I suppose making mistakes anytime you start doing something new is natural. So, these teaching missteps aren’t so much horror stories – something that’ll make me terrified to ever go in front of a class again – but instead are semi-comic stories I can look back on and hopefully learn from… Or, even more hopefully, continue to laugh about as I have so far.
During my first week of teaching, I quickly realized I did not have enough content and my class was ending way earlier than acceptable – which is saying something, since teachers generally let their students leave an hour early; every class is four hours long. In a desperate bid to try to fill the time, I decided that some competitive rounds of hangman would be best – it would help the students get to know each other, review vocabulary we were working on, and also flesh out the class. After my first class assured me that hangman is also a game in Turkey, I announced to my second class that day that we’d be playing hangman.
Everyone seemed excited; however, when I drew the starting gallows on the board I saw a look of horror pass across the face of an Afghani student of mine. I have not played hangman in that class since. (This was not a laughing story).
Yesterday, I decided to try to start my class off on a more upbeat note. I figured that playing a song could get the students motivated, give them something fun to discuss, and generally give the class an upbeat atmosphere. Ke$ha happens to be popular here, so I thought playing one of her singles would get my class raring to go. As soon as the music started playing, my class insisted that I turn on the projector and watch the video. Despite what people might think, Turkey is full of sexual images and the majority of Turkish music videos are overtly sexual. This video, for example, was one of the top hits last summer.
So, with that in mind, I thought nothing of turning on the Ke$ha video – which I happen to find very entertaining… Especially since it has unicorns. At first the class seemed into it, but halfway through their expressions turned into confusion and then a slight look of disgust. After the video ended, everyone just looked at me and said, “Teacher, I don’t understand. Why did you show us this?” I tried to play it off by explaining what surreal meant…
Later that same class, I was showing pictures of famous people to have them practice using descriptive adjectives. I was going to show a picture of President Obama, but instead opted to show a picture of George Bush instead so I could use Obama for a game later. There was instant concern, and several students came up to me during the class break to make sure I didn’t like Bush. When I told them all I thought Obama was better, they were instantly relieved.
Of course, all of these missteps were completely worth it for one of my student’s responses when I asked them to describe a picture of Ke$ha. A covered girl in my class said disgusting, another student said beautiful, but a generally quite student – Mesut – raised his hand and nailed it. “She is dirty,” he smirked, “very very dirty.”