I enjoy collecting stories and as a long-term teacher I’ve gathered quite a few. I’ve already posted a funny teaching story in My Favorite Student, but here’s a couple others that might bring a smile.
I was teaching a first year university English class. In this school, students were grouped together by major, and rotated as a unit—en masse—from classroom to classroom and teacher to teacher, kinda like elementary school back home. They’d spend 6-8 hours together daily.
In this particular class there was a couple. Pretty unusual in a freshman class, where they’ve just come from an oppressive and repressive high school experience. Most students, having worn a school uniform their entire lives, don’t know how to dress, have no sense of their own style, and can’t make themselves up. Many of the young women still sport watermelon-head haircuts. Some having come from unisex high schools are clearly freaked by having members of the opposite sex next to them. They are, in short, a mass of awkwardness and neuroses. Not a lot of dating gets done that first year.
This couple were the darlings of the entire class. They were singular for even existing, and obviously sparked the female student’s romantic dreams and the male student’s horny dreams. Titanic may have had Rose and Jack, but Financial Management class (FIN.90.104-A1/2) had Sunny and William.
One day I was marking essays and Sunny had handed in some very overwrought prose. [Asians tend towards the melodramatic in literature]. Dewy flowers were opening their petals revealing nature’s sun-dappled smile, a rainbow’s kaleidoscope was reflected in the calm pond, angels floated through the azure sky trumpeting nature’s beauty and glory, yada,… yada,…yada. You get the idea. It went on for two very densely packed pages. At the end I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about.
Then I read William’s essay. His writing was more succinct, I can quote the essay’s entirety: “Yesterday I went to Yangmin Mountain. I touched a booby. Score!!!!!” Hemingwayesque.
I looked up to see William craning his head this way and that, with a big silly grin, and puffed out chest—positively glowing. You could see the song running through his head: I touched a booby, I touched a booby, I touched a booby—score! I touched a booby, I touched a booby, I touched a booby—score!…. You couldn’t help but like the guy.
Meanwhile sitting beside him was the equally readable Sunny. It’s amazing how clear things are from the front of the classroom. You could see the dreams of romance, commitment, roses, sunsets, and paddle boats floating behind her eyes. She was clearly revving up to turn easy-breezy happy-go-lucky William’s life into a raging hellscape of emotion and drama. The big dumb goofy bastard had no idea what was coming. You had to feel sorry for the guy. He’d had a dream. A simple dream. A pure dream. A noble dream. The dream of touching a booby. He’d achieved his dream, and at the very apex of his existence, it was about to turn to dust.
Still, it’s fun for the teacher.
More recently I had the following experience: the Taiwanese government just passed a law giving women up to one day per month leave for menstruation. Most working women don’t avail themselves of the law, fearing it might undermine their status. College women have no such qualms—they are all over that shit. Rarely does a day pass that I don’t have students telling me, in stunning detail, about their periods. It’s kinda awkward and hadn’t been very fun, until I was emailed by one particular student asking for menstrual leave. His name is Jim. I wished him luck and sent him to the Student Affairs office to get a menstrual leave form for me to sign.
If you can’t laugh at your students, who can you laugh at?!?