No, I will NOT take off my clothes!

Today I had the BEST misunderstanding in class.

They both need to get outside for some fresh air!

Look at these 2 pictures in our book. We decided “Anna” on the left looks really hot (temperature, people!!), maybe stressed, possibly needing a drink of water. “Ben”, on the right, is clearly angry. (In fact, he reminds me of myself when our internet goes out and I’m interrupted in the middle of watching Grey’s Anatomy. Have you SEEN that show?! Man, it’s good! If I had no conviction for compassion I’d totally be Dr. Yang. She’s such a heartless witch and it. is. HI.larious.)

This unit was about making requests, offering suggestions, and…..whatever, stuff like that. Before we practice ourselves, the book gives examples and we have to decide which person, “Anna” or “Ben”, would be appropriate to say the phrase too. For example:

“Could I turn on the air conditioning for you?” – that one is clearly for “Anna”

“Would you like me to help you fix it?” – this one’s for “Ben”

Here’s a doozy: “Why don’t you take off some of your clothes?”….Now, this seems relatively reasonable for “Anna”. She’s wiping her forehead. Her face says, “Frick, it’s hot in here!” HOWEVER, she isn’t wearing her jacket/blazer anymore. What else is she supposed to take off exactly?!?! She’s already tried that one. Soooo………this is the 1st funny thing about class, to which my students got a good laugh.

I’m so glad there’s a 2nd misunderstanding, which revolves around this same phrase, to tell you about.

So then we practice using different phrases to ask for help and make requests…

Me: Kara, If you were “Anna” and needed to make a request, using “Could you please…”, what would you say?

Kara: Could you please give me a drink of water?

Me: Awesome, that’s a great idea! Ok, um, Vicky, if you were offering to do something for “Ben”, what would you say, using “Would you like me to…?”

Vicky: Would you like me to call IT?

Me: Yeah! Good one!….Mandy, what if “Ben” was making a request. What’s something he might ask for?

Mandy: Could you….Would you please…uh, um *scanning over page frantically, looking for something to say because she hasn’t been paying attention* Would you please take off some of your clothes?

Me: HAHAHAHAHHAHAHA!! You want me to take off my clothes?! I will NOT! *jokingly pulling my cardigan together*


Best part was, this all happened in my first class and I had to teach this same lesson 2 more times. Ooohh, it was good fun! I LOVE making my girls laugh!!


A Simple Memo

The past few days in class we’ve been covering the skill of writing. Most of my students are trying to pass a test called CET4 in which they’ll receive a certificate (if passed), giving them better job possibilities and even higher testing options should they choose to keep excelling in English. Most of my students haven’t passed this test even though they’ve taken it 2 or 3 times. I’ve always known their English was poor, but I thought, “Surely it can’t be that hard of a test. They’re reading and listening skills aren’t so bad.”

Today I found out the answer to my wonderment: the writing skill, of which none of them have an ounce of. I let them write a memo with a partner in class today. After a full lesson on how to do it, step by step, they had their chance at it. Here are some of the papers I received. I have included all errors.

I'm surprised they don't just grab a used tissue and write it on that.

(The book) Question 46: Your department has just received several large new orders. The company has decided to ask everyone in the department to work five extra hours per week. Write a memo to all staff in the department: explaining the situation, saying when overtime will begin, and asking the staff to work overtime. Write 30-40 words. (I’m not sure how this could be more clear.)

“I have to tell all dept staff a bad news. Aco According to the development needs of the company, this week. I s started company needs a daily one hour of overtime. I hope you we can coperate and understand. thank You”

Our company has a good Due to the competition of from other company, Our company developed rapidly. under the command of our company. everyone need to work five extra hours per week, and the order will begin on from this wee Friday. I look forward to your understanding.”

“Because of we took a holiday in last week, so we must to overtime very day in this week. please inform each other, don’t absent. thanks” (Who said anything about a holiday?)

“We are attending a conference about producing 100 pairs of shoes All dept staff have to work overtime. Could you please tell all dept. staff we have to work overtime? And overtime will begin on 14-18 May.” (The memo is TO all dept staff. Who is “you”, and why are you asking him/her to tell everyone? And who said anything about a conference for producing 100 pairs of shoes? Just Say No!)

“Today, we d have received several large new orders. So everyone should have 5 extra hours per week. The start time is April 10. The overtime is April 16.” (Ok, we need to define “overtime” again.)

I no longer wonder why they can’t pass CET4.

Hilarious Answers: Quiz 2

It’s here, what you’ve all been waiting for, and I couldn’t be more excited to share my laughter with you. The test was similar to the first and they’re always allowed to use their books, but no cell phones or dictionaries this time. If they were paying attention in class and taking notes (which I tell them to write in their workbooks) they should have every answer and explanation. Let’s begin, shall we.


Instructions: Write your name and class number at the top of this paper. Do not write your student number. (Please keep in mind I thoroughly explained how important it is to read all instructions before writing anything down. This was part of their test.)

Student: Chinese name (in Chinese characters, of course, which I can’t read….they all choose an English name specifically for this class) and 201020076 (her student number) (*Sigh* “Here we go!”)


Question: What should you underline? (The class before the test we discussed the skill of taking tests and how to succeed.)

(Book: Underline the answer in the text.)

Student: important part (True, but what is the important part called?)

Another student: make checking quicker (I later realized they were trying to answer “Why”. E for effort, but E doesn’t have any points behind it.)


Question: What should you do to your answers once you have finished the test?

(Book: Use any time you have left to check your answers.)

Student: Confident

Another student: guess (Honesty, can’t beat it.)


Question: What 4 countries are the company’s markets?

Student: salary sheets

Another student: sales markets

Another student: Veronique LeBouf, Manchester, Paula Stewart, Rome (Hey, you understood “4”!)

Another student: Rome, Florida, Sarah Longman (A city, a state, and a person…not quite.)

Another student: France, Italy, Spain, Britain (That’s exactly right. BORING! I need to make my tests harder.)


Question: Where was reliability in 1993? (There are graphs and charts to look at.)

Student: Britain (You do know reliability isn’t the name of a person, right?)


Question: What is the name of First Group’s subsidiary?

Student: Juliet Sharman (Me: I’m going to start a campaign called “Real Companies Don’t Buy Women“.)


Question: What kind of graph shows sales by product range?

Student: trangea (Wait, is there some kind of newfangled graph I don’t know about? *Clicks Google*)

Another student: E (What list of letters are you choosing this from?)


Question: Why has punctuality continued to improve this year?

Student: Government reducing it’s financial support (Now THAT sounds like a can of worms!)


Question: What company makes office furniture and supplies?

Student: I don’t not (…So, you do?…doesn’t matter, wrong.)


Question: Who is Juliet Sharman giving the presentation to?

Student: Earlier (We need to talk about names. Did Beyond write this? *flips over page to look at name*)(I ACTUALLY have a student named Beyond.)

Another student: Juliet Sharman (Maybe in preparation, like for practice, but I don’t think that’s what they’re talking about in the book.)


Question: What was the reason for growth of annual passenger revenue?

Student: bad service (In China, this makes perfect sense. I don’t know why, it just does.)


Question: Write the website “www dot crossfit dot com”. (These were supposed to by my freebie questions because there’s a box that gives you the symbol for the different words. Ex: colon = :, backslash = \, etc.)

Student: (WHAT?!)

Another student:


Question: Write the email address “emily underscore forward slash backslash underscore colon at QQ dot com”.

Student: (Makes perfect sense from 4 pages back, but no.)

Another student: No. (Well, then it’s wrong. I don’t know what to tell you.)


Question: Which is more formal, a note or a memo?

Student: sales

Another student: ASAP

Another student: Pan-European (Where do they come up with this stuff? I don’t even remember reading that.)


Question: Where is this company based?

Student: Veronique LeBouf (Sounds like a loose woman if you ask me.)

Another student: Where it is based. (YES! No.)


Question: By how much did punctuality grow from 1993 to 1995?

Student: reduce 6% (Nothing on this entire page reduced by 6%. What book were you using?)


Question: What is the possible day and time of the meeting?

(Book: Monday a.m.)

Student: Helsinki tomorrow (Sounds like a James Bond film.)

Another student: tomorrow (Not on your schedule, by the book’s schedule.)

Another student: pricing strategies


Question: What do Henry, Sue and Mike need to discuss?

Student: Yes, they do. (Reminds me of “The Other Sister” when the bartender says to Daniel [the mentally handicapped boy] “Merry Christmas!” and he replies, “Yes it is!”)

Another student: Yes.


Question: Who does Henry need to call?

Student: Henry (Himself?! When was the last time you called yourself? Don’t answer that!)


Question: What does Mike need Sue to give him ASAP?

Student: Yes.


Question: Who does the prize for Salesperson on the Year go to?

Student: World Cup year (I’m pretty sure this is information from the last test. READ YOUR DIRECTIONS!!!)


Question: What 2 things is Figure 4 about?

Student: get up (No, it’s “Get out!” and it’s an expression used when you can’t believe what someone told you. This is not the right context for that.)


Question: Answer each question with A-H from diagram on Pg 34.

Student: 1. DF  2. AF  3. DH  4. AB  5. CD (Clever with the two answers. Even if I took one of the answers, you’d still get every single one wrong. Now THAT’S horrible guessing.)

Turns out all my classes did better overall than the last test. We’re moving up, people! Before you know it, I won’t even be able to blog about it anymore because they’ll all be answering the questions correctly! I’ve learned that most of the time the really ridiculous answers are the ones they had no idea on, but put something just so they wouldn’t leave them blank, which I applaud. I get a lot of “I don’t know” and “it doesn’t say”. Some students did the same, some did worse, but what really makes my heart go pitter-patter is to see a girl who didn’t pass the first one, pass with flying colors on the second one. I’m so proud of them when they do that!

The curve will still be ginormous on this test.

Precious Moments

It’s funny, the odd and otherwise missed opportunities you get with students just being at the right place at the right time. Or even moments that could possibly seem negative are turned into the most precious of moments.

As a teacher you have your bright students, mediocre students, trying but failing students and then you have, well, the others. These are the ones that neither try nor care. Now, I don’t force English down my students’ throats. I get it. If someone came to America and said, “You must learn Chinese if you want to go anywhere in life”, I’d surely tell them to go suck it. So for my students who really want to learn English, awesome. I’m more than happy to help, and if they pay attention in class they’ll do great. But for those who couldn’t care less about learning English or maybe feel they just won’t ever need it, I respect that. I don’t agree, but whatever, it’s their life. For those students, I just want to make a connection. I want them to see that despite our language barrier, there are still a lot of similarities, and that I was in their shoes not but 7 or 8 years ago.

I remember it as clear as day. I remember how pointless I thought physics was, and how I just couldn’t find a relation between what I was passionate about, exercise, and chemistry. I do somewhat now, but there’s just some stuff you hate to learn, and for some of my girls, that’s English. Fortunately, there have been rare moments of a beautiful connections between me and not just any student, but the few particular students who seem to give me the hardest time in class. These moments are engrained in my brain and I love being reminded of them here and there, walking to and from class or sitting on the bus.

The knot game at English Corner.

One moment in particular, I had just finished English Corner (held every Friday at 6:15pm for free conversation) and was hanging out with some students who decided to show me their dorms. We had all bought bubble tea, and were chatting in the room. Well, each dorm room has up to 8 girls (crazy packed) with each one having their own little tent-like bunk beds, with sheets hanging from above for privacy. Well, in the midst of conversation, out pops one of my other student’s head. “Hello!”, she must’ve perked at the sound of her teacher’s voice. It was Nola, my most troublesome student. She was endlessly late to class, never did her homework, and had an attendance percentage of about 60%. She’s a smart girl, understands everything, but clearly doesn’t want to be at Hwa Nan. She’s probably one of the many forced to go to school here by parents. Anyways, she noticed we all had bubble tea and mentioned how hungry she was and wished she had the same. I had only taken a sip of mine being it was bought for me even though I didn’t really want it. I offered the rest to her, and she declined, but in following Chinese culture, I kept insisting her to take it, letting her know I was full from dinner and I really wanted her to have it. She finally accepted with a smile and humble nod of thanks. BAM, precious moment. There was a connection made that night with few words spoken. This was last semester, but I have her again this year. She’s never been late to class and has only missed once. PTL!

8 girls to a room, no A/C in the summer, no heater in the winter. I would've dropped out a long time ago. They all get colds at the same time, they all have horrendous mosquito bites in summer, and I'm sure their bodies are on the same "monthly cycle".

Another moment happened just the other day. Last week, as many of you saw (Hilarious Answers: Quiz 1), I gave my first test. Now, the way I catch cheaters is I simply watch during the test and make tiny notches next to names in the roll book. I don’t make a big scene, no scolding, no public humiliation. They don’t know they’ve been caught until they get their test back and it says ” Cheating = -10, No Curve”. After I gave back all the tests I made a list of people that needed to see me after class, the cheaters. They were all shamefully huddled around my desk with their eyes to the floor. I simply told them, “You are all very smart. I know you can do it by yourself. No more cheating. Understand?” And at the notice of my most lost-in-class student’s demeanor, I reached over and tilted her chin up, very cliche-like, with my finger, and said, “Don’t worry, I still like you. I just think you can do better.” BAM, connection made. I don’t now why I did such a cheesy mom-like sort of thing, but I did and everyone giggled and went encouraged about their day.

The key to teaching here is to be open, non-controlling and willing to meet these girls where they’re at. I have no idea what each of them deals with daily on the inside, the pressures from parents and society. I just know that I was placed in their life to show them a greater purpose and encourage them to dream big. English is such a tiny part of the story.

If Only I Had This Effect on Men

I ran into one of my student’s from last semester. She was such a joy to teach and really put a lot of effort into speaking English with me, but because of the path she’s taking in her courses she’s no longer my student this year. I told her I was sad she wasn’t in my class, but that she’s welcome to sit-in anytime.

This is the email I received from her:

I’m so glad to hear you let me come to your class. actually, i love to come to listen to you lecture. It make me feel so hot to learning english.”

I’m pretty sure “hot” is not the synonym for excited she meant, but genuine, nonetheless.

Also, “lecture” is a far cry from what goes on in my classroom. I’m just happy I inspire her in some sort of way.

This is from last semester when we had dinner together. It takes a lot of courage for a student to ask a foreigner to dinner and brave a possible hour-long conversation. Heck, it's hard for people who speak the same language to do!

Hilarious Answers: Quiz 1

I gave my first quiz this week. It was more like a test, but if they hear “test”, they freak out. I let them use their books and their cell phones so there’s really no way to cheat since they have every resource available anyways, unless it’s during class looking at the person’s answers next to you, which if I see, knocks 10 points off their grade and they are ineligible for the curve. Sounds too nice, but most of them don’t even get half of the answers right, so it’s a big knock off already. The test was a mixture of T/F, Choose A-F (A-F were people in different jobs they had to match to appropriate questions for someone in that field), and writing a short answer. The directions clearly state which page to look on for a set of questions. The short answers are ridiculously hilarious. I’m grading the tests and having a belly laugh every 5 min reading some of their answers. (If anyone were to walk past my room in the dorm, they’d think I was on Skype with someone.) Let us begin.


Question: How often do they get their bonuses?

(Book: We get our bonus annually.)

Student: They get their bonuses occasionally. (Me:”No! Aiyah! And you even had perfect grammar and spelling!”)

Another Student: Anusually (Me:”I’m not sure whether to count this wrong or right? Is it a spelling or a grammar error because she’s trying to say, “an usually”? I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt and say spelling, which means she understood the question. Right!”)

Another student: Really annoying


Question: Who does this employee contact if they want to take leave?

(Book: Leave should be arranged with your line manager.)

Student: Love manager (Me:”Hands down, best answer I’ve seen!”)

Another Student: Supplies (Me:”You’re not gonna get much of an answer back.”)

Another Student: Yes

Another Student: British (Me:”*laughs out loud* “What?!” Then I wrote on her paper, “Where did you find this answer?”, but I don’t even think she’ll understand that if she couldn’t answer the test question.)


Question: (Directions: Who are the following questions for? Choose A-F)

Student: C E (Me:”Clever, but no, it’s wrong. You have to choose only one, and actually, neither one of these is right.”)

Another Student: Yes, I can. (Me:”Really?! I had no idea you knew about financial portfolios! Now, who in A-F do you think also knows about financial portfolios?”)


Question: What would they prefer to discuss less than 1 time a week?

(Book: We meet weekly to discuss sales performance. That’s too often.)

Student: That’s too often. (Me: “WHAT?! WHAT’S TOO OFTEN?”)

Another Student: Sake performance (Me:”I like it!”)

Another Student: Sauce performance

Another Student: Scueb performance

Another Student: Soveb performance

*(The book has pictures of little hand-written cursive notes, so my students often can’t tell what they say. I didn’t count any “s” performance wrong. The fact that they understood the question and could point out the answer was good!)


Question: How long is a shift?

(Book: The normal hours of work are eight hours a day.)

Student: Twenty days

Another Student: Five years (Me:”Wow! That’s one hell of a shift! My brother’s deployment in the military isn’t even that long!”)


Question: When does this employee’s shift start?

Student: No


Question: Which cities are van factories being built in?

Student: Yes


Question: How much is being invested in Hungary? (There’s a map to look at.)

Student: Slovakia


Question: How often is this employee’s salary reviewed?

(Book: Your salary is reviewed annually.)

Student: Leave

Another Student: Every two days (Me:”Wow, that’s often!”)

Another Student: No

Another Student: With money

Another Student: Once a monty (Me:”Even if you spelled “month” correctly, it still would’ve been wrong.”)


Question: Does this employee work weekends?

Student: Line manager


Question: If they work overtime, do they get paid for it?

(Book: We often work overtime but never get paid for it.)

Student: They should get overtime pay. (Me:”True, but do they?”)

Another Student: It’s really annoying (Me:”Well, yeah, but worse if they don’t get paid for it!)


Question: What are his/her options for working during a public holiday?

Student: Employment (Me:”So…no options then. They’re just lucky to have a job.”)

Another Student: Yes


Question: What does the office frequently need to reorder?

Student: They office need to really annoying.

Another Student: Overtime pay (Me:”Boy, I’ll say!”)

Another Student: Frequently (Me:”*sigh*”)

Another Student: Stahoney (This was the hard to read cursive notes again. *stationery* I didn’t count it wrong. Funny, nonetheless.)

Another Student: Yes


Question: What happens to the equipment sometimes?

(Book: The equipment sometimes breaks down while I’m giving a presentation.)

Student: They equipment sometimes a presentation. (Me:”So close!”)


Question: Does the Supplies Department supply a uniform?

Student: Jane Thomas


Question: When should you sign your contract?

Student: Before you sign your contract. (Me:”Sounds like my song I made up as a little girl, ‘When my baby gets a spankin’, she doesn’t get a spankin”.”)

Another Student: 1982 (Me:”Before you were even conceived?!”)


Question: Where can you find the name of the Health and Safety Officer?

Student: At the top of the regulations sheep (Me:”Bah! Correct!” I’m not counting it wrong for one letter.)


Question: Can this employee call in sick?

Student: OK (Me:”I’m not asking you! What does Pg. 11 say?”)

Another Student: Can (Me:”If I wasn’t from Hawaii, I’d correct you!”)


Oh, how I love them. Oh, how I need to give a curve. *sigh*

Confessions of an ESL Teacher Part II…

  • I lose my temper. I’ll admit it. Usually, however, God quickly reminds me (because I can hear myself) and I either A) change my tone immediately and become Caring McGee, or B) say something funny to diffuse the tension. Ex: Breaking into the Hallelujah Chorus when a student has delivered her answer, finally, after a painful 5 min silent bout, is surprisingly very effective.
  • Sometimes I honestly believe my students are stupid. Then I study Chinese and I don’t think so anymore. Most of the time it’s because the answers to my questions are right in front of their faces in their books, but the “Deer In the Headlights” phenomenon has disabled them completely. For example: I gave a quiz yesterday. I let my students use their books and dictionaries. The directions say: “Look at Pg. 9. Answer the following questions.” Question #16: How often do they get their bonuses?
    Book: “We get our bonus annually.”
    Student’s answer: “They get their bonuses occasionally.”
    Me (when grading quiz): “NO!” *sigh*
  • In my class, if you’re found to be not paying attention, you will be called on. During the time of waiting on such student to 1. find where we are (by asking those around her), 2. remember what I asked (by asking those around her), and 3. come up with an answer (by asking those around her), I often whistle the Jeopardy Tune. Unfortunately, they don’t know what Jeopardy is so I laugh to myself (and then blog about it to share the laughter).
  • I play favorites in my head. I can’t help it! Some of my students are amazingly sweet and some, well, not so much. It’s that whole “love the unlovable” idea that I have such a hard time with. Don’t worry, it’s a work in progress, and I promise, it doesn’t affect their grade.
  • I use a lot! Oh, how I wish I was a…hold on…wordsmith!
  • I love giving tests and quizzes. I can’t decide if it’s because I’m evil or lazy.

To be continued…

Ok, so these are crazy popular here. You can buy them on the side of the street for about 20RMB (about $3), and they have a huge variety of colors and embellishments. When I went home during winter break, Banana Republic had flats that looked exactly the same...not for $3. I never liked them to begin with, but still!

I took this (hard to see) photo to show how close the other universities are to us. Hwa Nan is on the left, a police academy (pink) is in the center (way back in the fog), the Technology University is on the right, and I'm standing on the other corner at another University. Hence the name, University City.

A wet day to be on the track, but getting it done, nonetheless! My WOD (workout of the day) was 20 OH (overhead) squats, 10 long jumps, 100m sprint, 5 RFT (rounds for time). I deserve a cookie for the fact that I couldn't feel my fingers or toes afterwards.

I accidentally took a picture of the wrong "coffee". This is the blended drinks, BUT a tall cup of drip coffee is 17RMB ($2.70!!!) In the States, it's $1.76! Starbucks is more expensive in China! What the, how the?!

My Chinese teacher! She is precious! She's a graduate student in Chinese at one of the top universities here. I'm paying her, but it's nothing to what lessons would be in HI, and she's quickly becoming a good friend. We usually have a meal together either before or after our lesson.