Learning from my students

Curiosity. I lost it temporarily. The pursuit of it caused me to quit my job and move halfway across the world. Now as a teacher, my students often ask me about things I’ve never really considered, such as why a toothbrush is not called a teethbrush, or why carpet isn’t a pet for your car. I began to wonder about all the other things I took for granted growing up. After ten months, here’s a list of things I’ve learnt so far:

Simplify instructions
My classroom rules are simple. However, one boy in class took the first rule literally.


Me me me
When we celebrate a child’s birthday in class, we sing the happy birthday song and give three hip-hoorays at the end. That’s if we can get through the song without everyone shouting out their birthday, or their dad’s, friend’s, or cat’s birthday too.

Toughen up
I had a student ask me if I had washed my hair (it turned out he liked the shampoo smell), and another about the mosquito bite (read: spot) on my face. One child told me I have vampire teeth, and another guessed my age at 90.

Holding a straight face is essential
During a mock oral exam, one student panicked:
Me: Do you have a pet at home?
Student: Yes, I have a fish…but it died.
Me: Oh, I’m sorry. Which animal from the pictures would you choose to adopt instead?
Student: [Blank stare…possibly considering mortality]
Me: Right, what should a responsible pet owner do?
Student: [Shrugs shoulders]
Me: Ok, what things would a good pet owner do to look after their animal?
Student: Walk it at the park.
Poor fish…

I rewarded a boy with a holographic sticker after class. He threw it back at me – even 2D glittery purple spiders are scary.

An honest mistake
Had a dictation in class and the word ‘aching’ caused some confusion. A fair few of the eight year olds wrote ‘Egg King’ instead.

Requesting back-up
I taught a kid to pause at commas and full stops today by mimicking swimming. We fixed his reading but now he does the front crawl at his desk.

New tricks
I did the ‘pop’ noise with my finger and the kids were floored. When I taught them how to do it, they successfully impersonated fish with hooks caught in their cheeks. Drool galore.

Literal learners
During an assessment with a four year old, I pointed to a caterpillar. The child called it a worm. I told him that it transforms into a butterfly. He still didn’t have a scooby. I pointed to the picture as a cat to give him a clue. His answer: catworm.


Simplicity is beautiful
One of the nine year olds in my composition class wrote a wintry haiku. Bearing in mind it should technically focus on nature, he ignored this in favour of opening with: Hello hot chocolate. Accurate.

To help some eight year olds imagine they were exploring the land of the giants, I pretended to zap them with a shrinking ray as they walked in. I had an over-sized tomato-shaped eraser next to a miniature man (representing us) for scale. When I suggested that a giant’s sneeze would create a green pool for us to swim in, they absolutely lost it.

Not all plans pan out
During pirate week for my phonics class, we covered the ‘ar’ sound and had a story and various isolation exercises. At the end, I offered to unlock the treasure chest if they could give me a word with ‘ar’ each. The first boy said “octopus” and the next said “rabbit.” Lesson well spent.


Cultural understanding:
Me: [Reading speaking prompt question] Have you ever been in trouble?
7yo: No.
Me: [Surprised] Really? Have you ever had a messy room? Or left your dinner? Or had a fight with a sibling?
7yo: I’m from China.
Me: Right…

One child asked me if jelly was made from jellyfish which is a perfectly reasonable question. On that theme, jamming with the kids in phonics class produces some unexpected results: 

Jelly on a plate. Jelly on a plate.
Wibble-wobble, wibble-wobble
Jelly on a plate.

Jelly on the the door. Jelly on the door.
Wibble-wobble, wibble-wobble
Now jelly’s on the floor.

Jelly in my eye. Jelly in my eye.
Wibble-wobble, wibble-wobble
Jelly made me cry.

Jelly in my tum. Jelly in my tum.
Wibble-wobble, wibble-wobble
Jelly out my bum!

As Halloween is upon us, I must post these one-liners that one of my six year olds wrote and delivered to the class. I’m not sure they work, but the class struggled to breathe through their giggles and one boy even fell off his chair. Edited transcript below.* Enjoy:


I’ll be posting a weekly round-up of my favourite moments this year so far. Until then, Happy Halloween.

*Jokes courtesy of H, six years old:
Q: What do you call a bunny dressed up as a ghost?
A: Hoppy ghost.

Q: What do you do when a ghost scares you?
A: Glow like a lantern.

Q: What are you going to do when a lantern turns alive?
A: Hide in a cup.

Q: What is a spooky cup called?
A: Cup monster.

Q: What do you call a dinosaur with wings?
A: Chicken dino.

Q: Where do you go when a ghost scares you?
A: Scaryland.


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