“Kids These Days” in Oaxacan University

7 Mar

The best part about teaching is that I have whole classrooms full of willing victims who are forced to interact with me and with each other every day. And I get paid to facilitate this interaction. And I have lovely, wonderful students! Bwahahaha!

So I am bubbling over with excitement this week, because the new semester has started. It seems like we had months without classes, although the calendar assures me it was only a couple of weeks. As soon as I stepped back into the classroom, my energy level rose about 10 notches. The spring was back in my step by the end of the first day. I had a big smile plastered all over my face, despite finally coming down with my kids’ never-ending  runny nose and cough. The fact is, I’m really a sociologist / social butterfly who just happens to also be an English teacher. I figure you have to be willing to learn about and learn with other people before you can try to teach anything. Thus, I always have an extra special place in my heart for the first week of classes, when I get to come up with thrilling icebreakers and review games to get them back into English mode. (I might be the only one in the classroom that calls my activities thrilling. But they’re cool, dammit!)

This semester I taught both of my levels the informal (aka not always grammatically correct, but always fun) expressions “me, too,” and “me, neither.” Students shared interesting facts about themselves, and the rest of us chimed in if we had that in common. For example, when someone said, “I want to see UFOs,” then everyone who wants to see UFOs had to say, “Me, too!”  They had to make some sentences using negatives, too, so we could say “Me, neither!” It made them come up with some pretty interesting stuff.

In my level 1 classes we stood in a circle and I got them to high-five and/or fist bump when they agreed with someone. My level 2 students were too cool for that sort of thing, so we just sat in a circle. My level two students were just as interested to share about themselves, though; we added “Not me!” to the mix so they could express their differences, too. (Yep, also not grammatically correct most of the time. Oh, well.)

I made students write out their ideas about themselves and turn it in to me, partly for the needed writing practice and partly so that midway through the semester, when the students are driving me crazy, I have something nice to read to remember that they’re really lovely people.

I was all wound up and excited reading about my interesting students this semester,  loving their writing, so I thought I’d share with you lovely folks, too.


Most Popular and Most Awkward Things to Say about Yourself

One of my students couldn’t get anyone to agree with him. He said he loves to play online games, and everyone was like, “No, I don’t have internet,” or “The internet’s too slow.” He said he doesn’t like tomatoes, which is almost as bad as not liking tortillas, given the typical diet down here, so everyone just kind of looked away. Apparently that’s my class full of outlaws and rebels (aka brainy computer nerds), because he wasn’t the only one who couldn’t get any fist bumps. One of his classmates was daring enough to say, “I don’t believe in God” (except he actually said, “I don’t believe in the gods.” Article usage is so tricky.) Everyone just looked at each other in silence. “Try another of your sentences,” I told him, moving right along.

Lots of high-fives happened with the ever popular “I love the babies!” Riding horses was the other most popular activity, for both guys and girls, in case you were wondering. But the absolute most popular phrase in all of my classes was: “I love my mother.” It was a high-five and fist-bump fiesta then. I love that you never grow too old for mama love in Mexico.

A Case of Confused Tenses- and Articles and Prepositions and Spelling and- Geez, English is Hard

I din’t die in much years. (He meant to say he hopes he won’t die for many years.)

I don’t like people lived in the poor. (Even in Spanish when I inquired what he meant to say it took us a few tries to confirm that it’s the situation of poor people that he doesn’t like, and not the poor people themselves.

I don’t love to cat (Was this supposed to be eat? Or you don’t love cats? Or you don’t love to eat cats? Is there a cat verb I don’t know about? All of the above?)

I don’t drink bear. (Dear English language, how can heel and here and hear all have the same vowel sound but not beer and bear? Sigh.)

I don’t have noise nuisance. (I still haven’t found out what this means. Maybe on Monday I can get enlightened. I think I might like it, regardless.)

I am a person lovely and friendly. (Good adjectives! The battle to change noun-adjective order is ongoing.)

I don’t want to smoking someday. (Glad to hear that’s not your goal, dear.)

The Obvious Feminists

There were a few radical comments from some young women in different classes that lifted my spirits a bit extra:

I will not hit children.

I don’t want women to experience violence. (Wow, way to use the verb experience from last semester’s target vocabulary!)

I’m not going to have many sons. (She really meant she won’t have many children, not that she’s against male children. Another victim of sad choices in the dictionary.)

And finally, my personal hero wrote that she likes travel and natural zones (areas, zones, whatever), and “I don’t like the liar people” and my favorite phrase, “I don’t like other people to decide for me.” Amen, sister, and impressive use of English to boot.

Most Common Desire

By far the most common theme of hopes and future plans was to travel, to visit and live in other places! These guys have plans and passions for places including England, China, Spain, Argentina, Paris, Uruguay, South Korea, Africa (country unspecified), and “in all the world.” They want to visit uncles in Italy, work in Canada, see snow in Alaska, and eat pizza in the USA. Some, perhaps, haven’t decided where they’re headed, but they have vowed, for example, “I will not live in Puerto Escondido.” Bravo, university, for helping students dream of other places.

Inspired by the Teacher- For Better or For Worse

Some students were inspired to not be like me, which was pretty amusing. They wrote things in direct opposition to things I wrote on the board as examples for the assignment. I wrote that I love to cook and eat international food, and a few students wrote things like, “I don’t eat international food.” I wrote that I was a vegetarian for many years, and so a student wrote, “I am not going to be vegetarian.” I wrote that I will learn Portuguese and live in Brazil someday, and somebody wrote, “I will not listen to music in Portuguese.” I suppose negative imitation is a different kind of flattery. At least I’m inspiring them to write!


Other Fabulous Randomness- The Struggle to Express Yourself in a Foreign Language is Real!

All of these comments below are just little things that tickled me to read, to think about my students and how unique they are. I was so impressed with how well even my level one students were able to express many things about themselves. I was thinking about how, in general, we’re so quick to have a nasty attitude about the youth of today, to have that “kids these day don’t/aren’t (insert complaint here).” I was also thinking about how people in the U.S. often get sold an image of Mexican people that is racist and not based on the reality of the people of Mexico. So I wanted to give you guys just a few more excerpts from these lovely young folks, who are a much more real face of Mexican youth than any images you’ll see on TV.

I will listen to music of Beyonce in live. (in Spanish we say en vivo, so it was a pretty smart translation.)

I didn’t learn the book of biochemistry. (Me, neither, guys.)

I never thought about Santa Claus when I was a child.

I will be an important businessman. I won’t be poor.

I am going to drive an airplane 727.

I will not listen to heavy metal. (Is this like a New Year’s Resolution? Giving it up for Lent?)

I will not leave English class. I will learn English to finish school. (This is from my student who’s auditing my class after failing multiple times due to goofing off- not due to any lack of capability. This is his very last chance to get through and graduate. To show me that he’s serious, he even used comparative and superlative correctly in his other sentences.) I want to have a dog bigger than a horse. I don’t have the car fastest in the world. (Almost perfect, right?)

I don’t play football. (aka soccer, dear USA) I went to study music when I was a child. (So, you’re trying to tell me you’re not into the typical guy stuff, huh? Got it.)

I learn fast. I like to work in class. I like to eat cakes. I am positive. (I’m positive, too, while eating cakes.)


I am participatory. I think much about the birds. I believe in the fairy. I can play football. (Don’t you want to hang out with this person?)


I love to cook and paint. I love to cook and movie terror. (Does she really, really love to cook or did she run out of other verb ideas?)


I am not going to fight for bad people. (I suspect that this student gets picked on some, and probably got picked on a lot in middle/high school. He’s a bit unique and expressive for the world of small towns.)

I don’t like people with negative attitude. I didn’t say that I can’t. I will build a tae kwondo school. (This student chose to share his second sentence in class, but nobody understood it. We had to translate it word for word, and then he still had to explain his meaning. Obviously there aren’t many other posi-core kids in his class.)

I didn’t play extreme sports. I like to see the movies from Star Wars. (True story- Star Wars is not a popular thing down here. Nobody cares in the slightest that I’ve never seen it, and  nobody ever tries to force me to watch it, because at last half the population here hasn’t seen it, either. It’s just like me being short- fitting right in down here!)

I read books every day. (Yay for my students who love to read!)


I love bikes. I like to watch the sky. (Me, too!)


I love my girlfriend but I don’t know why. (From the flirtiest student of all- but he’s not flirty in an aggressive or inappropriate way, so you really can’t help but like him.)


I hope to be a teacher. I listen to listen to classical music.


I love exercise.


I can dance ballet.


I don’t understand the women.


I don’t like party. I don’t like the school schedule. (This is the same student who loves “the babys.” She doesn’t have any, she just loves them. Much cooler than parties for some eighteen year olds, I guess.)


I don’t listen to music rock. I don’t watch horror movies. I don’t eat vegetables. I want to go out with my friends. I love my mom. I am happy.  (I don’t know why this one- all of her responses together- tickled my fancy so much. She made herself sound so simple, and yet- I don’t know- so sure of herself, and thus, interesting.)



You can see why I’m so ecstatic with my job- and my great students. Kids these days in Oaxaca are awesome, and the best part is that I get to be their teacher!


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