Teacher Tales - Page Nine
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I was teaching my adult ESOL class one day and the topic we were doing was different countries and nationalities. Because I have a lot of different nationalities and people weren't sure where some people's countries were I decided to put up the world map on the board and everyone came to have a look. Some how we got on to the topic of places in the world that belong to Britain, like the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. One of my students, a nice chap from Portugal who had very bad pronunciation, started to tell us that he seen an island on a travel programme the night before. He was telling us it was an island which was a long way from England so I asked him what the name was, he replied "Well, of course it's the F%$*klands, isn't it". After a few minutes when the whole of the class erupted in to laughter I finally pulled myself together enough to let the class know that what he meant to say was the Falklands. Then we looked on the map, checked the spelling and did some practice on how we should pronounce this island without offending anybody too much. Needless to say I don't think he'll be visiting it for a holiday!
I had been teaching English in Japan for 6 months, and had gotten into the habit of asking my students if they had any news in their lives before each class. One day, a university student (woman) told me "I woke up this morning, I had a big surprise". I asked what it was; she replied, "My boyfriend was in my behind". I was speechless for near a minute and she started to rephrase it. We eventually figured out that she meant, "My boyfriend snuck up behind me and surprised me". Needless to say, I never have had a dull day teaching English!
Josh Sargent, Maine, USA
One of my students, a chinese guy called Tam, earned himself the nickname "Tam comes too soon." much to my vulgar amusement. It came about because he was trying too explain why he had come to class late and came out with. "My big problem is that I always come too soon." to which Mario (Italian) immediately inserted "You can a forget about getting an Italian a girlfriend then mate." Advanced class- everyone got it ...except poor old Tam. "Anyone care to explain that one to him?" Mario jumped up and proceeded to draw a lovingly detailled diagram on the board. Oh well, it's English.
I was teaching English to 12-17 year olds at an international EFL school in London and the topic for the day was "housework" and the present perfect. First of all we did a warm up exercise when students had to identify different objects for doing the chores which I'd "borrowed" from the school's kitchens and cleaning cupboards. I had a whole assortment for the kids to look at, a dust-pan and brush, a mop and pail, washing-up liquid etc etc. and the last item no one knew what it was - so I explained that it was a "vacuum cleaner". I thought I'd do a little drill - so I got them to listen to me pronouncing "vacuum" - and wanted to get them to repeat it one by one... The first student to repeat the word was Bill from Taiwan - who had a bit of a problem with his vocal chords, i.e. anything he said came out at double the normal volume! Unfortunately, I had forgotton that Bill also had a problem with saying "v's" and all his "v's" inadvertently came out as "f's" - and so there was a shocked silence followed almost immediately with hilarious laughter when Bill said the word and it sounded awfully like "F*%& you"!! I was mortified. Needless to say - I taught the whole class the OTHER word for vacuums - hoovers!!
I was teaching an adult ESL class, and we were reading about a
relationship between a young man and woman. The idiomatic expression 'in
love' came up, and I wanted to be sure they understood exactly what it
means. I had a few married couples in my class, so I asked one of the
husbands if he and his wife were 'in love'. He promptly responded, "No,
Meredith, St. Louis
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I was working at a language school and had to go to a company to take over a course for a colleague who was on holiday. The teacher I was driving with got us to the company a bit late, so I was a bit hectic by the time I found the classroom. In order to get the students active ASAP, and to give me a chance to unpack my things, I had them spontaneously introduce each other. Normally there's no problem for the students to introduce themselves, but they always seem to know remarkably little about each other. As one student was introducing the woman next to him, he stumbled over the number of children she had. I thought that it was a problem of vocabulary and offered expressions like 'step-child, half-son, daughter-in-law' and he said 'no...not that'. I wish I had just dropped it at that point, because the woman then blatantly stated 'I had 4 children, but my son died last month'. I was horrified that I had pushed it. Since then I'm very careful about personal family questions.
Tough job right?
I am Korean, not an English-speaking person... but I teach English at a secondary school. I just happened to read Nancy's writing... asking for some advice for the rude Chinese student... I could understand her and her student, I think. He might used to be a class where he doesn't do anything... but taking notes of what teachers say... rather than participating anything... Maybe he needs more time to get used to western style class. Just little thought. Happy teaching...
Kyong-ran Lee, Korea
I was teaching an Intermediate class, and the students had to come up with adjectives to describe themselves. We had the usual contributions; 'interesting', 'hard-working', etc. Suddenly, in a strong, clear voice, Frank said, "I am eunuch!" When I recovered enough to ask, I realised that he meant 'unique'. A quick pronunciation practice session followed.
Marie, New Zealand
On the last day of class, my (ADULT) students gave me a card and a little gift. I don't remember the gift, but I still have the card. It was a sympathy card. It said something like "We are sorry for your loss". They added "of your teaching". They didn't realize that sympathy cards are intended to offer sympathy to someone who has lost a loved one to death. I didn't have the heart to explain it. I just thanked them for their kindness.
Donna Glade-Tau, Illinois, USA
I have a student who is so rude.When I asked him to answer my questions,without standing he always said in Chinese:@*?@°#£%$! One day he said to me:"Don't ask me any questions.Let me be.I dislike you,because I can't answer your questions." I said to him:"Can I help you?"He answered:"No." I don't know what should I do.Can you give me some advice? I am looking forward to your help.
I was taking an oral exam one day, as part of the end of term exams. There wasn't much space, so the students were sat in a horseshoe shape around me, and I was going around the class asking some simple questions to each student, to gauge their lower ability language skills. I got to the final student, a very attractive 19 year old girl, who was known around the school as the most attractive girl in the school. She was very quietly and politely listening to everyone else, and now it was her turn. 'So,' I said, trying to ignore her beauty and not go red, 'Could you tell me something about yourself?' 'Yes I could,' she replied in beautiful English, 'My name is Asli and I have had a huge crush on you for the past year!' This left me a shocked, gibbering wreck for the rest of the exam.
One of my students, a grandmother from Liberia who has been in the US about 5 years did the funniest imitation of how teenagers get on and off the bus with the big/wide/drag on the ground pants. She had us laughing so hard. Now new students ask her to tell the story, of course this all started by talking about one word/phrase, in style.
One of my close friends was teaching one morning in a classroom with a group he had been teaching for some months. They all got on well together and the classroom was always full of light hearted banter and laughter. On this particular occasion a student mentioned something which got all the class laughing loudly, at that moment the teacher in question lost momentary control over his bowels and let out a great cracking fart. A stunned silence followed, which luckily for the teacher in question was then followed by gales of hysterical laughter.
Richard Lee, Colchester, England
This wee story proves that even when both nationalities speak English as a first language, there are often misunderstandings! Our Australian neighbour in the States was instructing at a miliatary base and because he is a member of the Engineer Corps, was using some of its slang. "Digger" refers to someone who operates particular machinery. During the demonstration in the lesson with the soldiers, he asked for all the "diggers" to come forward..there was stunned silence...no one moved..it took him a while to click that not only had they not understood the term, but that they had also heard the initial consonant sound as another. Once my friend realised, and explained and infused some humour that only he was capable of, all the class broke out with much laughter!
Rosie, New Zealand
You know, during Soviet times, we the teachers very often were supervised by the higher officials.Once I was having my English class with the fifth graders who were just beginning their English course. a visitor, an inspector from the local department of education was sitting in the end of the classroom and observing my lesson and putting down notes. Suddenly the door burst open and one boy who was late rushed in.He obviously did not notice who was in the classroom. He sat down in his place took his textbook and then took out a handfull of chocolates and put them on the desk in front of him. I came up to the desk and whispered to him: " Put the sweets back in your bag my dear" He said loudly: "But they are for you, teacher. I simply love you".
I think you can quess what did the inspector tell me after that lesson.
I teach English at a language school that seems to be a breeding ground for mishaps and flakyness. My story is a rather straight forward one of pure "bone-headedness", with me playing the title role. I was substituting a class which had been handed to me at the last moment. No time to prepare
whatsoever. I was exiting the men's room when the emergency was thrust--literally--in front of me. "Can you hurry?" was the query. "Sure" was the reply. Moments later I stood in front of a classroom full of students (mostly female) and they all began speaking and cajoling with one another. I wondered what all the fuss was about. "On with the lesson" I prodded myself.
When the one and a half hour session ended, I noticed that the whole period had been filled with an even more hightened state of that same sort of covert snickering. "Whatever", I thought. When I was finally alone and collecting my materials and my nerves, I noticed that my fly had been wide open the whole time.
Richard George, Switzerland
I ran an ESL Academy in Lima Peru. I was contracted by an airline to prepare their mechanics for the FAA Mechanics examination in Miami Fl. I had just purchased new materials for this particular class. One of them was a British techinical english vocabulary book. I was sure I had thoroughly reviewed the new words myself before presenting them to my class. I proceeded to hand out the new material and asked my class if they had any questions. Hands raised all across the room. To my dismay everyone had the same question. "Teacher what does horney mean"? I was so embarrassed!!! In total shock I humbly said surely it is has something to do with a pointed object. When I got home I got out my trusty British English Dictionary and sure enough I was right! Whew! We all in America know what it means! Ha!
Renee Wilder, Tulsa Oklahoma
I teach ESL at an adult program at our church. One evening I was experiencing an excruiating migrane headache. At the end of class one of the students asked if he could try to cure my headache. At the point, I was willing to try anything. He told me to close me eyes and relax. Then he said he was going to put his hand on my forehead-was that ok? I said, "Sure." After ten seconds he released his hand. He asked if my headache was better. "Yes!," I replied. Later, as I was leaving the parking lot, I saw the young man again and thanked him. Then he said, "Miss Cathy, you have strong feet." Not knowing what he meant, I kiddingly replied,"Are you trying to tell me that my feet stink?" No, that's not what he was saying, and he repeated again, "Miss Cathy, you have strong feet." Finally, after several tries, we realized that he was saying I have strong "faith."
Cathy, Houston, Texas
My 1st lesson with 25 students, I was very nervous and had slept badly, in the morning I cut my finger on a knife and arrived at the univercity with a huge plaster, I took a deep breath and started to write on the white board, when I looked at the board there was a trail of red, I looked at the pen I was using it was blue. I continued to write and the line of red followed, I looked at my hands to see that blood was leaking from my plaster and it left a long mark on the board, the students were horrified,
I teach English as a foreign language to business people. One day I was with a group of top executives explaining what areas and activities we were going to be doing that day. I finished my 'little presentation' and told everyone, "Well, let's get started," while turning to join the group. And then I briskly walked face first right into a wall!!
Several of the gallant gentlemen rushed to see if I was OK. Although I wanted to crawl away with the little dignity I had left I managed to laugh it off by saying that was just my little way to break the ice. There are days!
One day I had walked into my classroom and all the children started laughing I thought nothing of it. All day I got stared at, laughed at and even pointed at. Then finally I had enough and I pulled one of the children over to the side and asked them what is everyone laughing at, she said " You have toilet paper hanging off you dress!!!" I was never so humiliated before in my life!!!
Christina, Middlebury Connecticut