Teacher Bloopers: Part 1

Robert started his lower-intermediate class by asking “What did you do this weekend?” Several students had typical answers:“I went to a movie”, “I went out with friends”, “I had a party”. One student said “I went to a burning.” “Oh,” said Robert, eyebrows raised, “A barbecue?” The student nodded, looking uncertain. Robert’s mind went into overdrive.

This was a perfect opportunity to make the class more “student-centered” as his TEFL instructors had gone on about. Take a student’s comment and expand on it by eliciting and introducing some new vocabulary connected to barbecues. Robert stared drawing pictures. Beer. A grill. Games. Some meat on a spit. Some of the words the students knew already, some Robert had to teach. He drilled pronunciation , but only after checking meaning.

After all this, the orignal student looked perplexed. He hadn’t been involved in any of the activities highlighted on the board, which Robert found a little unusual, but rationalized that different cultures had different barbecue traditions. This was the UK and these were British barbecue traditions he was teaching.

It later transpired that “burning” had been a bad translation on the student’s part. In fact, a relative had died and he had attended the cremation ceremony.

Major blooper. It would be ideal if there was a moral to this story, but all that comes to mind is “Be careful if your student says he went to a burning.” (Okay, perhaps there are elements of “If you’re not sure what a student means, ask questions and don’t assume they understand your suggestion.”)