Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Kids say the darndest things

As an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher, any given day has its jumble of funny stories. Here is a collection of anecdotes I hope I never forget.

One little guy in Bear class is pretty smart but not at all interested in learning.  He'd much rather sneak off to empty classrooms or the playroom if he's feeling especially ornery.  He always speaks Korean during my lessons and drags other students down with him in his mischief.  I'm allowed to hug him now and then, but usually he's much too cool for that.
One day he traipses into the classroom with a huge frown and his head drooping.  "What's wrong?" I ask.  He looks up at me, tears welling up in his eyes and his bottom lip trembling.  He mumbles something in Korean, then collapses onto my shoulder sobbing. What in the world!? I call for Iryne to come over from next door. She speaks to him, and after a quick translation I find out he doesn't like his shoes. They look like girl shoes. Not so tough now, huh?

I told Iryne I'm so frustrated some days because I can't understand Korean.  I know the kids are saying hilarious things all the time, but I just hear jibberish.  She told me a few funny stories so I didn't feel left out. 
One day the kids were talking in hushed voices at playtime so Iryne snuck over to eavesdrop.  A little girl (the one whose mother wrote me a note saying her daughter wanted to get to know me more) was lecturing a small group of kids. Iryne heard her instructing, "Now, we have to love Shelly and Iryne because they are our teachers. They take care of us and teach us things." All the kids nod and agree.  The girl continues, "But we have to love Shelly Teacher a little bit more than Iryne...." One kid spoke up, "Why?" The girl responded, "Because Shelly is here all alone. Her family is very far away, so she needs a little extra love."

I have a little girl in Bear class who is really enthusiastic and thrilled to be in preschool but also happens to have a short fuse. If I don't call on her every time, she moans in frustration. Sometimes I think she might be cursing in Korean. She is the same way with kids who don't share at playtime.  She comes tattling about four times during that 20-minute span of time. I bring the perpetrator over and attempt to mediate.  This usually involves a lot of charading, as the kids understand only very simple English at this point.  I gesture good and bad behavior with thumbs up and down, attempting to act out hitting and stealing toys.  Eventually, I just make them apologize to each other one at a time, and finally they close the deal with a hug.  One rather strange boy, who is either slouched in his chair in utter boredom or literally bouncing off the walls laughing hysterically, offended my short-fused girl. As I was wrapping up the apologies, he stopped mid-sentence. "I'm sor..." He looked up into the girl's eyes, staring intently, brow furrowed. He pointed one finger at her face, then proceeded to pluck a booger from her nostril as he said her name, "Huni..." I sent them back to playtime before I doubled over laughing. I guess that's how real friends make up after a fight.

The kids are learning simple things like colors, body parts, and weather.  They are starting to use short sentences like, "It is green," but usually I get one word answers.  However, lately they've taken to imitating Iryne and me. I didn't realize this, but if someone is acting out, I often say, "Heyheyheyheyhey what are you doing? Stop that." A few kids enjoy mocking me when I do this.  They also mimic Iryne, who always says, "Wait a minuuuute," when the kids are bombarding her with questions.  When she says this, she puts one hand up, in a halting gesture. The kids really enjoy imitating this one. Their imitations are usually in good humor, and they don't even know what they're saying most of the time.  One day we were finishing coloring letter "G," so I told the kids to clean up the crayons.  One boy wasn't cleaning up so I walked over and said, "Alright, let's go, clean up!" He looked up at me, very calmly raised one hand and responded, "Shelly Teacher, wait a minuuuuuute." He bent his head and finished coloring letter "G."

I have an advanced class twice a week in the afternoon after preschool.  Unlike the rest of the stick-thin Koreans, one kid is rather plump. He is always pushing up his glasses, and he wears the same dirty green Crocs every day. They're either completely off his feet or barely hanging off his toes. No one wants to sit by him because books and papers are always spilled all over the table in front of him.  The kids also seem to think he smells, and I always overhear them calling him fat.  I feel terrible about this and really get on the kids when they taunt him. He's pretty smart and harmless but also a bit clueless.  He doesn't realize others dislike him, and he always has hundreds of irrelevant questions for me.

 For example, I started giving happy/angry faces for good and bad behavior.  I said if you get three happy faces throughout class, you will get stamps (this is a school wide thing). If you don't, no stamps for that day.  Of course he asks, "What if I get four.. or five smiley faces?" I ignore him, but he asks louder and more vehemently, "What if I get five smileys!?" I respond, "Well, then I'll pat you on the head." Later in class a girl walked in late, so I had to explain the new game.  The Croc-wearing boy raises his hand. "Yes?" He says, "Teacher! You forgot to tell her what happens if you get five smileys!" Oh dear, that was just a joke...

I gave a test in the class last week, and the last three questions were free response questions.  One question was, "How are you and your best friend alike?" One boy thought it was two questions in one, for he wrote: "I'm fine. We both like movies."
The Croc-wearing boy wrote:

"We are fat and need glasses."
At least I know he has a friend somewhere out there!

There's one boy in Calf class who is very independent.  He's probably the smallest kid in class, but he likes to do everything on his own. I have to wrestle him after a visit to the bathroom to help tuck his shirt back in and adjust his underwear, which are usually down at his knees.  It takes a few minutes, but he always wants to find the page himself.  When he was clean-up helper he ran up everytime I tried to throw anything in the trash and did it for me.  Lately he started called me Shelly instead of Teacher or Shelly Teacher; he's mature like that.

After finishing a page of their Alphabet Books, everyone was shouting, "Teacher, TEACHER! I'm FINISHED!!!!!!" I told them to please wait nicely, I have to check each of your books.  Kids were throwing books across the table, still yelling at me that they'd finished.  I must have looked pretty stressed because the next thing I know, I feel tiny little fingers digging into my shoulders. Next, fists are pounding gently across my back.  I turn around to find Mr. Independent giving me a full-on back massage.

My personal masseur

1 comment:

  1. Oh my word those stories were making me laugh SO HARD! It's also ironic, because one of my patient's wife picked her husbands nose for him the other day. A way to apologize and also an act of true love!