As a teacher, you never know what each day at school will bring. And you can never predict what will come out of a student's mouth during a class. I think one of the difficult things of teaching students is managing to keep a straight face when a student says something that is either truly amazing or laugh-out-loud funny. I am sure that many teachers in South Korea wish they could bust out laughing but refrain so as to not upset the student in question. But these are the kinds of things that you share with your coworkers and friends later, outside of class.
One of the 5th grade classes I teach is full of students who have some fairly interesting observations to share about what they're learning. Asking a question in class about vocabulary or the reading for the day almost guarantees at least one off-the-wall answer. But what I really like about my students is the effort they put into finding and relating these answers in class. While some answers might miss the mark, I try to guide them closer to understanding what the answer could be, using references they would understand.
Some of my favorite moments from my class:
"What is a canyon?"
Student with straight face raises hand. "Canyons are people from Canada."
"Who knows what it means to relate?"
"Teacher, relate is when there is a man, a woman, and a baby."
"Ah, that's relationship. But in a relationship, you have to relate...people relate to each other about what happened that day. You can relate to your friend about your trip to Seoul..."
"Ah! I talk to my friend?"
"Exactly. It's not having a relationship with your friend, but you talk to him."
"Okay, teacher. I don't want a relationship with my friend."
"Okay, class, what is a job that might have been popular in 1942?"
One girl raises her hand. "Teacher, a sommelier."
(I wasn't sure I had heard her correctly, so I asked her to repeat herself.)
"Teacher, a person who makes wine."
"Wow, that's a great idea! Where did you learn that?"
Blink, blink, blank stare. "I don't know, Teacher."
"What is a job that many people might have in 2011?"
One of the students who is prone to joking raises his hand, but with a straight face this time.
"Teacher, what about a terrorist?"
I paused for a second. "Hmm, that's a good try, but let's think of some other answers."
Sometimes you just have to keep a straight face when you teach for fear of laughter, other times you have to think quickly on your feet to answer a student's question or deflect an awkward answer. No wonder by the end of some days I feel so tired!