Friday, October 22, 2010

Ask Teacher Rebecca your most awkward question

How do you explain to your class of students, in your most proper English, a sexually explicit phrase?  With illustrations, of course!

It started when I was using the technique of drawing a picture on the white board to help understand a vocabulary question my student was asking.  So confident, such a great, creative teacher.  Repeat that phrase, I asked her.  It doesn't quite make sense, I said, as I illustrated the first word, lips, with a big set of smackers on a cartoon face.  What is the second word, I asked again?  Repeat so the whole class can hear.  Downstairs, she said in a thick accent.  Down, where?  Oh, stairs!  I started drawing stairs before I froze.

Taking my sweet, unknowing student aside, I asked in sotto voce, where did you learn this phrase?  She replied, mimicking my low tones, "From a Tokyo Police Club interview.  He said something about kissing? They're one of my favorite bands."

I erased my illustration with the back of my hand and told my student I could describe what that meant at a later time, perhaps not in mixed company.

Week 1 down.  It was off to a bumpy start, what with my perfectionism kicking into high gear (why can't you be the best the first time at something you've never done before?) but I've relaxed a bit and tonight was just fun. I love my pre-intermediate class, askers of inappropriate questions. We meet every weeknight.  They're loud and eager to speak in English, interrupting each other when someone is not working fast enough.  The class ranges from two teen-aged girls to men who are journalists to two women who, as doctors in their 50s, obviously led the way on the path to equal rights.  I can't wait to hear their stories, in a place where women only recently began working outside the home.

Last night, after a rambunctious round of role-playing, the two teen-aged girls stayed after class.  Teacher, what are you doing after tomorrow night's class, they asked me.  While I debated whether I'd buy my Milka chocolate bar and a bottle of wine BEFORE going home or stop at home to drop my books off first, they interrupted my daydream of doldrums and asked me to go out with them.

Hangin' with the high schoolers on a Friday night might not sound like I've found my community, but these girls are so sweet and funny and dream big dreams, I feel I have two new little sisters.  One of the girls brought her younger brother to meet the American.  Poor kid, he sat through 90 minutes of  English, his only consolation a mocha piled with whipped cream while he patiently observed three girls and another 2 hours of unintelligible chatter. Plus the hysterical laughing when "teacher" finally explained the lips downstairs comment.  (I made sure he didn't understand ANY English.)

I don't know whether to curse you or thank you, Tokyo Police Club. Not my finest hour of teaching, but probably the most fun. 

Cartoon robots have nothing to do with Tokyo Police Club or a night in Kosovo, but this popped up when I googled "cartoon drawings of people" and who doesn't love a cartoon robot?


Katie Bond said...

love this story Rebecca - so funny!

Shannon said...

I second Katie - hilarious!! Rebecca, have you considered writing a book ever? Your writing is amazing, and engaging... I love it. As I was reading this post I was thinking about a book I read called The Places In Between about a guy who hiked across Afghanistan... a simple story... but it was just so interesting because it's a culture and situation most Americans aren't familiar with... I thought of that book and thought what an amazing book you could write along the same lines -- well not about hiking across Afghanistan but of your teaching experiences in Kosovo -- I dunno... I'm just saying you're an amazing writer and I'd read it if you wrote it. :)

Rebecca Snavely said...

My mother just said the same thing -- that she was reading Frances Mayes book "Bella Tuscany: The Sweet Life in Italy," and thought of me, of the descriptions of daily life and introducing people to a new place that way. I'm going to start more detailed journaling now. Thanks for the lovely comment and encouragement. xoxo