HCMC Dining Guide

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My Favorite Students

As I'm sure any teacher will attest to, you tend to pick out a few favorite students after having a class for a while. Whether it's the fact that you get along really well, or that they're just hilarious, you look to them when the rest of the class refuses to answer a question or participate. This post is dedicated to seven of my favorite students - and I should note that they are all kids, which proves the fact that I now love teaching kids and prefer them over any other age group; the complete opposite of what I expected when I started teaching back in October. They're enthusiastic, extremely respectful, and just a lot of fun. So, without further ado:

1) Bill - I dedicated most of a post to Bill, who is eight, back in December (http://mike-alongthemekong.blogspot.com/2010/12/he-walks-like-he-has-dyslexia.html), and in the ensuing months he has remained highly entertaining, although he can be absolutely infuriating from time to time as well. His mind moves at a mile a minute and he definitely has ADHD (something people here refuse to recognize as an actual disorder), so he is simply all over the place in class. When we're doing worksheets he'll finish one question and then start asking me about alien abductions or how the Big Bang could have possibly been silent. His mouth functions in stream-of-consciousness, much to the chagrin of the other kids in the class...and me.

However, this powerful intellect also means I really enjoy having him in the class. I can have conversations at a normal speaking pace, without resorting to the use of basic vocabulary, and he keeps up with me. In most classes you have to speak at almost half-speed, something I still haven't quite gotten used to, so I enjoy not having to dumb myself down. (I don't mean that as an insult to my students, but that's what it sounds like.) We also play Scrabble during class a few times a week, and he always tries to get the longest words possible. His proudest achievements are 'gasoline', 'establishment', 'weatherman', and 'dandelion'. His new favorite word is "antivivisectionist," which has absolutely no use in casual English. My only concern is that this extreme geekiness will result in him getting his ass kicked when his family moves to Houston this summer. American school is far different from school here. Although, another student did call him a "poo eater, and a poo toucher" last week. That really upset Bill, although us teachers couldn't help but crack up when he said that. I'm looking forward to the five weeks I have left with that class.

2) Jerry - Part of the reason I like this kid has to do with his name: I'm a big Seinfeld fan, and I find it hilarious when 'Jerry' is applied to kids - especially when they're 6. (Yes, I am strange.) I also like Jerry because he's very enthusiastic; always telling me 'hello!' and 'goodbye teacher!'. Anytime I pull out the small foam soccer ball to play a game he goes nuts, probably because he loves pegging it at the girls' faces. He really gets into Hangman as well, shouting out all kinds of letters and guessing words that aren't even close to the actual answer. Vietnamese students are often extremely reluctant to give answers in front of a whole class, but Jerry has no such reservations, making my life much easier in the process.

3) Anh Vu - This tiny - and I do mean tiny, he couldn't have weighed more than 25 pounds - kid was in two of my pre-school classes, although he is, unfortunately, not in my new class. Vu was an absolute riot. He couldn't pay attention if his life depended on it, and he was one of the most rough and tumble kids I've ever seen. He would trip and fall flat on his face, run into other students, run into the wall, and hurl himself over chairs, and get up with a huge smile on his face. And promptly try to punch me in the nuts. He also loved it when I picked him up with one arm and held him upside down (he is really light) or pretended to sword fight with plastic bowling pins. When it came to English, he was just hopeless: he invariably answered 'chicken' to any picture I held up, even if it was a dog or a fire truck. My TA tried to get him to focus, but it's just impossible with such a small child. All he wanted to do was run around beating people with plastic objects.

4) Thanh - Another kid from my pre-school class, although, like Vu, he isn't in my new class. Unlike Vu, he is quite a chubby guy, so I can't pick him up as easily, despite his pleas. He took an extreme liking to me - he always made sure he sat next to me at the table. During class he was always trying to tickle me or pinch me, or just cause bodily discomfort in some way. He also loved teaming up with the other boys in trying to "stab" me to death with aforementioned plastic bowling pins. This would end up in me crumpling to the ground in feigned agony, and all of them piling on top of me to finish the job. At the end of the day, however, Thanh was a sweetheart - whenever we watched a movie he ended up sitting on my leg, although I could only bear that for so long since he was quite heavy.

5) Karen - This 8-year old girl is quite the devious one. She stole one of my pens one time, and she is constantly trying to undermine my games. The best part about her is that, after we learned the names of family members in English (cousin, sister, etc.), she started referring to me as "Baby Michael", or "Grandpa Michael." Last week, she switched genders and started calling me "Sister Michael." Obviously, I couldn't let that go unpunished. So, I now say "Goodbye, Grandma Karen," or "Bye, Uncle Karen," when I'm leaving at the end of class. This always annoys her, and she replies with "Noooooo! You're 100! Grandpa Michael!", or something along those lines. I really get a kick out of this, since most kids just give you the stock "Hello, Teacher," or "Goodbye, Teacher." Sadly, that class ends this weekend; who knows when I'll be called "Grandpa" next.

6) Dustin - Dustin is in the same class as Karen, and he seems to either love me or hate me; there is no in-between. If I start a game that he doesn't like, he immediately lets me know with "Teacher!!!! This is boring!!!" If we play a favorite of his, he runs up and gives me a huge hug while saying "I love you Teacher!!!!!" Talk about bipolar. He also has some of the best English in the class, so he gives good answers when the mood strikes him. He also has a bit of a foul mouth for an 8-year old. During his oral test, in which you just sit down with the kid and ask them a few questions to judge fluency, understanding, etc., he misunderstood a question and let out a nice "Oh, shit!" when he realized it. I told him not to worry, and he ended up doing quite well. I'm going to miss his instant assessments of the awesomeness or suckiness of my games when the class ends.

7) - Helen - Last but not least is Helen, who is in the same class as Jerry. (If you're confused by these names, kids in classes here choose English names to make things easier for Westerners. This is a godsend in the land of Quynhs, Ouyens, Thiens, and Tungs, along with all of the accents that accompany the Vietnamese alphabet.) Helen is the definition of mischievous. Last week I had my vocabulary cards all neatly arranged on my desk, when she suddenly started to steal them. I had to grab them back while trying to defend the rest, and my desk was instantly in dissaray. When my TA stepped out of the room for a minute Helen also stole my markers, the foam soccer ball, and the fly swatters we use to play "Slap the Board", and then proceeded to throw the ball at my face while smacking my butt with one of the swatters, all of which garnered an uproarious reaction from the rest of the class. She also gives answers she knows are wrong and generally acts like she doesn't know what's going on. Whenever I play a video on Youtube to help the class practice the alphabet she comes up and pauses it while trying to find her own videos. I'm curious to see what other dastardly deeds she comes up with as the class continues.

These are seven students, out of probably over 150 at this point, that are my favorites. I'm sure I left a few out, but these are the most memorable ones. I wasn't expecting to enjoy teaching kids so much, but this post should show you why I like it so much now. I look forward to interacting with more Vus, Jerrys, and Karens in the future. Now, I have to go do some mental sparring with Bill.

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