Friday, October 06, 2006

Hard landing, soft book

A guy who teaches sports students in the evenings was in the teachers' room as I was packing up to leave today. He was sighing and wondering what to do with his class of wrestlers.

"They refuse to speak," he said. "They don't even speak in Japanese. You know what sumo wrestlers are like in interviews on TV? My students are like that, when they're not asleep."

I do not normally watch sumo wrestler interviews, except by mistake, but I have seen one or two. They go like this:

Interviewer (Terrifically excited): Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah! Blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah, blah!!!! Blah blah blah blah blah blah, blah blah?"

Sumo wrestler (After a long pause): Ungh.

Interviewer (Even more excited): Blah blah de blah blah blah blah blah! Blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah!!! BLAH DE BLAH! Blah blah blah blah blah blah de blah. Blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah, blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah de blah!!!! Blah blah blah blah blah blah, blah?"

Sumo wrestler (After an even longer pause.): Ungh.

And so on.

I sympathized with the teacher.

"I wonder if there's anything up there to work with, actually," he said, tapping the side of his head. "Last week I showed them part of a movie. It was easier than trying to get them to speak. I just had a worksheet they were supposed to fill in afterwards. One guy was asleep when I got there, and I couldn't wake him up, so I left him alone. He looked pretty comfortable, and about as responsive as he is when he's awake. I had the volume quite high, and it was quite a noisy movie. He didn't wake up. But then suddenly there was a huge thud and I looked around and ... well, I don't know what happened. One moment he was snoring comfortably, wedged behind that tiny desk, and the next he'd somehow hurled himself to the floor. We heard his head when it hit. It didn't sound good at all."

"Good lord!" I said. "Nothing that exciting ever happens in my classes!"

"It was horrible. There was blood all over the place."

I gaped at him, riveted.

"He hurled himself to the floor hard enough to draw blood? In his sleep?" I said. "What did you do?"

"Well, of course I asked if he was OK, and if he needed to go see the nurse, but he brushed me aside and grunted. I asked in Japanese, but he just grunted again and sat down, with blood running down his face. So I gave him some tissues and left him alone. He went back to sleep."

"But what about the other students?" I asked. "They're his teammates, right? Didn't they do something?"

"They just sat there. You know how they are," he said.

I did know. They tend not to respond very intelligently to stimuli of any kind. Mostly they don't respond at all, unless they get a terrific shock. As I have mentioned before (in the second part of that blog entry), I suspect they have their English class after dinner.

The only sports students I have play soccer, but they are not actually classified as sports students. They are a couple of law students who belong to the soccer club. They told me they play soccer for four hours a day, and run for an hour. They should be tired, but they never seem to be, at least in my class. They are not like the wrestlers at all. They are full of beans.

I'm very lucky, really. My sports students spend most of the class time speaking English, as they are supposed to, and attempting to beat each other up, which they are not supposed to. But they are very funny about it and it doesn't affect their study (they beat each other up with English sound effects) so I deal with it by ignoring it most of the time, or, if they get too noisy, declaring one of them the winner and telling them to get back to work. They seem to find their lives hugely amusing.

They also like to accuse each other of domestic violence, which appears to be their new favourite English phrase. The first time they did this I remonstrated with them.

"That's not domestic violence," I said. "'Domestic' means 'related to the home,' and you don't live in the same home."

"Oh yes, we do!" they said triumphantly.

"Oh," I said. "Er... but domestic violence is a very SERIOUS problem. It's not really funny."

They nodded solemnly, all bright-eyed with suppressed laughter. They find 'serious' a difficult concept.

"We understand," they said.

As I moved away I heard behind me,

"You are a very serious problem! You are not funny!"



I turned around. They froze, one with his textbook raised over the other's head.

"Sorry, sensei!" they chorused.

I frowned severely. I do not want them thinking that I think domestic violence is funny. It isn't. (Well, not usually anyway.)

Then I had one of my less clever teacher moments.

"If you hit him hard enough with that book maybe some English will fall into his head," I suggested.

I should have known better. It's just that by Friday afternoon I'm running on empty and sometimes things just pop out. It was safer when I had a very low level last class. Having students who actually listen to me at times like that can be positively dangerous.

Oh, well. No harm done, this time at least. It was a soft textbook.


pkchukiss said...

I don't think you meant it, but it is nice to have students obeying the teacher for once!

Fuzzball said...

This story made me HOWL -- how old are your students, anyway?

Kay said...

still reading your delicious blog! I smell a someday-book......

Wiccachicky said...

Oh my gosh! I haven't laughed that hard in a long time!! I wish my students were that funny. :)

Badaunt said...

Fuzzball: They're 18. Their class has about 35 students, and they're the only ones with any energy or enthusiasm. The other students are the ones with the energy problems - they frequently fall asleep. But if I were playing soccer four hours a day and running for an hour I'd be comatose the rest of the time, I think. How come they're so exuberant?

Wiccachicky: if your students were that funny you'd probably hate them for disrupting your classes. Mine are funny in English, which is why I love them. It's an English class. If they were funny in Japanese I'd probably want to kill them. :-)