Friday, December 5, 2008

Why I will soon be selling discounted knife sets. Lifetime guarantee! Call for more details!

So, I've written before about my magical teaching experience wherein the children are all smiling, eager cherubs and we practice the ABCs to the dulcet tones of a harp being gently strummed in the background. Yeah. We're going to call that beginner's luck and then never speak of it again. Yesterday was unfortunately one of those much more common days where the kids were little shits and I kind of wanted to kill everyone.

I asked the kids to name some bands they know for a little I like/I don't like practice. After listing Fallout Boy, Sum 41, NTM, and Tokio Hotel, someone mentioned the Beatles. This was followed by snickering, which I ignored. "Yes! The Beatles!" I said. I pronounced it as we do, so it sounds like beedles. "Bee-TULZ," the boy corrected me, emphasizing the t and stressing the second syllable. I decided to let this go, and simply repeated, "Yes! The Beatles!" But not content to just let it be, he shook his head, and then insisted, slowly and clearly as if he was speaking to an idiot, or a five year-old, or a five year-old idiot, "No, no. Bee-TULZ!" Oh no, he is not correcting me in my own language, I thought. "Well thank you for that pronunciation lesson," I snapped, "BUT I SPEAK ENGLISH!"

I've also run into a problem lately wherein the kids are much more interested in chatting with their friends/dropping pens on the floor repeatedly/listening to the sound of their own shrill little voices than they are in anything that's going on at the front of the room. With my repeated shushings quickly losing their effectiveness, I decided it was time for a good old-fashioned yelling. Instill a little fear in them, or at least shock them into silence for a few minutes, I thought. First, I gave it a go in English. It is my first language, after all, not to mention that it is, of course, an English class. And so I gave them a stern talking to. I orated, I gestured, I lectured and I gave ultimatums. It was quite impressive, if I do say so myself. The problem being, of course, that they didn't understand a blessed word. They blinked at me for a few seconds, and then, probably assuming I had just given a dramatic reading of my grocery list or something, went right back to chatting loudly with their friends. I learned my lesson, and so the next time I needed to yell, I went at it in French. The problem this time being that while I am quite comfortable being a hard-ass in English, in French it becomes a bit more complicated. I found myself searching for words, tripping over my tongue, making grammatical mistakes and then backtracking trying to fix them, a problem that worsened the more upset I was. It just kind of takes the oomph out of a scolding, you know?

And so when one girl, who had been a loud, obnoxious pill the entire class period, stood up at the end as if it was time to go, when it was not in fact time to go, I knew I had a choice to make. I took a deep breath and decided to go for the French. I had had enough and I wanted her to know it. "You know," I said, "if you want to leave so badly, you can." A tiny glimmer of hope appeared on her face. "You are more than welcome to join your teacher and your other classmates in the computer lab if you want." Her face fell, and she sat back down. "No, really," I said. "It's not worth it for you to be here if you don't want to be. So. Do you want to stay? Do you want to keep playing the game with us?" And that's the worst part, really, is that I have to go through all of this, and all we do in the class is play games. You would think I was making them copy the dictionary or something, but no.

"But that's the same thing," she said. "Staying here and playing the game are both the same thing."

"Yes, I know," I said. "So do you want to stay? Do you want to keep playing the game?" I said again, hoping she would catch on to the fact that it was a yes or no question, and not an either/or.

"But it's the same thing," she insisted. "Those are both the same thing!"

And I finally lost it for a minute, and reverted to my old friend, sarcasm. "YES, THANK YOU FOR EXPLAINING THAT TO ME!" I said. "NOW IT ALL MAKES SENSE!" But she just continued staring blankly at me like I was the dumb one.

And so, in a few brief paragraphs I have managed to call my students "little shits" and infer that one or more of them might be "dumb." You can just send my Teacher of the Year award over right now. Yep, I'm pretty sure I've got this thing in the bag. (Now if you'll excuse me, I'll just be on Craigslist looking for another line of work. I hear telemarketing is nice).


  1. I think it's the good days, when everyone is excited and everything is running smoothly, that make you want to wring the kids' tiny little necks on the bad days. You know they're capable of behaving well, but that they (for whatever reason) are choosing not to.

  2. Hey there, I just came across your blog through BlogHer... and being in teacher's college myself, and enjoying what I'm reading through so far, I think I might just stick around! You have a great writing style. :-)

    I totally can relate to this post! In my recent teacher's college placement, I was with a bunch of grade fours who had some serious attention problems some days! LOL. It does make you want to hock knives door-to-door at times. Or maybe Encyclopaedias? Not enough Encyclopeadia sales people out on the streets these days...

  3. Teaching - not a career for the faint-hearted, is it?
    I'm a French Immersion teacher, so although the kids are mostly native English speakers, all their instruction is in French. So when I get mad, I ream them out in French - which they don't entirely understand. However, they do get the gist of it - and of course that's the vocabulary that they learn the fastest! (And it did take me a while to figure out my stock phrases like "Arrête tes niaiseries déjà! Tu m'énerves au bout!")

  4. Thanks, Steph the WW! And I will definitely try using that one next time, Pinklea. A fellow teacher told me I should say, "La gueule, petits cons!" but I think that might be a little harsh. :)

  5. Yeah, I've used "La gueule!" too, but like you, I draw the line at "petits cons"! For the same reason, I avoid anything to do with "conneries". It really is too nasty and inappropriate (except with one' peers, of course!)

  6. This is why I am afraid of becoming a high school English teacher. I don't take crap and I am afraid that I am going to beat someone's kids ass! They try to talk back to much which will make me want to use cruel and unusual punishment. I am not a very understanding person and excuses annoy me, so perhaps I should major in something else? lol