Adventures from the classroom 24


I've had my feet up since returning from vacation as my summer course students are at their nursing practices until September. A few private classes and personal projects that have been keeping me sane if not busy, but my students are still managing to drive me up the wall in their absence!

The weekly Google Translated scruffy work they send in to fulfil their English course commitments is not amusing to this Mexican maestro but hey, at least they're learning something. Some of their hastily completed exercises have provided a bit of comedy gold:

According to some of these 'top level nurses':

A Consultant is . . . . a patient
A 'Ward Sister' is . . . . waiting to her brother
Measles are . . . a tratament
and an IV drip is . . . a disease

I can't wait to knock some sense into them in class!


Preaching to the converted:


Clockwise from bottom left: Edith, Skye, Kate, Dan,
Guy, Jose Alberto, Evan, Gaspar, Cuautémoc, Paula
Just before vacations we put on a workshop to a group of Mexican English teachers. They mostly worked at high schools around Oaxaca and came to learn what teaching techniques we use.

We got off to a great start on Monday as after a couple of introductions, a portly latecomer strolled into class and greeted everyone by simply saying:

"Good night!"

I couldn't help laughing, as I half expected him to wave, turn on his heels and walk out!

"Good Night Gaspar" turned out to be a real comedian. He was always cracking jokes and trying to give answers in a different or funny way.

"My weekend was . . . dangerous!" he would exclaim with a chuckle.

He certainly did like his food and drink and was forever talking about 'traditional beer' and his wife's tlayudas. He told us that he has lost a lot of weigh recently on his doctor's orders, but that didn't stop him ordering a second dinner of tacos and soda with us after seeing off a baguette, chips, two beers and a coffee.

"Hold the salad" he reminded the waiter in the taqueria, "I don't want any nasty vegetables".

The other teachers were good on the whole and keen to learn. We had a nice girl from the Istmo who taught at a university, a goody-goody high school teacher who copied everything down in her notebook (just like the students), and a rather confident ex-tourism operator from the coast who looked like Mr. Bean's cool nephew.

A couple of the teachers struggled to take the techniques on board because of their low level of English. We knew we were fighting a losing battle with Obdulia, who obstinately responded in Spanish and had to look the word 'word' up in the dictionary.

Témoc was a nice guy who worked in education administration, but had somehow wangled himself a spot on a teacher's course. His English wasn't top notch either.

"How are you Témoc?"
" . . . err . . . I am concentration!"



One highlights for me came when I tried to make them think in more of an abstract manner. After introducing the topic of food I said


"I want to be a tlayuda because I'm traditional. What food do you want to be and why?"

Jose replied that he wanted to be enfrijoladas because "I want to be in everyone's mouth"
. . . err . . . OK bro.

Then Gaspar piped up - "I want to be a magic mushroom because I want to get high"

Sometimes it was a little difficult to know if we were teaching English, or teaching language-learning techniques to the local teachers. Because our staff outnumbered those on the course it felt like we were giving workshops to our own department sometimes! Not a bad idea actually.

We went for a night out with all of them at the café and got something to eat afterwards. I think they appreciated socialising a little as most of them were from out of town and were stuck in Miahuatlán for the whole week.  

Luckily Good Night Gaspar is from here, and is now attending the TOEFL course and my conversation class, so hopefully we'll get some more classic quotes from the guy.


Spelling bee:

I'm no grammar Nazi, and not a great sticker for spelling. The students have far greater deficiencies than their continual usage of the word 'whit' (with).

Some of their errors are so sweet though. Here are a few examples:

  • biutifor - adjective, visually attractive.
    Mi mom is a biutifor person.
  • boifer - noun, a male romantic companion.
    I knowed my boifer since the high school.
  • tuwlk - verb, to communicate verbally through language
    We tuwlked about much thing in di night.
  • chicken - noun, the area of the house where food is cooked.
    My house have a big chicken very clean.
  • bery nait - adjective, exceedingly good.
    My dog is bery nait to playing with.
  • ticher - professional educator
    "Tiiiiiiiiiiiiiccccccccccccchhhhhhhhhhhheeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrr!"
  • Inglant - proper noun, the largest constituent part of the island nation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
    Inglant is in London and London is in the American Europe.
  • homwook - noun, school task to be completed outside of class
    by email - 
    GOOD EVENIN TEACHER MY HOMWOOK 


Cat calls 2:

In a previous edition, I wrote about the shouts and 'cat calls' directed at me
Now it's my turn.


Here's some of my favourite responses and slogans from class:

(responding to Spanglish)
Is this English class or espanish class?



(Greeting late students by pretending to not know them.)

"Come in, welcome to English, level 2. I'm your teacher, Phil Charter. Your path to English greatness starts here."



(When a student goes to the bathroom) - 

  • "Remember to flush!"
  • "Have fun!"
  • "Don't do anything I wouldn't!"
  • "Say hi to student B" (also in the bathroom)
  • "You can't learn English in the bathroom"



(when I spot one of those blasted communication contraptions)
"Cellphones are not your amigos."


(responding to "teeeeeeaaaaaccccchhhheeeeerrrrrrrrrr!")
"stuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuddddddeeeeeennnnnttttttt!"
"teach-a?"
"stud-ent?"
"Ayyyy ticherrrrrrrrrr"
"Ayyyyyyy eeeeessstttttuuuuudddeeeennnntttt!"



(translating Spanish demands into English)
"¿y las calificiones?"
"and the grades?"


(translating one word demands in English to Spanish)
"Cookies!"
"!Galletas!"
"Movie teacher!"
"¡Pelicula alumna!"

I give as good as I get.


Kids course:


Last year I did some lessons on music for the children's summer course. This time I remembered to take some pictures.

Left-to-right: Angel, Luis, Rafael, Sara, Lupita, Emiliano, Aaron

I walked into my first class with them and one kid excitedly shouted 
"Hello, . . . hello . . . heeelllllloooooo!!!!!
What is your name? What is your NAME? what is YOUR NAME!?!?


I hadn't had a chance to greet them, or even put my bag down. Just, give me a minute!
I'll ask the questions thank you! - I thought. 

It goes to show that children react differently than older students and don't always play by the rules.

By the end of the class we were playing various running games and team quizzes to tire them out, and they certainly weren't playing by the rules. Pushing, shoving, jumping, screaming. I'm just glad there were no tears!


We focused on food as a topic, and I got them to name restaurants in the town.
GRINGO BURGER! - They all shouted almost in unison before erupting into laughter.



In the next class I had some help from Kate and Max, and we played more food games. They were whacking the vocab on the board (and each other) with fly swatters, playing a fruit based aggressive type of musical chairs, and looking in Max's box as a memory game.

We gave them some food at the end of the class with which they were not wholly impressed. "A pear?" one little chap said, looking like he'd never seen anything green before, "what about the cookies?"

I told them about Marmite, then offered some crackers around laden with the black gold. They didn't understand much of my talk and looked at me quizzically when the indescribable taste hit their little mouths. I got the thumbs down from all but one of them. I think adults can appreciate the fun of a food that people either love or hate. The kids just hated it!

One of the older boys tried really hard to ask questions in English and asked Kate if she liked living in Mexico. "Yes" she replied. "I love Mexico"

"Se pronuncia Me-he-co" (It's pronounced Me-hee-co) said the little smart-ass 'Luipita'.
"Debes aprender la idioma" (You should learn the language)
It's funny that Kate - the most proficient Spanish speaker among us teachers - got burned by an 8 year old.


As ever, we received needless certificates at a ceremony for just doing our jobs. I'm not sure what was funniest, seeing the nervous kids going up the wrong stairs and being scared of taking their document, or when the panel gives each other certificates!

Anyway, once a year for the children's course is enough for me.