Teaching can be fun. There have been some wacky experiences that go on in the classroom. They will probably get you thinking, "wow, teaching is a lot more fun than I imagined." Through these wacky and exciting experiences, teachers all seem to come out with the same realizations. Never underestimate the learner within all students. We asked a few different teachers at Houhai English to tell us about their most amusing and most exciting teaching experiences. Here are a few of our favorites:
STUART J. NEALON
One of the most rewarding things about teaching young learners is their seemingly endless capacity to surprise. We were recently discussing the meaning of the word "unusual," and after establishing the meaning of the word, I asked the students to think of something unusual. To my delight, one of the students decided that something unique was sitting on a plane, looking out the window and seeing a shark!
I remember this fondly because not only did the entire room erupt in laughter, it reminds me never to take the abilities of my students for granted. Young learners are much more capable than we give them credit. While we have to be especially conscious of the fact we're working with children, we also have to provide them with the conditions that can allow them to think.
I once had two students ask me, "hey can you speak Chinese?" I told them not really and that their English is much better than my Chinese. Later on, they came to me and said, "but we learn English, and you don't learn Chinese? Why?" I explained to them that they have English exams and I don't have Chinese exams. They disagreed and said if they couldn't speak English, we wouldn't talk because I couldn't speak Chinese. Well, the most interesting part of this story is straight after that class, I ended up signing up for online Chinese lessons twice a week.
This experience is probably by far my wackiest classroom experience. Once every semester, I have a fun 'backward day' with my students where I write their names backward, including my own. I did this with a class with the youngest age group and one of the best classes I ever had! When I finished writing and pronouncing everyone's name backward, I went through my usual routine - going through the class rules at the beginning of each class. This was no ordinary day for class rules. My students had a prank of their own to pull.
As I wrote the class rules on the board one by one while having my students repeat them, their clever little prank was to recite each class rule backward. So instead of saying, "raise a hand to speak" like they were supposed to, they all said, "speak to hand raise." I was very impressed that they could recite the fourth rule backward, which requires a lot of verbal speaking coordination when they said "book or paper on write only." You can pretty much guess what rule that is if reading it forward. So my students did this for all five rules, and I laughed the entire time.
We finally began our lesson with the vocabulary practice. I gave them a spelling exercise, and they decided to spell the words backward. What was even more impressive is that they could spell the new vocabulary word "helicopter" backward as well. I had a good laugh, plus I was shocked to witness how real geniuses these kids are. It was amusing, but I was very proud of them.
The funniest classroom experience happened while I was at my very first teaching job here in Beijing. It was at an international kindergarten, and the students were very young but, of course, brilliant. There were twelve students in the class that day, we were all sitting on the carpet, and I was teaching them about life in the sea. "What kinds of animals live down in the ocean?" and "What do they eat?" Things like that. We had one student in the class who was always a bit quiet. He didn't speak up in class often but rather tended to express himself through body language. That day, he became particularly interested when I mentioned "starfish." When it was time for the students to share their thoughts of how they moved, ate, or just how they live life in general, he only slowly and silently relaxed and laid on the ground spread-eagle, with his arms and legs out. We all looked at him for a second, on the ground flat on his stomach. I later learned he had a pet starfish in a fish tank at home, but he was the class starfish that day.
One of the craziest things in the classroom was when I was teaching a class with six-year-olds. I asked the students to make a sentence with the word 'delicious.' They could speak about any food and talk about how delicious it is, like 'Mangoes are so delicious.' My student wanted to say, 'My mother's chicken is delicious.' However, instead, he said, 'My mother is delicious,' and then just sat down. I know he didn't intend to say this at all. Some of the other children knew he made a mistake. He smiled, but I don't think he knew what he said. He had a feeling but wasn't sure. It was hilarious.
NICO BURGER STEYN
A funny experience I had was during an online class. I was teaching my class new vocabulary, and one of the new words was talent. Most of my Chinese students play at least a musical instrument. During break time, they all wanted to play me one of their instruments; drums, piano, flute, guitar, name it. Once the first, second, and third student did their thing, all of a sudden, everyone in the class wanted to participate. This turned into a 'show your talent' break time. It was like Americas got talent, except in this case, a "Houhai's got talent break time." It was entertaining and a lot of fun.
A year and a half ago, I was teaching a class at Houhai English's Yinhai campus. It was a class with ten students. Most of the students ranged from 9-12 years old. Besides, there were also two six-year-old students; they were twins - a boy and a girl. They end up outperforming everyone else. This class was quite intense with grammar content. We learned past simple, past continuous, present simple, present continuous, and present perfect simple. Five tenses total. We took it very seriously, analyzed all tenses, and drew out timelines. These two six-year-olds were able to have a full-on discussion about the tenses. They coherently and accurately discussed the intricacies of the present perfect simple tense and debated why each tense should be used for a particular situation. They got so into it! It was genuinely inspiring to see these six-year-olds master the tenses and apply them properly. I was very baffled.
I was teaching one of the lowest level classes at Houhai English called WW1A. Most of the students are six-year-olds. I had one student in the class who inspired actual progress in English learning. When I asked for her name, I received a blank stare. She did not know what her English name was. I was trying everything, like asking the other students their names so she could understand. She still didn't know her name. We went into the first class activity, and she reached into her backpack for a pencil. Then, on the back of her bag, I see the name "Yvonne." "Yvonne, your name is Yvonne!" I was so excited to know her name finally, and she was excited to know her name, as well. I asked her again what her name is, and she said, "My name is Yvonne." It felt like a real breakthrough experience. It was beautiful leaving class that day with the confidence of a student learning their name.
Coming out of these wacky and interesting classroom experiences tend to shine a light on inspiration and optimism. What begins as a funny, hilarious experience turns into a more prosperous learning environment. Making space for play and acknowledging the wacky moments can shape teachers' future and students' learning. What's your wackiest classroom story?