Strawberry Flavoured Poo, Fish Flaps and other Stories
Getting a bollocking is a frequent occurrence in life as an English teacher at the school I'm currently working in. It doesn't necessarily mean that you've done anything wrong or indeed that you are doing anything wrong as a teacher, I think it's merely a device to put you in your place. It's sometimes funny and sometimes frustrating but with hindsight it's usually more amusing than anything else. When I first came to Taiwan and started teaching here I remember being pulled aside by the manager at the time and was sternly asked if I used the word 'rubbish' in the classroom to which I replied 'yes'. It was then explained to me that it would not be tolerated in the classroom as none of my students should ever be subjected to being compared to trash. In fact I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment because I never actually compared any of my students to garbage, I merely used it as a joke with the students when they wrote bad sentences on the board by saying “rubbish” in a high pitched voice and never once referred to anyone as garbage but this didn't seem to matter as here perception is nine tenths of the law. If you are perceived to be insulting someone then you are insulting them. This was even more apparent about six months ago when a little girl decided to stop attending one of my classes. She claimed that I said she had done a really big poo in class and proceeded to encourage all of the other students in the class to laugh at her. I received a massive telling off and multiple warnings for the use of “poo” and “strawberry flavoured poo poo” respectively. First of all, I must admit that I did use both of those words in my classroom, however what was neglected and never discussed was the fact that I was trying to stop the children from using them in order to 'save face' for a child that was being joked about by the other children in the class on each occasion. I like to have banter with the children I teach and sometimes words such as 'poo poo' or phrases like “you have a girlfriend” might get thrown into the mix but that seems unacceptable to the parents and therefore management here. What was never asked was the context of my usage. On both occasions I said something along the lines of “Noooo.... such and such doesn't kiss poo poo” and “Who would eat strawberry flavored poo?!”... and was never once aimed directly at a child. That seems unimportant however as if I said such a term it was obviously used by a grown man to insult a minor... what other purpose could it serve in a classroom?
I'm not the only teacher to experience misunderstandings with my use of English and a rather funny anecdote by a friend of mine springs to mind. Prior to teaching a demo class in front of parents at an open evening for his school one of my friends was required to pre-teach the word 'vacuum'. Of course there were some pronunciation errors and a misunderstanding ensued. His school approached him and asked why he had been teaching his students to go home and say what sounded like “fuck you” to their parents on open day. So in order to clear the air so to speak and avoid any more misunderstandings I'd just like to say that it's okay Taiwan; we love you and can accept your inability to consider all the facts all the time. So in jest I'd like to offer a list of anecdotes from my classroom over the last two years. Just before I start though I'd like to say that I'm as prone to a blunder as anyone. While playing a game that required children to draw a picture of a fish on a scrap of paper and proceed to use a foam tile to waft the paper towards a finish line in a race; I scalded two naughty students by saying: “Right! Fish! Flaps!... back in the box!”... I can't remember using the words 'fish' and 'flaps' together since the age of about fourteen. For those who don't get it 'fish flaps' is a childish insult to imply a girl hasn't been washing her lady bits. I used to – actually still do a bit – find that term hilarious when I was younger. So here is the list of anecdotes that I promised earlier in the post – ten of them in fact – in descending numerical order:
- “I'm a weiner”: This one might not be funny to fellow Brits but is somewhat amusing to me. It tickles me because it contains two mistakes. I like to wind children up during team games and award the points to the losing competitor as a little joke on occasion and at least 50% of the time the child will respond with the quote in bold. What they actually intend to say is “I'm the winner” but instead they accidentally compare themselves to a child's genitalia.
- “Finger Fun!”: I have an incredibly childish sense of humour. The children at our school are awarded tokens as a form of positive reinforcement by the school. Perhaps they do well on their homework and receive a token as a reward. Once they collect a sufficient number of these tokens they can choose a toy from the prize cabinet. One of the prizes is a set of finger puppets perhaps unfortunately named in bold.
- “Lee is a boob!”: Sometimes when I mark a student's book I will draw them a picture of a smiley face and some girls tend to enjoy this and return often with pictures of me in dresses or some other form of silliness that is funny and quite cute. One day, an eight-year-old boy, by the name of Dragon wanted to show his appreciation for a game we play in class. It's a game that encourages the quick production of vocabulary where students pass a ball in a circle under a time limit and say a word from the relevant lexical set in order to avoid being blown up by the pretend 'bomb'. It turns out Dragon can't spell bomb and when I marked his book that day... he called me a boob. :D
- “Hello Klitty”: There is no imitation better than a Chinese produced rip-off of a popular brand. Seeing a girl wear this phrase on her sweater certainly brightened up my day.
- “Sex!... Sex!... Sex!”: I quite regularly play a game in class that requires students to roll a die. They often desire the number six and shout it repeatedly. They fairly often can't pronounce it. This results in them shouting like kinky tourette's sufferer.
- “Skipping Rape!”: Another toy from the prize cabinet at school. In America it's called a 'jump rope' there is probably no joke but in England we know it as a 'skipping rope'... Chinglish once again prevails...
- “I like to eat Fanny!”: In response to the question: “What do you like to eat?”, a little boy called William responded by replying that he liked to eat another student in the class... she had an unfortunate name...
- “Cunt!”: Chanel failed her spelling test and she can't spell 'count' either...
- “Send the package to Rodney.”: Sometimes students have trouble pronouncing words that end in '-ge' resulting in them saying utterances of 'oranjeeeee' instead of 'orange' or a racial slur instead of 'package'.
- “I want to wank the dog.”: Sandy can't spell walk... bless her!!!!!!
These are all unfortunate language errors and are easily corrected without anyone ever being embarrassed should the correct courtesy and acceptance of cultural and linguistic hiccups be applied...