Maybe one of the best things about teaching students from countries around the world is that they can marvel at things you take for granted in your own country–they can be incredibly harsh and critical too, but we’ll let that slide for now. I want to relate a recent conversation with my students that illustrates this positive aspect.
My student arrived in class on Tuesday, fully rested from the “Family Day” holiday. One of the first things he said to me was, “I really want to make a snowball. I’ve seen it in so many movies and I want to do it myself.”
He got most of the classes attention, and all eyes turned to the window to look out at the softly falling snow–except for those eyes that checked their phones for the hundredth time that morning. Knowing that this was his first winter that had snow and temperatures near or below zero, I let him go on.
He continued. “I tried to do it today but I couldn’t. The snow was….” He then had to resort to gestures which indicated the snow didn’t hold together and flew away like dust when he let go of his hands.
I explained the idea of packing snow and taught the vocabulary. It helped that I have a fully functional “smart board” to work with.
Crestfallen, he asked if it would ever be possible. I guess he interpreted the my explanation that somehow packing snow does not fall in this part of Canada. I explained that he would get his chance soon, perhaps when it warmed up a little.
I then made a suggesting that only caused more consternation and discussion. I told the class that although they couldn’t make snowballs and have a snowball fight, they could probably make snow angels.
The student jumped up and exclaimed. “I did that!” He then pulled up a picture on his smartphone and showed the rest of the class. I complimented him on his work and started to plan my exit from the conversation, so we could get down to salvaging the lesson plan I had worked out. I wasn’t fast enough for what happened next.
“That’s a snow angel? one of the more vocal/funny/charismatic women in the class asked. I was a bit nervous that this might cause some hurt feelings, but I also knew that these two had developed a friendship based on kidding each other, so I let it slide.” Her follow up was equally, if not more brilliant. “It looks more like a snow butterfly.”
The class cracked up.
I appreciated my student’s enthusiasm and we had a pretty constructive class.
Afterward, the student who so ardently wanted to throw snowballs asked me about building a snowman. He seemed surprised that it might actually be a lot of work.