Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Today I was testing students, in pairs. These were 'conversation' tests, since I have been teaching them, supposedly, how to have 'conversations' in English. I will not write about what I had to endure. Living through it once was enough, and I have to do it again on Thursday and Friday with other classes.

But I did enjoy the results from the other work I had them doing while I was giving these tests. I handed out a general knowledge quiz, lifted from somewhere years ago (probably from the Internet), totally irrelevant but designed to keep the class quiet(ish) while I was out of the room. (I test them in a different room.) I told them to try to answer all the questions if they could. They could use dictionaries, their phones, and their brains, and as long as the answers were all in English they'd get some points for it. They could help each other, working in groups or alone, whatever they liked.

When I had finished the testing I went back into the classroom and collected the papers, and giggled over them on my way home.

My favourite answer came from the question that said,

How many legs does a spider have?

One group of guys had obviously argued about this, because several answers had been written and then erased violently. Their final answer was, I thought, a perfect compromise, and made me laugh out loud. They had written,

About eight.

Perhaps they had met MY spider, in which case it was not only funny but perfectly accurate. My spider did not have eight legs. It had about eight legs.

Another question on this quiz that never fails to provide amusement is the one that says,

Name three deserts.

Generally about eighty percent of the students get this one wrong, and today was no exception. A typical answer read:

Ice cream, cake, and custard pudding.

It's an easy enough mistake to make, really, but I wasn't really laughing at the mistake. I was laughing at the mental picture this answer always gives me, of camels slogging over custard pudding dunes and getting caught in cake storms. (Yes, I know it's a cheap laugh, but I take my laughs where I can get them at the dag end of semester.)

In other news, my goofy student outdid himself today. I think he was worried about the test, because he arrived at class a full four hours early and managed to freak out my first period students, who had never met him properly before. He had never actually entered my first period class, although he has hung around in the corridor outside, peeking in occasionally. After I sent him out, he spent most of the day wandering the corridor, and practically everybody crossing the corridor to come to the room where I was conducting the tests encountered him and got a little fright, especially when he tried to follow them in a few times.

But at least he did all right in the test when it was finally his turn. I paired him with a boy who I thought would be kind to him (not the same one as last time - I'm not a sadist), and made sure the other boy would be kind by secretly bribing him with a higher grade if he could elicit SOMETHING from the goofy kid. This rather devious tactic worked brilliantly. The other student did better than he'd done all semester, fully deserving his high grade on the test, and the goofy kid was able to squeak through because he got so much help, prompting and encouragement from his partner.

Next week we're having last classes at that place, and I'll be interested to see what the goofy kid writes on the evaluation thing I give them to write on their last day, which has lots of space for comments. I suspect he has had a rather puzzling time. I also suspect he has failed all his other Tuesday classes, because all semester he has been coming only to my classes on Tuesdays. Not just the one he's enrolled in, but ALL of them. I'm there all day, and for most of the day he is hanging around outside in the corridor, although today was the first time he'd actually come into my first period class.

I have warned the teachers I work with who teach second year elective English classes that he might turn up in their classes next year. He seems to like his English classes, and I will be passing him. I cannot fail him. He has done all the work, come to all the classes (and then some) and his English has improved a little, which is really all you can hope for given the limitations of the course. He is, on paper, the perfect student. His problems are not academic problems, and I cannot fail him for being goofy.

The other teachers thanked me appropriately. That wasn't a very uplifting experience. In fact, I don't remember ever having so much concentrated sarcasm aimed at me before, and I am still feeling quite flattened.


Lia said...

The general knowledge quiz had me laughing, too. If I ever become a language teacher, I will keep that in mind for a great exercise.

The Editter said...

We have a famous dessert in our family that started out being called Caramel Apple Pie and has morphed into Camel and Arab Pie.

I also remember Antipo's Kevin talking about the "Calamari Desert" - not quite a dessert, perhaps they'd need dipping in icing sugar first?

Radioactive Jam said...

Even flattened you still have about two legs though, right?

Badaunt said...

Lia: I'm not sure of its pedagogical value, but as a teacher-cheering-up exercise it works VERY WELL.

The Editter: Are we related, do you think? Or maybe it's just the great minds thing...

RaJ: Last time I looked there were ABOUT two. More or less.