So, it’s that time of year again; Final exam time; And not just any old final exams, but end of year/graduation exams. Such a wonderful time; the college canteens and study areas filled with students engaged in solemn debates about which mall is having a sale this weekend, what colour underwear this week’s flavour of the month pop/TV star wears on which day, or how many packets of barbecued octopus nipple flavoured potato chips you have to purchase from 7-11 to qualify for a free packet of, barbecued octopus nipple flavoured potato chips!
But no, that’s just me being frivolous. It’s a serious time for teachers, when their workload increases thousand-fold trying to catalogue all of the late homework assignments (which the dog has just miraculously regurgitated intact), keeping track of how many of Somchai’s grandparents died during the semester allowing him credit for missing the lesson, and engaging in the business of grading the students exams and determining whether theirs will be a short working life hugging a vertical chrome pole in one of Bangkok’s numerous entertainment plazas, or a much longer career, donning a numbered dayglo green throw-over waistcoat ferrying overweight shopping laden som tam vendors to the end of the soi on their recently hire-purchased Honda dream.
That time of year when hordes of students appear to commit their linguistic prowess to paper for the wonderment of their teachers in the hope of a better future, as if the previous five and a half years didn’t matter.
That time of year when students who have never set foot into the language centre office before appear, as if by magic, to utter those four immortal words; “Teacher, help me please!”
What do you mean, “help me?” If I were half capable of doing something like that, I would be out in the wilderness of the Sinai desert with a couple of loaves, a few fish, numerous flagons of bottled water and more minions than a McDonalds happy meal service hatch.
I’m always amazed, and sometimes wonder whether I shouldn’t actually give them extra credit points for independent learning when they utter the phrase, because as hard as I try, I can never seem to find the phrase in any of the textbooks they have been studying, but that is by the by.
The phrase is akin to the other favoured utterance that comes out at end-of-term practical speaking tests; “I’m sorry, I don’t know.” Another fine example of independent learning if ever there was one, because I certainly never teach that in class! I don’t know about your own esteemed educational establishment, but mine has the students record their answers onto a computer, while a ‘native speaker’ recites the questions at the front of the class. The answers generally go like this;
NS: “Number …”
Student: “One, I’m sorry I don’t know. Two, I’m sorry I don’t know. Three, I’m sorry I don’t know.”
For myself, I think they should do these speaking tests every week, because they turn the students into psychics, but, then again, that is by the by.
The third ‘utterance’, for want of a better word, as it is usually scribed onto 28th generation dried papyrus vomit is, the old chestnut; ”I love you teacher.” Again, independent learning at its best, because, whilst I have worked with a few individuals in Thailand who encourage use of the aforementioned phrase, it’s not something that is usually included in my own personal handouts to students.
I sit there in utter bewilderment, nay, amazement even, at times, trying to deduce what is going on inside the student’s head, and how they can believe that, “I love you teacher”, is an appropriate answer to the question; “Is the bus stop OPPOSITE, NEXT TO or IN FRONT OF the 7-11?”
I only wish they had imparted their undying amour for me during the year one semester one mid-term exams. Who knows? With a little modification, replacing the word ‘teacher’ with, ‘long time’, I could have set them on their pre-ordained career path five semesters earlier, when they were still lithe enough to work the chrome pole with the dexterity of an epileptic snail, and attract the eye.
But, then again, that is by the by!