HCMC Dining Guide

Thursday, December 16, 2010

"He walks like he has Dyslexia"

This past Monday I began a two-week substitution gig at a school in District 1. The class is much different from what I've been doing, since it's Monday-Friday from 2-4 p.m., and I don't just teach English. We also cover Science, Maths (as the subject is called in most places outside of the U.S.(also, me teaching math is a complete joke)), and Social Studies. I'm pretty happy about this, since teaching ESL day in and day out can get rather repetitive. There's only so many times that you can hear a recorded dialogue without getting tired of it. Since I haven't had many hours recently I was more than happy to take the temporary position, and that was before I heard about the students in the class. The vice-principal informed me that there were only four kids, and they were nearly fluent in English, which sounded fantastic. This post is dedicated to those students, two of them in particular.

The class is an even split gender-wise: two girls and two boys. There's Mary and Annie (younger students at schools here choose English names to make life easier for us linguistically challenged Westerners. I've been here over three months and still have trouble pronouncing names like Ngan, Ngoc, Quynh, and Duyen) the sweet, quiet 11-year olds; devious Lucas, who is 10; and the irrepressible, diabolically brilliant Bill, an insanely precocious 8-year old. Those two boys have provided some fantastic entertainment over the past two days.

Let's start with Lucas. He has a bit of a mean streak in him at times. He constantly picks on Bill, and vice versa, in a seemingly endless competition to prove which of them is smarter. Lucas is especially proud of one insult he created: gayster. He described its formation for me the other day: he took the word "gangster" and simply replaced "gang" with "gay." He applies this term to Bill many times throughout class. He also gets pretty physical with Bill. Today, in fact, he inadvertently shoved Bill into the corner of a desk that was resting against the wall. Bill's ribs cracked into the table and he was instantly on the ground in tears. Lucas' disposition changed immediately from swagger to contrition, as he got down on the floor and patted Bill's back, begging me not to tell the principal what had happened. Lucas also loves to ask about curse words, which makes me feel a little uncomfortable. On Monday he wanted to know what "asshole" and "what the hell!" meant, which I did my best to explain. He also spelled out several others, which I chose to ignore. In addition, he's one of the most Westernized students I've taught. His favorite actor is Jack Black and he is a big "School of Rock" fan, and he uses a good bit of American slang. Lucas is definitely a character, but it is Bill that is truly one-of-a-kind.

The other teachers warned me about Bill before I started the class, telling me that he was an "evil genius." This is a pretty apt description. He isn't a bad kid, he just never stops talking and is easily bored because the books are too easy for him. Some of the stuff he says amazes me. For example, we played a game called Word Race the other day, where I divide the board into a number of boxes and students choose a word to place in the row, one letter per box. The first person to fill all of the boxes in their row wins. Bill's first word choice was "pnuemonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanisis," which he assured me was the longest word in the English language. I now know that it is an actual word, a disease to be specific, but I rejected it since I had never heard of it, and told him to choose another word. So, what did he pick this time? How about "antidisestablishmentarianism," a phrase coined by a 19th century British political writer. I accepted it, since I've heard of the word before, but I couldn't believe he had. Needless to say, he won the game.

Another entertaining moment came when he suddenly asked me to explain what "goddamn" means. I should pause briefly to mention that Bill, and Lucas as well, will ask questions completely out of the blue that have absolutely nothing to do with the lesson for the day. Sometimes I wonder where their minds are wandering. Anyway, Bill said that his old teacher told them that "goddamn" was a bad word in America but OK to use in the UK. I told him I'm not sure about the UK but that it is definitely a curse word in the U.S. I continued on, saying that the person using the phrase was basically asking God to damn something. "Well, what does it mean to damn something?", asks Bill. "For example", I responded, "if I damn you to hell, it means I am wishing for you to be sent to hell." This response prompted Bill to begin a philosophical disquisition on the morality of damning and being damned. He postulated the following hypotheticals:
  Situation A) I think that, if you damn me to hell, you would actually go to hell, since you're doing the damning, and I would go to heaven.
  Situation B) If you ask Lucas to damn Mary and he doesn't, you will go to hell, but Mary and Lucas will go to heaven.
  Situation C) If you ask Lucas to damn Mary and he does, you and Lucas will go to hell, but Mary will go to heaven.
I told him that his ideas made perfect sense, and he has been caught up on this subject all week. For example, everytime Lucas tells him to shut up or calls him a gayster, he responds with "Lucas, stop damning me!" I'm torn by all of this. I'm not sure if it's appropriate for a foreigner to be teaching children the dynamics of cursing, but at the same time they're going to learn it eventually, and they obviously already know some profanity.

Speaking of innappropriate, whenever there is a picture of a woman in one of the textbooks Bill points out her breasts and exclaims "That's where milk comes from!" Well, not the milk in the grocery store, I explain. I also almost had an extremely uncomfortable class on Tuesday. That day is science day, and the night before I pulled out the book to see what the chaper was about. To my absolute horror, the title of the chapter was "Sexual Reproduction in Humans". Holy shit, I thought, how am I supposed to teach sex to children in a country that doesn't talk about it? Luckily, the class solved the problem for me: they simply refused to let me teach it, repeatedly telling me "It's too gross!!!! Noooo!!!" They refused to even look at the page that had the diagrams of the male and female reproductive systems, although Bill proudly proclaimed that the penis is where your pee comes out.

Bill also seems to be a keen admirer of Bill Gates and Bill Clinton. He wants to meet Clinton so he can be invited to the White House, although I reminded him that good ole' Bill doesn't live there anymore. There are several arts and crafts projects posted on the walls of the classroom, and there is one in which Bill created his own line of drink products. The Ice flavor was named after Clinton, while Gates got the Mint flavor named in his honor. I'm not sure if there's any significance in the flavors, but it amused me greatly.

Oh and I almost finished without mentioning the title of this post. One day, while Bill was in the middle of one of his endless monologues that I've learned to half-ignore, he mentioned that someone he knows "Walks like he has dyslexia." I stopped mid-sentence and looked at him: "Do you know what dyslexia means?" "Yes, it means that you read backwards." "Close enough, so how does someone walk like he's dyslexic?" Bill got up and illustrated by performing some strange walk that looked like a mix between a zombie and a crack addict that needs a fix. I agreed that it made sense, although I'm still not really sure what he's talking about.

You've probably noticed that I barely mentioned Mary and Annie here. That's because they are nowhere near as outspoken as Lucas or Bill, although they often shoot daggers at the latter thanks to the fact that he is seemingly incabable of shutting up. Nonetheless, I love all four of them, and I'm sure I'll have some more gems to report by the time I finish the class next week.


  1. hahahahah. those kids sound classic. what great entertainment.

  2. Hi Mike, I just want to say that your blog is very interesting and funny especially the teaching part. I enjoy reading yours a lot. Thanks.