Teaching Missteps

Teaching Missteps

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.

Teaching Missteps

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.”


Photo credit at FLCenterLitArts

9 thoughts on “Teaching Missteps”

  1. OH…boy. Jer, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. I think everybody can see that you have a good heart and you are just trying to be a good teacher. Nobody is perfect when they start anything, so mistakes are bound to happen. I think next year or two years from now, you will look back and just giggle. Not at the mistakes you made, but on how much you have grown as a teacher. Hang in there….you’ll go far. Trust me.

    1. Thanks, Jen! Yeah, you’re right and I’m not beating myself up about it too much. I think they’re just so happy to have me there that they’re more than willing to put up with a few idiosyncrasies every now and then. Who knows, by the time this school year is over, maybe they’ll all end up loving Ke$ha anyway 😛 Thanks so much for the encouragement, though. It really does mean a lot!

  2. Perhaps I’m wired to think about socio-cultural implications of things when I’m facilitating workshops- I would not want a bunch of activists calling me out on my sexist/violent/misogynistic/race-blind imagery- but I think the Ke$ha reactions are really rather telling/reflective.

    I’ll stop reading into things now.

    1. No, please! It’s really interesting hearing what your reactions to this are – I would love to here any in-depth reading you’re doing. What gets me isn’t that the students are necessarily conservative – I’ve done other picture exercises showing celebrities where the students, same class mind you, purposefully steered me towards photos of Turkish models in bikinis or covered girls in the class got giddy with excitement when they saw pictures of Tarkan and they screamed out how sexy he was.

      So, another viewpoint on this would really be welcome.

      1. Well, this is my completely uninformed thought process- feel free to tell me I’m full of shite. :)

        In the Hadise video- yes, it’s rather overtly sexual, but she’s still a passive participant in her sexual objectification. As in, she’s just strutting around looking like sex on a stick but beyond being an object of sexualisation [for someone else], she isn’t taking an active role [in her own sexuality].

        Ke$ha on the other hand, is an active participant- she is ‘pursuing’ this bloke, quite comfortable suggesting that’s she’s feeling herself up, snogging a unicorn head, taking her bra off & generally crossing over from suggestiveness to actual participation (until she’s brandishing her rainbow shooting gun, that is).

        Often, what makes a woman ‘dirty’ is not that she’s scantily/skimpily dressed- she’s then subject to someone else’s fantasies and doing so for someone else’s [usually male] pleasure. If she begins to pursue her own pleasure [regardless of whether it’s pleasurable for whoever is watching] that’s someone breaking out of their roles and what’s ‘correct’. And a woman going after her own sexual pleasure is, in a lot of places, still ‘dirty’.

        Like i said- I really should stop reading into things. :) I’m likely full of complete and utter crap. x

        1. Huh… Ill be honest and say that I’ve never truly thought about gender dynamics or sexuality in any amazingly deep way, so I never really thought about how big a did fence there is between passive and active sexuality. I could though completely see what you’re saying as being accurate. After all, her taking off her bra is still semi-risqué in the US too, which is why it’s humor fully played off by the guy also taking off his bra. I’m not sure about in Turkey, but in the US there is still also the divide of men being much more sexual creatures compared to women… I assume this divide is probably just as strong if not stronger here in Turkey too.

          I really do think you’re onto one thing with this, though. Thanks for taking the time to really fill out your own complete view of this. It was fascinating and I definitely enjoyed reading it :)

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