Friday, December 02, 2005

Messages from a madhouse

I feel as though I've just emerged from several weeks in a dusty cave full of noisy delinquents. I am exhausted. This week has been frustrating, exhausting, and funny. How do the people have energy to go out on Friday nights? I can barely make it home.

I've been taking notes on my rapidly-becoming-indispensable Palm, and they read like messages from a madhouse. I will expand on them as I have time. They are very, very short, but I know what they mean.

This one is from Wednesday. Others will follow sometime.

Psychic/not psychic diarrhea (says the Wednesday note)

One of my favourite classes, which is also my most intractably unteachable, is a class of eighteen-year-olds at a women's university. They are convinced that they are incapable of learning English, and I refuse to believe them. They think I am mad, but seem to like me anyway. I've been teaching this class since April, and so far they have learned one word. I have written about this before. (The word is diarrhea.)

On Wednesday one of the students came up to me and grabbed my new turtleneck long-sleeved t-shirt by the shoulder. This student has a voice like a foghorn, and likes to use it. I looked at her, and she looked at me, and I knew exactly what she was going to say. So I turned my head to face the rest of the class, spread my arms, and we yelled it in unison:


It was brilliantly silly. The other students thought we'd rehearsed it, but we were as surprised as they were. It turned out that she works at one of the Uniqlo outlets part-time. I hadn't known that.

When the laughter died down she said (in Japanese), totally shocked,

"How did you know what I was going to say?"

"I'm psychic," I told her. "I can read your mind." I tapped my temple. (My contact lens did not fall out).

I think she believed me.

In the same class, I had them doing the 'accidents' game. They've finished the 'aches and pains' one, and it went so well I thought they might be willing to try something similar even with the more difficult language.

They were. The game went well, and they had fun (and might have even learned something). I had them doing the mime game with that as well, and it was a hoot. They couldn't remember the vocabulary, so even when it was clear what sort of accident the mimer was having they'd be yelling and screaming in Japanese, saying, "I KNOW! I KNOW!" while frantically looking for the words on their papers, and then yelling out, "YOU WALKED INTO A DOOR AND BROKE YOUR NOSE!" in appallingly accented English. (I'd made them write all the sentences out before, and they had to say them properly or they wouldn't get the point.)

Right at the end one student mimed sitting on a tack. She sat down and shot straight up again clutching her bottom. That was funny enough, but before anybody could even begin looking for the right sentence the Uniqlo student leaped up, pointed at her, and bellowed,


I should have seen that one coming, but I didn't. I guess I'm not psychic after all.

There was no point in trying to restore normality and continue the class after that, so we finished fifteen minutes early. When I left the classroom most of the students were still collapsed in their chairs, wiping their eyes and emitting wailing, exhausted little giggles whenever they looked at each other.

As I went down to the teachers' room I wondered whether it was time to teach the class another word. The teachers in the classrooms around me must be tired of the frequent shouts of "DIARRHEA!" from my room. But which word? I was so preoccupied by this thought that I completely forgot the teachers' room doorknob hazard, and got a huge static zap.

You can work up a real charge, laughing.


Cheryl said...


Really stumped for anything intelligent to say - laughing too much.


Faerunner said...

Ditto. :D

Wiccachicky said...

Your classes always sound so fun! Mine are probably incredibly boring in comparison. I'm glad you're on the other side of the globe so my students can't compare me to you! lol. :)