Sunday, November 01, 2009


Overheard in the teachers' room:

"You smell nice, Paul. What have you got on?"

"Eh?" (Vague frown.) "I don't know. I just sat in the car with Dan."

I don't know why we all found that so funny.

Also overheard in the teachers' room, after a long rant about some investment gone bad:

"The good news is that financially I'm set for life if I die next Tuesday."

One of the teachers gave me a little present yesterday (Friday). It was in a paper bag, wrapped carefully in tissue paper. I took the bag and looked inside.

"Ooh, thank you!" I said. "Is this what I think it is? A little something to help me get through the day?"

"NO!" he said, laughing in horror. "It's for you to take home."

"But it could help ENORMOUSLY," I said. "Especially for my last class."

"Don't open it until you get home!" he said, sternly.

It was a bottle of home-made umeshu. I still think it would have gone down quite nicely before, or perhaps during, my last class.

In the classroom, dictation can get some interesting results. I took notes of three that made me smile. The first two I can understand, but I took these notes so long ago that now I can't remember what that third one was supposed to be.

Who nose?

He is wearing boring grobe.

He has just panching.

Two weeks ago on Friday my first class started to turn into a horror movie. I gave the students a little test first – something I frequently do at beginning of class to encourage punctuality (and alertness). Right after the test, one of the best students, who was looking very pale, excused himself to go to the toilet.

Twenty minutes later he had still not come back, and I was starting to worry. I knew he had planned to come back, as his bag was on his chair and in any case if he had to leave he is the sort of person who would have informed me.

When half an hour had passed and the pale student had still not come back, I asked his friend to go and check that he was all right. His friend tried to phone him first, but although he got a ringing tone there was no answer. This worried me even more. Usually when students disappear to the 'toilet' for long periods it's because they want to chat with someone on their phone. (I have a student in my last class on Fridays I have nicknamed (but not to her face) Toilet Girl because she used to 'go to the toilet' for thirty minutes every week, during class. She stopped doing this when she realized that I was noticing and adjusting her class points accordingly, but the nickname has stuck.)

The pale student's friend went down the corridor to see what was going on.

Ten minutes later he hadn't come back, either.

I wondered what to do. I poked my head out the door and peered down the corridor. It was empty. I turned back to the class, which had fallen silent. The students were looking as spooked as I was feeling.

We all stared at each other, frowning worriedly.

"Well," I said, finally. "That's two gone. Who wants to be number three?"

Nobody volunteered. We resumed the class, somewhat subdued.

A couple of minutes later the pale student's friend came back.

"Is he all right?" I asked, anxiously.

"Yes," said the student. "Er, no. He drank too much last night."

That was a relief. I picked up the pale student's name card, and on the back, where I usually write their absences and test grades and things like that, I wrote the date and the word, "Hungover."

He is a good student, and I am impressed that he managed to turn up for a nine o'clock class if he was feeling that bad. He scored well on the test, too, but I guess that was all he could manage before his stomach rebelled. He is a quick learner, and I expect he learned something quite valuable.

Student trying to figure out the past form of the verb 'check'.

"Chook?" he asks his friend, who looks doubtful.

There was a question in the text about sleeping habits. Out of sixteen students, only three got more than five hours sleep a night. When I asked them why, it turned out they were mostly watching TV or talking on the phone with friends. One or two were working at their part-time jobs.

I suspect them of napping frequently during the day. In fact I know they nap frequently. They are napping when I walk into the classroom and inconsiderately wake them up.

We have talked about this in the teachers' room. None of us can remember ever falling asleep during class at university, or even wanting to, no matter how sleep-deprived we were, and none of us could remember wanting to nap during the day, anyway. Even as ratbag students we felt that the whole purpose of being in class was to learn something, and it never occurred to us to go to a class and then sleep through it.

But here it is normal behaviour, especially during lectures. (Less so in our classes because we annoying English language teachers always insist on our students doing stuff.)

The hungover student returned yesterday, looking much better. When I handed out the name cards he took his and went back to his seat near the back. He looked on the back of the card and saw what I'd written.

"Hungover?" I heard him say. "What does that mean?"

His friend looked at the card, and shrugged. "Look it up," he suggested.

I continued calling names and handing out cards, feeling happy. That class is lovely. There is one teeth-grindingly horrible student but he comes so infrequently it doesn't matter.

It took the two guys a little research to find out what 'hungover' meant ('hungover' is not in the dictionary, but eventually they hit on 'hangover'). I had forgotten all about it when I heard the hoots and shouts of laughter from the back of the room.

I always start that class with conversations, and heard the word 'hangover' being used a LOT yesterday. There was a lot of teasing.

New vocabulary is always remembered better in context.


Hana said...

Nice post! Keep 'em coming : )

Diana H. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Diana H. said...

Hi from Argentina!
Context, sure... There's nothing like experience to get to our students' heart (and print some new vocabulary there).
Enjoyed your post! :)