Friday, April 17, 2009

Dispatches from the Cram School

Hitler or Jesus? (From My Youngest):

Today we were working on "Where is he from? "Where are you from?"

The list of famous people that a group of Chinese 10-year-olds and I can both identify is pretty short (Obama, Chairman Mao, and S.H.E., the preeminent Taiwanese girl band). Really, we know a lot more of the same people, it's just that they only know the Chinese names, and I only know the English ones. (Lots of famous people, like Michael Phelps, are known by Chinese names. His is "Fei Yu," flying fish.)

So I thought I'd try drawing Hitler, because I knew they learned how to say "Germany" in English.

I started with the haircut, then the moustache. And then shoulder boards with swastikas.

They didn't get it.

So I finished his military coat and planted a giant swastika on it.

Oh! Teacher, Yesu?


He is Yesu?

You mean Jesus? I mimed praying to make sure we understood each other.


No no no no no. He is from Germany. He killed a lot of people. His name is Hitler.

The kids seemed to get it after that. Though again, they only knew his Chinese name.

I'm pretty good at sketching. So I think it's the swastikas that did me in: Back home, sometimes the cross is used as a generic symbol for religion, here it's the Buddhist swastika. I think my kids thought I was trying to emphasize that he was religious. Oopsies.

One Track Minds (The Middle Children):

Just in case the world needed more proof 12-year-olds think about one thing only, here are the sentences mine came up with when working on sensory verbs:

Vivian hears Sam's heart beating.
Leslie watches boys dancing.
Ted felt he loved Bella.
Angela saw Bob washing his body.

Potty Mouth (The Eldest):

I was explaining when to use the word "terms" instead of "words." I asked the students to make sentences using "terms." The most notable came from Judy:

"He uses lots of bad terms, like fuck and shit."

Uproarious giggles ensued.

"Judy, you can't say that."


"The f-word is a really really bad word."


"So please, you can't say that. Don't say that in front of foreigners, because they will think bad things about you."

"Okay, okay."

I can't really blame her for not knowing the weight of the word. I've heard obscene unfiltered American rap lyrics in clothing stores here. Context gets lost in translation. All I can do is tell her not to say it.

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