Thursday, June 14, 2012

TELL ALL: Your Funny, Outrageous, Tragic, Amazing or Unbelieveable Stories and Experiences!

Please share with us your teaching anecdotes and what you learned from them.


Patrick said...

Since my arrival in Honduras I have said that I am not here to teach English. My purpose here is to positively affect the lives of the world's most needy (and that teaching English is part of that).

Looking out across the sea of faces in my classes I piece together the personal histories of my students. Fathers who have left to work in the US. Family members killed as part of a vengeful system of clan justice. Many students are losing teeth to decay, have lost limbs, have cronic coughs, and a host of other health problems. Before the school here existed the public education system ended at grade 6. Having a high school where students are arranged with scholarships or able to work for their tution allows a way out, a glimmer of hope for students to improve their lives and communities. A promise of a job other than one here farming beans on mountain sides using slash and burn methodology.

I have seen the appreciation of this in some of the students but in almost all of the parents I have talked to. One man I talked to who is a tailor here told me. "If the school would have existed when I was young I would have a better job and my children would have a better life"

That's what I try to remind myself of when the days here get frustrating or saddening. I'm part of something bigger something better. People are earning higher standards of living through the skills that they have recieved at this school.

Kate Mastruserio Reynolds & Patrick Reynolds said...

Hi Patrick,
That is a poignant situation you find yourself in, and you have a lot of potential to change lives. That's an important responsibility.
Don't underestimate the power of English to open doors for them. Good English language skills will win them scholarships. You should aim high and help them get there.

Here are some resources:


Hope this helps.
Dr. R

Heidi Gradall said...

It´s a tradition here for the males to come to the classes to ¨meet¨ the teacher, and it´s a competition to see who can ¨win¨ the teacher. Once there´s a winner the others drop out of the class, and this has also been part of my experience. It´s good to know so as not to be completely discouraged when nobody comes to the classes, which has unfortunately happened quite often, becuase I provide a free class, that just happens to be during the student´s vacation. I was told that I needed to keep my classes fun to have lots of students, and so when I gave a pop quiz the day I had nine students, I shouldn´t have been so surprised when I only had one student the following day and none the day after that. My greatest strugle has been attendance, and not getting discouraged when nobody comes to class. I´ve learned not to give quizes! and I´ve learned to cope with the lack of students.

Other people have given me some great ideas for the next time I find myself in this type of situation. To help students appreciate more what they have you have to take it away. If I had more time here I´d stop giving the classes for a few days to let them grow the desire to come to classes and learn while in the classes. I think the people here take for granted free English classes, because there are several volunteers who come to do the same thing, so they always come at the begining, but I think for many it´s only out of curiosity about who the teacher is.

The other idea was even better. Even though it´s a free class, make the students pay 1 dollar per class at the begining and each day they come they get a dollar back! This would be a great incentive to come to class each day. In some cases you have to do what you have to do to get people to come, even though the ideal would be that they would come every day voluntarily because they want to learn, but we all know it´s hard to fill up a classroom with students like that.

amanda.hokanson said...

Mine is a little less profound- but I found it amusing. I decided since we were going to have a Halloween dance at our school that my students should know what the heck Jack-o-lanterns were since they don't celebrate Halloween there. The best, cheapest, thing I could come up with to carve were beets- which was great because it looked like they were bleeding when you cut them. I made an example Jack-0-lantern the night before to make sure it worked. It was a more traditional face. I showed it to the students, handed them their knives and told them to go crazy. After a few minutes, I realized that I had 7 more beets that looked EXACTLY like mine. They didn't realize that you could make the face look however you wanted. So I had to draw some more up on the board and then it clicked! We even painted them orange with finger paint when we were done. So- the moral of the story is: If they don't have that concept in that culture- don't expect them to think outside the box! ;)

Flossie said...

okay, this isn´t exactly funny or tragic but i have a couple of younger teenage students who stare at my boobs all of the time. sometimes i see them completely tuning out what i´m saying while they simply stare at my boobs. i´ve even done the eyes up gesture to get me looking in the eyes. teenage boys!

Nessa said...

My students were talking to their regular English teacher about me: "She's like a real teacher, but nicer!"

SarahKjrsten said...

There is a first grader in one of my classes who has always been a distraction. Constantly talking and moving around. Since I only have each class twice a week I was trying to do things to focus his attention and to keep him from bothering the other students (moving him to a new seat, standing next to him) but the teacher who has him all of the time decided to put him into one of my second grade classes for a day.

I was blown away.

That kid is SMART. He participated in the second grade class without any hesitation and picked up on new concepts faster than a lot of the second graders. He was acting up out of sheer boredom. He was a totally different kid in science today and I loved it. And I think he loved being in the second grade class too. The second graders all accepted him really well into the classroom and when we played hangman to practice spelling our new plant words, they cheered him on when he guessed a letter correctly.

I was also impressed by how he could answer all of the questions I posed to him in class about our topic (plants) even though the second graders are learning more advanced vocabulary and concepts than the first graders (the first graders are just now learning the parts of the plants while the second graders are talking about vegetables that grown under ground as roots vs. fruits that grown on branches).

I talked to his teacher at lunch about him and she said that they're seriously considering sending him to third grade next year and I think that's a great idea. It was so awesome seeing him in a class that was at his level (and just a bit above--L+1 all the way), he really was a completely different kid. I would happily have him in with my second grade science class from now until the end of the year.

Kate Mastruserio Reynolds said...

That's so cool, Sarah.

Alek said...

I had the opportunity to go to Japan and be a counselor at the Guy Healy camps there. I taught English there the '07 summer and the next summer '08 I was assigned as an American camp director.

Being a summer camp director in Japan was a big honor for me, especially because of the fact that I am a non-native English speaker. This was a wonderful experience and yes, I do love Japanese food now.

After coming back from Japan I was determined to implement the same type of English Summer Camps in my home town in Macedonia where I come from. Three years of planning and establishing contacts took me to find seven volunteers native English teachers from Wisconsin who agreed to come and teach at the American Summer Camp in my home town. I am the director of my own summer camp now. My camp is focused on providing three weeks of quality English education for students coming from low-income families; students who cannot afford going to private English schools. I also wanted to bypass the educational setting in Macedonia where the students are ethnically divided in their schools, structuring the camp in a way that the students from mixed ethnic backgrounds will sit together, learn English from American teachers, expand their creativity and most importantly, become friends.

The organization which helped me with finding teachers from the US is Wisconsin based and they also send their teachers to volunteer at camps they have; mostly in Eastern Europe (Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and now Macedonia). They are on the lookout for more teachers volunteers who will be willing to spend their summer in eastern Europe and teach English. The name of the organization is WIESCO.

Mikayla Schroeder said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mikayla Schroeder said...

Here's my tragic story:

I took my class outside to review action verbs and play Simon Says outside, well two boys got into a fight of actually punching and pushing each other, so I yelled at them to stop and that didn't work so I split them up and started giving them a lecture. Well one of the boys had to throw one last punch so I grabbed his arm pulled him aside to a tree and said, "We may be outside but this is still class, you do not act this way in my class. Stay here for five minutes until we finish this game." When we were finished with the game I told the students to head back inside. Well, this boy took off running. I thought he was going inside again, but then I realized he was crying. He hopped on his bike and took off for home. Needless to say, I never saw him again the following last three days of class.

I felt bad too,(and still do) because it wasn't just his fault. I should have punished the other boy too.

cjdrummer said...

Here's an experience:

I was with the second grade class today. I got there, and there was one girl left who was finishing up a test. She has a really hard time reading in English, so the teacher had me sit with her and read her the questions out loud. It’s amazing how much of a difference it made to read her the question vs. her trying to read it on her own. She was able to correctly answer all of the questions. She gave me a hug when she finished, it was very gratifying. I wonder if she has access to a tutor to help her with her reading. She is way behind her classmates and I can tell that it upsets her. I should ask the teacher about it next time.

cjdrummer said...

Last week the fifth graders were taking a test. The ones who finished early were allowed to draw pictures. Almost all of the students made me a drawing/ card thanking me for my help with their class. It was so adoreable! I am so glad that it was not my last day of class or may have started crying!

Cait said...

Well I'm not sure if this falls under outrageous, unbelievable or just frustrating- but I thought this was the appropriate blog topic to share this thought under. Today my students had their final exam. Because it was their third month (for both sections) it was a longer test with information from the last three months. The other months are only a shorter quiz. The students were very nervous because of the length of it- however I had no control of, nor even knew, how long it would be. So I was given the tests at 4:55 to give to my students at 5. After distributing it to everyone, I thought I would sit down and read through the exam to know what was on it and to know how to answer any questions if they had any.

Well anyhow, this took me about one hour to look through the whole thing and to answer the questions. I did not do the writing section (which would have added time since it was writing a 3 paragraph essay.) This does take into account time watching the students to make sure no one was cheating and answering questions, but regardless this was a long time for me, as a native speaker, to take the exam. I recall during Methods last semester Dr. Reynolds had told us we should expect it takes the students at least 2-3 times longer to do an assignment since they are non-native speakers. If that is the case the 6 page single spaced exam should have taken them 2-3 hours. They were only given 2 hours maximum.

With that I believe many of them felt rushed and didn't do the best job possible. I think they were more concerned about getting all the answers on the paper rather than making sure they were all correct- or that they even followed the directions properly. I feel badly because I know many of them know more than the exam grade will demonstrate (which is often the case for written exams anyhow) but I believe it was due to the length of the exam.

Additionally, during the exam- I noticed one student, who really shouldn’t be in that level anyway, was really struggling with the exam. Most of the questions were left blank and he/she only looked around the room for the majority of the time. Any time I looked over at the student, he/she looked away and didn’t make eye contact. Furthermore when I asked if there was a specific question or needed help- the answer was always no. I’m not sure what I should have done differently – if anything – in this type of a situation. Any suggestions?

Finally, on a lighter note, one happy moment I had was when talking about the next month and who was coming back (since some students travel), they asked me if I would be their teacher next month. I told them it wasn’t guaranteed yet, but it looked as if it would be that way. Many of them smiled and seemed happy with that idea, so that made me feel good that they wanted me again as their teacher. I don’t know if it is so much to say I’m a good teacher as much as there is good student – teacher rapport. They have been quite the handful the last two months, but I have really grown to like them and we have a good atmosphere in the class which leads them to feel comfortable to participate or be in front of the class- which I like.

Cait said...

@ cjdrummer
It is surprising how much a difference reading or speaking can make sometimes. I think it is so true that we all have our individual strengths and it was good you were there to help here- but it was clear she knew the information. I think this is just the opposite for some of my students. I often say things 3-4 times sometimes and very slowly or in different ways and they pretty much just shut down until they see it written.

As for your second example with the pictures, it made me remember a very touching moment with my little munchkins. For the first month, I had little 6-8 year olds once a week for 2 hours a week for 4 weeks. With this they didn't know me very well, however on the last day one little boy still brought me a good bye picture that I thought was so cute, and three other students gave me goodbye hugs. It was very touching!

MC said...

The most difficult thing about teaching online is the run around. Two students I have tutored seemed to have vanished. They stopped going to their lessons, they would make commitments and not keep them. It gets frustrating when you plan a lesson specifically for them and they don't show up. I know they don't see the lessons as mandatory like their school English classes, but it would be nice to get an update saying they wont be at our lesson for the day.
One thing I do appreciate is the energy my tutees have. When they decide to show up, they are enthusiastic about learning or knowing tat I can help them with parts of their English homework they did not understand. Online teaching has been an experience in patience, a quality I quickly found I do not have a lot of, but as the weeks went by, I have been getting better.

Heather said...

Not particularly profound, but funny in a rather embarrassing way:

The second to last day of camp we had a talent show. Each class was supposed to come up with some sort of song and/or dance to perform. My class picked the song "Welcome to Lithuania." It's a fun, catchy song, but it does talk about Lithuania being "the land of the beautiful ladies." It didn't have anything too horrible, and the girls in my class all liked it, but there were just a couple of lines that my supervisor thought ought to be edited. We came up with alternate lyrics, and it should have been fine. Only catch was, we couldn't find a karaoke version of the song, much less sheet music, anywhere!

The day of the talent show came, and I had finally decided the simplest thing would be to just turn down the volume of the song when the problematic lines came up. We didn't have a chance to actually practice in the auditorium, but we had done it half a dozen times in class, and it went well.

Our class went up, and we started having problems from the beginning. We had the website with the song pulled up, but the thing would not play! A quick YouTube search later and we found another copy, but not before the audience started looking annoyed. So we played the song, and then it came to the first moment I needed to cut the music. I pushed mute, the sound turned off, I pushed mute again, and the sound didn't turn back on!

A moment later and I realized I wasn't going to be able to get the sound back on. I hissed at my students, "Come on! You know this! 'Welcome to Lithuania . . .'" They actually managed quite a respectable couple rounds of the chorus a capella, even getting into it and dancing a bit, and then it was over and they took their bows.

I felt absolutely mortified, like I had utterly ruined their big moment for them, but talking to them later several students actually named the talent show as their favorite part of camp. I guess that means I didn't traumatize them too badly :). Either way, it's definitely a reminder: make sure to double check (or even single-check) your technology before you try to use it during a live performance!

Carolyn said...

One of my favorite successes that happened during my first week of teaching in Siauliai, Lithuania has been with one of my quieter students in my homeroom classroom.

My class is a group of 11 students who are 15 years old. Most of them are from the same school but some are from different schools in Siauliai and others from the capital, Vilnius.

I was trying to figure out ways to help the quieter student to participate. The second day of teaching, I was sharing about various accents in the Midwest via youtube and he actually smiled and laughed and it was so great to see! Inside, I wanted to jump up and down but I felt like I had to remain calm. The third day of teaching, the students and I were talking about Lithuania and basketball and on this subject, this student was so passionate and knew so much about the sport that my jaw almost dropped because I had never seen him talk like this before. In order to keep him engaged, each student has a journal and sometimes I will ask a question to the class for them to write for 20 minutes and for this student, I wrote a note in his journal that he does not have to write the questions that I give to the class if he would prefer to write about basketball and I can give him separate questions and it seems like he loved the idea because he is writing more and seems more into writing about basketball than anything else.

Jennifer Speier said...

Oh man...there are some great stories on here. I wish I could say I had similar ones, but I really don't. I love my classes, but nothing really jumps out at me at this moment.

One of my favorite moments is playing uno with the kids during break...they always get sad when I tell them I can't play with them, these are their favorite 15 minutes.

Because there are not many 'native' teachers, we get paraded around a lot. I had to go to a graduation ceremony once and one of the students uncles asked to take a picture with me, he said he was going to put it on fb.

In one of my classes we had a competition to see who could bring in the most bottle caps (to benefit orphans) and one of my students brought in 1000+. She had gone home the weekend before and there was apparently a HUGE party.

Although it isn't part of this experience, I have really fond memories of teaching in France. My little students there were so awesome. They all cried and blocked the door to stop me from leaving on my last day. I've never gotten so many hugs and beautiful cards in my life. They still talk to me online, its really sweet. I caught one of the french boys watching porn was....that counts as outrageous I suppose.

Overall the last few months have been very frustrating, trying and long for many different reasons.....but it was a good experience. It made me realize what I really want right now in my life and for that I am grateful.