Sunday, May 14, 2006


Thursdays and Fridays turn me into a zombie, which is why you don't hear from me at the end of the week. There is too much happening in my head from the moment I wake up until my head hits the pillow at the end of the day, so that if I get time to sit down at the computer I am not capable of writing anything coherent. I try, sometimes, but don't do very well.

This Friday I thought I was well prepared. When I got to work I had access to a photocopy machine and decided to photocopy some pages of a text workbook to give the students for homework. I managed that, but it made me ten minutes late for class because the machine was acting up. When I turned up in class the students were all ready with the homework I'd given them last class, which was the EXACT SAME PAGES OF THE WORKBOOK I'D JUST PHOTOCOPIED. I had no memory of giving it to them, and no memory of having photocopied it before. Nor had I made a note of it.

On Friday mornings I may seem to be functioning, but obviously something is missing. At the very least my memory is not working. It is good to know that at least I'm consistent - I get the same bright ideas whether I remember already getting them or not - but it was annoying to have to lug around all those photocopies, particularly when both times my bright idea involved giving them five pages of the book. For 30 students that meant 150 pages. When I collected the homework I had to carry the new photocopies AND the old ones, making 300 pages in total, along with all the other stuff I was already lugging. Oh my aching back. Do you know how heavy paper is? VERY.

After the first two classes I took everything over to the other campus and got rid of the new photocopies by leaving them in the teachers' room, as a favour to other teachers who might need them. (So that I wouldn't have to carry or store them, actually, but I'm pretending I was being magnanimous.)

Half the teachers seem to have a weird sort of cough that is doing the rounds. It is a nasty one. I have it, too, and we're all blaming allergies and/or the yellow sand from the Gobi desert that has been plaguing us recently. Some of the students have it as well. In that same first class a student turned up thirty minutes late while I was giving a dictation, and he coughed and coughed and coughed, making it difficult to continue with the dictation. I hunted in my bag for a cough lozenge and discovered I'd left them over on the other campus in my locker. However, I had some curiously strong Altoids, so I offered him one to see if that would shut him up. I opened the tin and he took one. So did I, and popped it in my mouth. My throat wasn't feeling great either.

"These are peppermints," I said. "They might help."

He stared uncomprehendingly and thanked me, somewhat uncertainly.

I went back to the front of class and prepared to continue the dictation. The students picked up their pencils, ready to start writing again, but before I could begin the coughing student held up his Altoid, turned to his friend, and broke the silence with a hushed, wondering, croaky question,

"Is this CHALK?"

This made me double over and laugh so suddenly and loudly that everybody looked up, surprised.

But I couldn't help it. With one question the student had confirmed what I always suspected: the students do not think their gaijin teachers are human. I mean, how else do you explain the fact that he thought I was eating chalk?


Cheryl said...

Love altoids almost as much as Trebor's extra strong mints.
And neither of them taste like chalk!

Carrie said...

Great story! Can you just imagine what was going through his mind? LOL