, “I think Sarah-sensei is more beautiful than Borneo.”

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