Saturday, January 24, 2015

Communication ISSUES
When you teach English, you have to sometimes live in a state of communication limbo in which neither you or your student can make themselves understood. It comes with the territory, so to speak.

Example A. My eleven year old student is obssessed with a video game called Skylanders. He is so darn smart that sometimes he finishes his English homework too quickly and we have extra time. His attempt at teaching me how to play the actual Wii game included our waking up his little sister from where she was napping on the couch and me using a joystick to follow his little animated magic character around a labyrinth of scary villians and turtle guys who were firing at us. I had no idea which buttons to push when. He said no words in English and almost none in Italian while he tried to get the most points possible and pretty much forgot I was even there. Undaunted, this week I decided to get him to make an English language comic book about his favorite passtime. He decided unequivocally that he had to draw the characters before we wrote the story. Everytime I tried to speak to him, he looked up at me sternly and said, I kid you not, "Shush."

However the few times he did speak, I, in all my stupidity, did not understand him at all. First was what will go down in history as the legendary trousers box incident. Man oh man did he think I was stupid for not knowing that a trousers box is where you keep the buried trousers. Yeah it took me a hot minute (or four) to figure out that he was saying treasure box. He was unphased when I pointed out that trousers are pantaloni in Italian and just looked at me pitifully.

Another thing you have to know is that the Skylanders characters represent seven elements: water, fire, magic, technology, non-dead (you don't want to know what this means, trust me), air, and . . .
well I kept thinking he was saying air and air. So I said, "No, kiddo, you said that one already." Err. Err, Err he told me. "Right, you said that already," I repeated. This continued forever. Then he pointed at his tongue with his index finger while he stuck it out between his teeth and said ttttthhhhh. Err ... .. .tttthhhhhh. Basically, he spit at me.

OH, earth! EARTH!! Sorry, sorry, sorry. Air and earth. I gotcha.

And then there are inexplicable moments of joy, like when my student friend Anna got up out of her chair and did a little improvised happy dance because she was so excited about the English word nonetheless. What the heck/cavolo is that? she asked. I told her it was like nonostante tutto or cio nonostante in Italian. "I get it," she cried out, "It's three words: none-the-less. You Americans are so CUTE!" Not only did this little word sandwich thrill her, but she gave me (personally) all the credit for it. You would have thought I invented Oreos and then fed her one -- it was that sweet.

As for awkwardness, because I put the AWK in awkwardness, there's the fact that I never think I am cool enough for my 20 somethings group. This time I gave them an advanced learners game of taking eight English words and having to tell a story about them. The young man who told us about running over a fox accidentally last time (see last week's post) got back at me by making up a story in which the GLORY OF GOD brought the fox back to life and then waved jauntily to him as he drove off into the sunset. Anyway, after the game was over, they were all shy again and I didn't know what to talk about, so for some reason I went all Wendy Williams on them and taught them all about the Bill Cosby scandal. Yeah, I don't know why either. And then time was up and they paid me. I have a weird job.

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