Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Stories from the Classroom: Unexpected Learning Opportunities

***This post sponsored by learn English like a native!  

Sometimes teachers learn just as much from their students as students do from teachers. There are days in the classroom when you feel like you’re getting off track or you end up speaking in the students’ native language more than English, but you leave laughing, having strengthened the bond of trust and comfort that is so important in foreign language learning, and end up with some hilarious stories. I wanted to share with you three funny stories from my English classroom:
1.      The topic for the day was household items. The students had lists of nouns and associated verbs, and were then instructed to describe some aspect of their daily routines using the words from the list. One student got to “shower” and asked me what it meant. I said the Russian word, but turns out I had said dusha (soul) rather than dush (shower). He looked a little confused at first, but then kind of went with it. I think his sentence was something like “I wake in the morning and my shower is good,” so I didn’t realize the problem until I tried explaining the difference between a soul and a bathtub, then everyone was very confused. 

2.      The topic for the day was food. We were listing all the fruits and vegetables we knew in English. Some foods are more easily available in the US and some more common in Russia, so we were discussing that difference. I mentioned that I hadn’t seen fresh broccoli or green beans in Russian grocery stores, and one of my students, a man in his mid-forties, said “that’s because broccoli is for women.”
…excuse me? I thought he must have gotten confused with the language, but nope, turns out he really thinks broccoli is a female food. *As far as I can tell, this is not a particularly widespread opinion amongst Russians*

3.      I was teaching during the summer at a small school with mostly middle aged adult students. Summer classes in Russia are always a bit slower, less attendance- students feel that since it is summer they have less of an obligation to attend! One lesson, one of my younger students hadn’t done his homework, and apologized saying he had a rough night. I had him tell the story in English. He explained that the night before he had gotten a call from one of his friends who had gotten into a fight at a bar, and needed his “posse” to come back him up. So my student had to go to the bar fight, to defend his friend’s honor. He ended up preventing a fist fight, and saving the day, but the aggressive friend couldn’t get himself home and my student had to let him spend the night! This led to a great discussion about cultural and gender norms, vocabulary for fighting, and slang in both languages!

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