Ten Reasons Why I Hate Numbered Lists (An English Teacher Can Count)

25 Sep

I admit, the title is not an accurate reflection of content, but it made you click on the article, right? Everybody loves these articles, except me. I am not a big fan of the excessive amount of articles in the world that are titled X number Things You Must Know! and the like. They make life sound so quantifiable. Ordered. Simple, if you will. Easy, even. And it’s not, dammit!

They’re so catchy, all these Cosmo-style relationship ones- 5 ways to tell he’s crazy about you;  the travel expert ones- 8 places you MUST visit in Mexico City ; the pseudo-health/science ones- The 3 worst things that age you faster ; the good little capitalist ones- These 4 essentials to buy cheaper online ; and my least favorite, those self-help “just do this and everything will be perfect” type ones-  6 tips to reduce stress  (And you know with a title like that they’re going to tell you some lame crap like “Eliminate stressors.” Well tell me when you’re coming to collect my children then, buster. Call me up when you’ve got my winning lottery ticket, thanks.) There was even that movie called 10 Things I Hate about You, which I refused to see on principle. The worst part is when I find myself clicking on these kinds of articles sometimes because, shit, they make life sound so simple and ordered!

My life here is anything but ordered. I do love my personal lists, however- so I can prioritize my classroom tasks, so I remember to buy actual food and not just several different chocolate products and imported beer at the grocery store, so I can remember what the hell I’m supposed to be doing when I get up at 5 in the morning (get dressed- pack child’s lunch- pump milk- drink 2nd cup of coffee- and no my lists are not in order, thank you). But I don’t try to force my lists upon others (okay, maybe Conan has to suffer through my lists on occasion). For me, lists are a personal, intimate thing, not a way to prescribe your ideas to the public.

This week, however, I was reflecting upon my year in the university (yes, it’s been over a year!), and I ended up with a jumble of seemingly-random things to share. Thus I decided, hey, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. So here you are, folks- my cheesy numbered lists.

Three Preposterous Things Students Say During Tests

 1.    Student: “Teacher, what does this word (insert target vocabulary word here) mean?”

         Me: “That’s a vocabulary word that you were supposed to study.”

        Student (possible response 1): “So, what does it mean?”

        Student (possible response 2): “Yes but I forgot.” Bats eyelashes innocently and/or smiles.

        Student (possible response 3): Blank look. “Vocabulary?”


       (variation 1)

        Student : “Teacher, I don’t understand this question. What do I write here?”

         Me: “You write the answer, based on this question (signaling where).”

        Student: “So it’s letter B, right?”

         Me: “I can’t tell you.”

         (variation 2)

         Student : “Teacher, I don’t understand this question.”

         Me: “Well, it’s asking you to answer like in this example above.”

         Student: Points to their answer. “Is this correct?”

         Me: “I can’t tell you.”

        (variation 3)

        Student : “Teacher, how am I doing?” Points to their answers.

         Me: Shoulder shrug. “I can’t tell you.”

        Student: “Why not?”

         Me: Facepalm self.

Me, at some point every quiz and exam

3.      Student 1: Waves and says something inaudible to Student 2.

         Student 2: Replies in a whisper which I can’t quite make out.

         Me: Clear throat and raise eyebrows while approaching chatty students. “There’s no talking during exams. See you                      guys tomorrow.” Take exams from Students 1 and 2.

        Student 1: Puts on shocked, sad face, despite the whole class having multiple warnings that this precise thing would                            happen since day 1 of class. “But teacher! I was just asking for an eraser!” (Which is possible, except I’ve                              explicitly told them before every single exam to ask ME if they need something so that I don’t suspect them                          of cheating, which definitely happens.) My all-time favorite response was: “But teacher! I was just saying hi!”

        Me: “Say hi before or after the exam next time. Bye.” (Yep, I’m the meanest teacher on Earth.)

Me, according to some students

The Three Most Inspiring Classes and Quirks from the Past Year

  1. The wooooo class

I often ask the student who’s talking (practicing or reading aloud or whatever) pick the next student to talk. In this especially hormonal class of 18 year old Animal Husbandry majors, any time a boy picked a girl, it elicited a “woooo” from the class. Every time a girl picked a boy, there was a woooo. Sometimes even when a girl picked another girl, or a boy picked another boy, they still got a giggly little woooo. I thought it was adorable and started harassing them to do it some more when they forgot about it for at one point in the semester. Now they are officially “the woooo class” (at least among us English profs).

Beyond their already fabulous woo, this class loved my enthusiasm- one girl always imitated my “I’ve seen the light” arm gesture with my “aaaaaaah” sound I make to signal that they should be excited about whatever I’m about to teach them. (Was she making fun of me? Of course, but very affectionately!) This class inspired me to create extra class interaction activities, thanks to making me laugh all the time. They always tried to distract me from the task at hand by asking personal questions (in Spanish, which I told them I would answer if they could ask in English, and then the whole class was capable of working together to string a real question together- amazing work, level 1!) They also complained constantly about having to come to English class and were always trying to make up reasons to not come, but they complained with a smile, and they had the best attendance of all my classes that semester. These guys secretly love English, and I loved them for it.

2.  The Physics professor who had class the slot before me at 12pm

He absolutely couldn’t manage to end class on time. Every day, I stood outside the classroom door, waiting for him to quit babbling, mentally adjusting my lesson plan based on how many minutes he was taking from my class. Then I’d go in and he’d have left his intricate drawings and accompanying mathematics all over the board for me to erase. “He’s trying to help build up my arm muscles,” I assured my students as I erased every day. “How is this great?” you might be wondering. Because karma is real, and the students despised his class! Which means they were thrilled to see me, and to have English class every day! Thank you, boring, long-winded professor, for inspiring my students to love English (even if I did have to mentally shake them awake)!

3.  Constant classroom entertainment- IN ENGLISH- provided by Miguel Angel, Abel and               Charlie

Think Ninja Turtle’s Michaelangelo- this Migue is a party dude, too, complete with badass motorcycle. Abel (pronounced like ah-bell) had a girlfriend in the class, but they never sat together. Instead, Abel sat with his bromance partner-in-crime Miguel. They were my class clowns, with constant banter about each other and everything else. They also provided commentary about what we were learning (“I think it was Mexican immigrants who built the Egyptian pyramids, too”), fun errors (“Did I approve my exam?”), making up Spanglish words (“I’m very tired; I need a siestation”). They contributed a steady, comical participation, and they did it mostly in English! If you’ve ever learned a language, you know how hard it can be to be funny in your foreign tongue. And these guys always had something to say. I like to think that these two inspired other students to learn more, thanks to using their wit and charm in English.

Okay, Miguel and Abel don’t look exactly like Matt and Mike above. Abel would totally be the guy on the left, though, if you added glasses. You get the idea.

Theirs was my favorite class that semester because the whole (level 3) class, compared to many others, was so responsive and participatory. Their class also included Charlie (not Carlos, thank you, but Charlie), my super adorable, fast-talking, pretty boy, English genius with the worst attendance ever (“I’m sorry, I fell asleep during lunch!… Listen, teacher, I have this opportunity to do modeling, but it’s justamente during class hour.” Convincing excuses when you can say it in English, let me tell you.) Charlie was one of the only students who ever used my actual name instead of “Teacher” sometimes, and he went on to tell me I was adorable (in a puppy-dog, head-patting kind of way) on more than one occasion. If I hadn’t been so amused by it I might have had to smack him. But instead I looked forward to Charlie and his thinly veiled false modesty. The lesson here is that you can get away with just about anything in my class when you do so in English.

See, English Teachers Can Count!

There you have it, folks. I used numbered lists to organize my thoughts and shared it with the public. Was it effective? It wasn’t so bad for me after all. Maybe I’ll convert and start communicating everything in numbered list. Titles to be used include: 5 Reasons Why Dora the Explorer is Taking Up Too Much Space in my Brain, 18 Things The Supermarket Had Last Week that No Longer Exist, and finally, 2 Small Children and the Infinite Ways in Which they Refuse to Sleep. Because some things just can’t be quantified.

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