Another excerpt from my current project on education:
I was in my first year of full time teaching trying to teach a group of 15 and 16 year-olds modern world history. Whether I succeeded or not is a matter for debate, but at one moment I thought about giving up. In my 8th period, the last class of the day, I had an exchange student from Germany, who in spite of learning history in a language that was not his first managed to score higher than any of my other students. Hans, was somehow an object of desire among the female students in spite of the fact that he was highly arrogant and sarcastic. At one point one of these female students decided to ask about exchange programs even though such a question was significantly off topic, not that such a thing was unusual.
Maria's hand shot up and without waiting for me to call on her she began, "Hey Mr. B?"
Figuring that she wanted to know something about World War 2, the topic of the lesson I responded, "Yes Maria?"
She perhaps did not really even know what we were learning that day since she had spent most of the period chatting with her cousin and the exchange student. "If I want to be an exchange student, to say…England. Do I have to learn the language?"
I paused stunned by the question, but trying to spare the student's feelings I calmly answered, "Maria, they speak English."
He faced did not betray proper understanding of my answer and sure enough she wanted some clarification, "So I don't have to learn it?"
I decided to try and clarify further so I repeated, "They speak English in England."
At that point a few students had cued into the fact that this young woman was making a fool of herself. Her friend, upon hearing the laughter decided that she was in on the joke so she tried to pile on to Maria's embarrassment by adding, "Duh, of course you have to learn the language."
By now most of the other students were aware of how ludicrous this line of questioning was, but for me, I had not figured out how to get through to her without making fun of her so I repeat louder and slower as though it was a matter of volume and speed that caused this young woman to fail to understand me, "They speak English in England."
Still the girl looked confused. At last I had a new idea, "Maria, they speak English. You speak English." She nodded was the confused look fixed on her face, but I had no more time to try and illuminate her.
It was at that moment that I decided maybe the students I was getting had missed a few steps on their way to my class.