Monday, 25 November 2013



You’ve had them, I’ve had them, me oh my how we’ve had them! And recalling them still makes us cringe with embarrassment. But not all classroom catastrophes are instigated by the hapless teacher. Some pretty hairy scenes can originate from the students themselves.

Like in the mixed-nationality class I once had when a Japanese girl’s cell-phone rang, and the highly-strung Korean girl seated beside her jumped up and tried to throttle her. Or when a male Korean student got up and administered an almighty kick to a Chinese student’s throat. (Our school had a rule: Start a fight in the classroom and you’re on the next plane home.) In another class, I had a male Korean student who had an anger management problem, and at least once a lesson would lower his head and glower at some poor hapless student and mutter unmistakeable threats. Not something you need when you’re busy conveying the intricacies of the past perfect tense to the class.(Notice how all my tales of dodgy students are about Koreans? Funny, that.)

But, face it, most of the classroom fiascos are the direct result of your own foolishness, or inexperience, or are perhaps just cruel twists of fate. I once made a dramatic entrance to a classroom which the students are not likely to forget in a hurry. It was raining heavily, as only it can do in the tropics, and I rushed into the room at full-pelt. The floor, of course, was wet, and consequently I slid along the floor on my bum, coming to a stop only when I hit a stack of folded chairs at the far wall. “Um… good afternoon everyone. Have you done your homework?” Or the time I berated a student who could never, ever repeat a sentence correctly. “Everybody else can do it, why can’t you?” He shook his head helplessly, then the girl seated beside him put her arm around him and said “He’s deaf in one ear”. Oh God.

Let’s hope your catastrophes are few and far between.


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