Gabe Reid, 130 TESS
There are times every week where I notice I’m attempting to capitalize on pivotal “teaching moments” outside our usual English curriculum. Whether it’s in the classroom or outside of it, they always pop up.
Like in silly circumstances when we are trash talking during Ping Pong at lunch. I barely beat a kid and then move my thumb from the left side of my neck to the right and say, “Game Over!” The best moment is when they beat me and return the gesture as all their friends laugh.
Or in more serious situations like when Simon is sitting, crying in the corner at the beginning of class and all the students are calling my attention to him. Then, suddenly, he gets up and exhales smoke from his nostrils like a raging bull as he smashes his fist into his palm while approaching the bullying culprit. “Woah, woah, buddy. Just because you are mad at him doesn’t mean you should smash his brains in. What else can you do?” There’s a better, more peaceful way to handle anger.
These moments are almost always unforeseeable. Like this week when we were teaching about food. We’ve taught basic dishes like rice and noodles, and, then, we moved on to more advanced dishes like barbecue ribs and Cesar salad.
After the new vocabulary registers for most of the kids, we play, “What’s Missing.” In this particular instance, “Chicken Curry” was missing from the board and students made their attempts at pronouncing it correctly. A few teams answer as my counterpart steps out for a phone call.
We play a few rounds and it seems most of the class is getting it. Jay is up next for team 4. He says, “Chicken Kra Ri.”
Jay is a special needs student, so I am very proud that he is so close. Often times, it is hard to get him to speak that clearly in English. However, the class ERUPTS in laughter.
When I heard their laughter, I felt my heart crack. “Why are they laughing at him? They know better than this.” My counterpart walks back in.
I reprove them and they shape up quickly. We had crucial conversations as a class about this last year — showing respect to all students and not laughing when someone gets something wrong — so it was a good time to reiterate those core values.
I give praise to Jay and his team a point.
After class, I ask my counterpart if she saw the kids laughing at Jay. She tells me that they were not laughing at him. I didn’t understand.
“Chicken Curry sounds like Chicken Kra Ri,” she says.
“What does that mean?”
Never have I ever been so relieved to hear of a child using inappropriate language in the classroom. Most importantly, the class wasn’t mocking their peer! Can I really expect 10-year-olds not to laugh at something so unexpected? I rejoice that the culture of respect for all wasn’t tarnished!
There’s nothing like being able to teach kids trash talking, emotional self-control, American cuisine, chess, or even baseball, but the best part is to watch the next generation retain what we teach them and then apply it. Not everything sticks, but when it does, it makes it all worthwhile.