Friday, 12 April 2013

Class Act

"None of you did it?" I ask, my eyes wide, my hands held out. "Not one of you?"

A few students have the grace to look ashamed. They lick their lips and shake their heads slightly.

"But you do remember I told you, right?"

One girl nods. "Number three, four, six," she murmurs.

"And exercise two," I tell her. "You remember that, right?"

She looks uncomfortable. I turn to the rest of the class.

"On Monday when none of you had done your reading  homework, I told you I wanted you to do two as well as three, four, and six. Do you remember?"

Three of them actually meet my eyes and nod, but I am beyond irritated with this group. This is at least the sixth time they have neglected to do their homework and I've had enough.

"I absolutely told you to do exercise two!" I say. "I even had you say it back to me afterwards. But now you're telling me that none of you did it."

Lips jut out. Brows furrow. Nobody will meet my eyes.

"All right, you are going to do number two right now--all of you, right here."  And suddenly I realize what I've just said, and it is extremely funny. So is the fact that my students have no idea what the other meaning of number two is. I'm still hopping mad, but I snicker--I can't help myself.

The students look alarmed. Clearly I'm disturbed: I've just changed the channel from pissed-off to ha-ha-ha and they can't figure it out.

"Seriously," I say. "Open your books and start doing number two right now--"  I clap my hand over my mouth to stop myself from howling.  This is really embarrassing. I could not count the times my students have yakked away in Mandarin, laughing their heads off while I sit there utterly mystified, but suddenly I'm having my own one-woman giggle party. And there is no way I'm going to share this with them.

One girl casts a furtive look my way and reaches for her book. Now that she knows she's dealing with a madwoman, she's taking no chances.

"When you've finished exercise two," I splutter, "please check your answers with your partner's, then we'll go over them together."  My last words dissolve into a fit of laughter as I wipe my eyes with the back of my hand.

And by God, they do it. Exercise two is faithfully if not accurately completed. They sit there, heads down, pens busy, occasionally taking peeks at me to see if I'm not actually foaming at the mouth. Then we go over it in class.

I don't give them any homework afterwards, though. I think they've suffered enough.