My students are creatures extremely inventive and, as often as not, extremely annoying. When these qualities combine, less resilient teachers go mad and teachers who won’t be messed up with, like me, switch into a defence mode which borders on offence mode. Let it be stated for the record that as long as a group of people doesn’t behave like people, I don’t feel obliged to treat them as people.
A curious situation occurred in the last class when I, as per usual, asked my class to put up their name tags. While one would expect them to be adjusted to this routine, they usually either forget what a name tag is (their English is somewhat limited, for students of English), or forget their name tag and spend five to ten minutes crafting a new one or come up with something which they probably deem funny. Such as the student who put in front of himself a piece of paper reading B.I.G. DADDY.
I wasn’t as much thrown off balance by the sheer cheekiness of his action as rather curious to find out what the hell the guy meant by it. I’ve been marked by my years spent at the philosophical faculty too much to settle for the explanation that things don’t mean anything. As I was trying to crack the puzzle, I had a brief conversation with the offender in the same tone in which he initiated it. That is, not precisely a model troubleshooting teaching method.
I shared my opinion with the perpetrator and the class that his parents must have hated him fiercely if they named him this and concluded that I would hereafter take the liberty of calling him You, you know whom I mean (YYKWIM), which shall have the beneficial effect of teaching the class the usage of whom. YYKWIM went red in his face but otherwise remained nonplussed. He probably likes to embarrass himself in public.
The remainder of the class proceeded in the same mood, as it happens to be my most difficult group, consisting of thirty or so worst individuals thrown together to amplify the effect. I did my best to move around to intimidate the most disruptive students with my physical proximity (that didn’t work out too well, probably given my sweet-looking appearance – ha!) and aim my questions at those who were the loudest at the given moment. I didn’t shy away from sarcasm and outright humiliation.
Teacher: Exercise one, page one twenty three, read the example please, Student A.
Student A: (no response)
Teacher: Hey, Student A!
Student A: Wut?
Teacher: (repeats request)
Student A: (no response)
Teacher: Will someone please poke Student A to wake her up?
Student B: (stops playing Candy Crush and makes to poke Student A on Facebook)
Teacher: Next sentence, please, Student C.
Student C: Where are we?
Teacher: That’s for you to know.
Student C: (nothing)
Teacher: Now, that’s a tricky sentence, so will you translate it into Czech, please, Student D?
Student D: (remains quiet)
Teacher: Well? Working on it?
Student D: Dunno.
Teacher: Will someone help your colleague out, preferably someone who speaks English?
I enjoyed my class more than I probably should. The students seemed to have less fun than me, but it clearly didn’t occur to them to reconsider their attitude. While I felt accomplished in my demolition of the class, I was somewhat disconcerted by one student’s question at the end as to when their regular teacher is coming back. I wonder if the student asked because their regular teacher manages them better. But then, she probably wouldn’t have ended up going insane.