The Angel of the Household

My host family has a one-year-old son. Despite my general indifference to children I have to admit that this little guy is cute. That is, until I leave my door open for a few moments and turn around to see my toothbrush sticking out of his mouth.

He also loves phones. He will take your phone and put it against his ear as if he were deep in conversation with someone on the other line and he shouts “ooh!” and “ahh?” Take the phone away, however, and he howls like a banshee on the moors.

He’s got an excellent set of lungs, that’s for sure. He should take up a brass instrument one day. In any case he is a big hit with company. Yesterday a few members of the extended family showed up for lunch and they didn’t give a damn about the three foreigners at the table. Not that I minded of course. They didn’t speak a word of English, so communication would have been difficult.

They loved that little boy though. Everyone loves the cute little kid, sometimes even when he’s screaming. As guests fawn: “oh I want to just take you home with me!” a strange look appears on the parents’ faces. It’s a sort of flash-back look, as if their minds are remembering last night, when junior threw a tantrum after the phone was taken away, and how he then threw his yogurt at the volunteers, all the while screeching in the language of dolphins from Hell.

After the flash-back has passed another look graces their faces, one that says: “I’m glad you offered!” He’s all yours! I’ll put the stroller in your trunk right now.”

Group F

I like all the groups that I teach: the little ones, the middle-schoolers, and the adults. I admire the adults the most, however. This venerable group shows up twice a week for their two hour lessons of their own free will. I admit to spending the most time on their lesson plans because I want to ensure that they get something out of the class, and I want them to see how much I respect them for trying to learn something new in adulthood. 

There is one student in the adult class, I’ll call her Amalia, who rarely speaks out and has low confidence in her ability, even though more often than not she knows the answer. In the beginning I wondered why Amalia was even in the class if she refused to participate. How much can someone learn if he or she doesn’t participate and just silently takes notes the entire class? 

The adults, group F, need as much speaking practice as possible, so I made a game out of basic introductory phrases. The previous class we had gone over introductions like “Hello, my name is___. I am from___. I am ___ years old,” etc. etc. etc. So I made name cards with new names, nationalities, ages, likes, and dislikes. I then put all the name cards in my hat and had the students pick a card from the hat and introduce themselves to the class as that new person. I had fun making the cards, (my personal favorite was Gregory, the one-handed and two year old man from Germany, who likes his grandchildren and dislikes teenagers and stairs) and the students seemed to genuinely enjoy the absurdity of introducing themselves as wildly different people. 

Amalia introduced herself as Brad from Brazil, a laid back surfer dude who liked yoga, reggae, and the beach, and who disliked bad vibes, his mom, and responsibilities. After “Brad” introduced himself the class was free to ask him any introductory questions, and someone asked “Brad, what do you do?” 

Amalia couldn’t think of a fictional occupation fast enough, so she said “nurse,” to which the whole class laughed. I thought the joke was that Brad, being so lazy, would be a terrible nurse, but it turns out that everyone in the class knows each other, and thus know that Amalia is actually a nurse. 

It then made total sense to me why Amalia was taking this adult English class. 

Cynics hold that man is essentially morally bankrupt, and only out for self-gain and pleasure. I don’t see any of that in Amalia, group F, or in any of the groups I teach.