¿Que? When Language Barriers Get Funny

Scott had developed a shocking trend of “mooning” people on the playground. It was first brought to my attention by the noon-duty aides and then later by other students. Each time I gave him a detention and he missed his recess . . . but the mooning continued so I wrote a note home.

worldlanguagesThis post is a break in discussing classroom lesson plans, one of my classic jokes in language teaching. Scott was a wild 4th grader. He was the first out the door at recess and the last one in. He was also extremely funny to a first year teacher. While other teachers had given up on the hispanic lightning bolt, I was ready for the challenge. It was the stuff that esl lessons online are made of only computers weren’t much then.

Scott had developed a shocking trend of “mooning” people on the playground. It was first brought to my attention by the noon-duty aides and then later by other students. Each time I gave him a detention and he missed his recess . . . but the mooning continued so I wrote a note home. Normally, this would amount to humor but to a teacher it means some creative discipline.

Being a new teacher, I was not as savvy as I am now after almost 10 years. It didn’t occur to me that his parents might not be able to read a note in English. Scott accepted the note and I told him the customary warning that if he did not bring it back the next day signed, he would have no recess and there would be a call home.

When he brought the note back, I assumed the issue was resolved . . . but then recess came. Yup, he did it again. This time I had to schedule a parent conference. I spoke timid Spanish then but I did speak with his mother over the phone and she verbosely apologized in her native tongue. We made an appointment to meet about it and I made sure I had a bilingual aide on site available to clearly translate the meeting. What followed might be considered the best of interactive esl lessons, for me anyway.

In the meeting Scott sat next to his mother and I began to explain how ashamed I was to be Scott’s teacher when he did this at recess. The mother listened to the translator and then replied in Spanish to the effect of: “I know, we hate it when we do it at home and at the store, but everybody slips sometimes you know?”

After hearing the exact translation I was astonished. I said with the clearest Spanish I knew: “le permiten removar sus pantalones en publico a veces?” If you don’t speak Spanish, I said “You allow him to take off his pants in public?” If you do speak Spanish, you can see I need some tutoring. Then she said:

“QUE?”

The woman flushed immediately and looked at her son with a furor I rarely see in moms. She babbled something quick and angry at her son, slapped him on the head and then said in broken English:

“He told us you were mad at heem ’cause he deen’t tuck hees shirt een.”

And after that, Scott behaved and I went back to focusing on writing lesson plans.

Author: Damien Riley

Having been a public school teacher since 1997, I've gained valuable classroom experience. Sometimes a great tool is a dynamite lesson plan. These posts are from a real teaching journey. I hope they inspire you. Thanks for reading!

14 thoughts on “¿Que? When Language Barriers Get Funny”

  1. Pingback: The Writers
  2. I had left a much longer elaborate message, but then my connection cut off and it didn’t post. So now, my comment is this: LOL.

  3. Riley, this is ROFLOL funny! I don’t know how I just found you, because I’ve been surfing, but I’m darned glad I did. At another site, I was told to “deep link,” so I am using the url for a post of mine that loosely ties with this one. I’m looking forward to reading more of your blog today. I like your style!

  4. I followed a link “This Eclectic Life” had on her site and am so glad I did. This was a great story and your writing techniques made it even more amusing. I’ll definitely be back!!!

    Jessica The Rock Chick

  5. I loved this! Glad This Eclectic Life told us about your blog! The timing for me to read this post was great, in the last three days my husband and I have had two children 3/4 “moon” us and one young woman – so your post was a hoot and much more fun than the last three days. I’ll be back to read more. Gracias.

  6. Somehow this post got shifted to hidden status. It must have been when I was inserting a plugin or something. many apologies if you linked here and were unable to read it. It’s fixed now.

  7. lost in translation…this is an incident thats fun when recited but I am sure you must have gone through a lot of trouble to get it resolved….enjoyed reading this post a lot

    and thanks for submitting this to the best three posts competition…look out for the announcement of winners

    lvss last blog post..Today

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