The big NO-NOs

Teacher’s can’t get away with murder – murder in the classroom, anyway. I guess there is that slower, more tortuous form of murder a teacher could be responsible for, a more subliminal kind that comes in the form of evil education…

I will admit a teacher is rather formational. Look at all of us today! Just IMAGINE teaching a beginning level class. (At my school, we label this level Foundation.) Every student in that classrooms represent a mind that is quite possibly void of all English language. You are looking at a whole bunch of clean slates. A set of canvasses. A brand new notebook – the kind with no lines! YOU COULD TEACH THEM ANYTHING. The teacher who gets them in the next level will just have to un-teach your pig latin lessons and postmodern color wheel…

But the fact remains that I cannot GET AWAY with murder in my classroom. Surveillance cameras are set up, the doors and walls are made of glass, and students don’t remain silent unless you…right. Again, can’t do that.

There are also the other no-nos that come with maturity. By maturity here, I mean as your teaching career ages. For example, arguing with your students about philosophy when you’re only their elementary school English teacher. And English is their second language.

I did this today. I actually do this often (not terribly often), and every time I know I’m wasting my breath and I should really just redirect, but I can’t help myself.

I’m trying to teach the vocabulary word pollen visually up on the board and was already experiencing crappy teaching syndrome due to my health being at an all time low of 2%. (If I even started to raise my voice a little bit I started to feel like my voice was boxed in around my head since my ears have been feeling clogged due to my head cold.) I asked my students if they had ever sneezed when smelling flowers. I received a blank and boring “no” from about two students. I prodded.

“Who here has smelled flowers? Don’t you go outside and pick flowers and smell them?”

“PICK!!!???” exclaimed a student in shock.

“Yeah, pick flowers.” Was I getting somewhere?

“Teacher, we can’t pick flowers.”

“WHAT!!!!????” Now it was my turn to respond in shock.

“Our teacher says we can’t pick flowers.”

“How do shops have flowers?”

“They’re fake.”

“You mean all those flowers in the shops are fake? Those flowers are not fake! Where do they get their flowers???!!!” I was trying not to shout.

At this point, the discussion had gotten so philosophical that my students were resorting to Chinese, but for our purposes here I’ll keep everything translated to English.

“They planted them.”


“We can’t pick flowers!”

“You just said they planted them. So how did they get them?”

Some of my students were already bored. I felt like some of the more intelligent ones were beginning to get uncomfortable.

“They planted them.”

“SO THEY PICKED THEM! You CAN pick flowers!”

“Teacher, flowers are life.”

“Then why do we eat meat?”

I can’t stop. It’s bad.

“Meat? Meat is not life.”


“Flowers you have to cut. And they are life.”

“Meat you have to -”

“Kill!” Thank you. There was a student who miraculously saw where I was going.

“You have to kill animals to eat meat!”

You can see why this is a no-no. And it’s pretty obvious that I lost all self-control. The philosophical conclusion we arrived at? Students, use your brain! This actually ended up working out a bit since I got to passionately explain the difference between fact and myth later. My examples for myth were controversial (of course) and got some of my students thinking…”But some people think that is real…” I jumped on that statement and then explained to my students what actually makes a fact. You need to CHECK it. You need PROOF. You need SCIENCE.

My moment of philosophical victory came when I gave those “We can’t pick flowers” students a smug look and delivered this statement with a punch: “You can’t believe all facts. You must ask questions and use your brain.”

I’m ridiculous. Sometimes I don’t think I’m fit for the elementary educational setting.

Then there’s the more obvious and clear-cut no-no, especially when you’re teaching at an English cram school. NO CHINESE IN THE CLASSROOM.

One of the Chinese teachers walked in on a mini writing lesson a student was giving me up on the white board today. He was teaching me the proper way to write 我. I already impressed him with my 你 that I wrote up on the board for him when he asked if I could write it. 

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