Conversations In A Classroom Of Boys: The Life of an ESL Teacher

There are plenty of aspects about life in Korea that make me chuckle, but nothing provides endless hours of entertainment quite like the classroom. Being an ESL teacher I get to hear a lot of things that don’t make a whole lot of sense. Sometimes class feels more like a game of Mad Gab than anything else.

“What, you’re saying it’s hot. Just take off your jacket.”
“No, teachaaa! It’s haaahd. Haaahd!”
“Oh, you mean it’s hard?”

Conversations In A Classroom Of Boys: The Life of an ESL Teacher -Angry Birds and Engrish
Conversations In A Classroom Of Boys: The Life of an ESL Teacher -Angry Birds and Engrish

^^ This is what I deal with on a daily basis. ^^

I probably offended a lot of students during my first month of teaching. Partly because I would ask them to repeat themselves upwards of three times, and also because when I couldn’t understand them I would just nod and reply with something neutral like “Oh, that’s interesting.” Great teaching skills there! Meanwhile the kid was probably trying to tell me I got permanent marker all over my shirt…that happened.

Five months into teaching, I’ve learned to decipher their accent. I also look forward to one particular class where the students are advanced enough that they can express their thoughts – and these kids have some strange thoughts! Here is a sampling of the ridiculous things my one class of teenage boys says:

We were doing a lesson on international food and somehow the conversation shifted towards China. Out of the blue one of the students chimes in with,
“In China they eat everything with legs except desks!”
Whoa, not racist at all…

I walked into class with a half top bun on my head. One of the students stared at me and said,
“Your hair is very…very……UGLY. But better than before hair.”
Isn’t that what every girl wants to hear on a Monday?

We were talking about the Yanomami tribe in the Amazon and how they use darts to hunt animals in the rainforest. When I asked the students where the Yanomami get the poison for their darts, one of them told me,
“You buy poison on the internet.”

Still talking about the Amazon during that same lesson, I told my students that I had been to the Brazilian jungle to which they eagerly inquired,
“OH! You see a primitive?”
Hmm, perhaps not the most politically correct term to use…

I asked my students what animal they would like to encounter in the wild. These were some of their responses:
Student 1: Tiger, to be brave.
Student 2: Puppy because it is cute.
Student 3: Horse, to eat.
Me: What?!
Student 3: Yes, in France and Japan they eat horse.
Also notice how aside from the tiger these aren’t wild animals…

The other day my students taught me a word that sounded like “chaktung”, they told me it means stylish but cheap. In other words, a knock-off. Then they said,
“Your shoes are chaktung.”
Geez, thanks kids. Keep those ‘compliments’ rolling…

We were doing a lesson on crime and there was a picture of a robber with a black mask in the textbook.
“He’s haaandsooome. He looks like Batman.”

And lastly, a sweet comment from another class I teach which has four little girls in it,
“Swings are cool. The slide is not.”

What are some of the funniest things you’ve heard in the classroom?

Join the Conversation


  1. says: Naomi

    My first week of teaching, I passed a group of boys all wrapped up in a massive bearhug in the hallways, who then called out to me ‘Teacher! We are lesbians!!’

    It was a pretty hilarious introduction to my school, hahah πŸ˜‰

    1. says: thatbackpacker

      Haha, that’s pretty funny. πŸ˜€ Kids here are pretty affectionate. They are always holding hands or resting their heads on each other’s shoulders. They are a cute bunch!

  2. says: Jill

    I loved all of these. It’s so funny what you hear and it feels great when you finally get the hang of your students’ accents and speech patterns. I’m trying to think of funny things my kids said… but nothing comes to mind at the moment.

    1. says: thatbackpacker

      Yes! I was so glad when I finally got the hang of their accent. It made class a whole lot less awkward. At first no one wanted to participate because they knew I would make them repeat themselves again until I could decipher what they were saying, haha. πŸ˜€ Poor kids, having to put up with me as their teacher!

  3. These are absolutely hilarious! Kids are just so funny, especially when they don’t mean to be. I love teaching πŸ™‚ Here’s a few of my student favourites.

    On telling a student that I worked in Japan:
    Student: (squeals in excitement) Oooooh! Can you do orgasmic?
    Me: Excuse me?
    Student: You know, where you fold paper and make animals?
    Me: Oh! Origami!

    Comment on a student’s paper about Australia:
    “Aborigines are like the homeless but they don’t drink as much”

    1. says: thatbackpacker

      Haha! Those are hilarious! πŸ˜€ The last one especially made me giggle. Some of the things my students think about other ethnic groups are somewhat shocking yet mildly amusing.

  4. says: Jenna

    I can relate to so many of these πŸ™‚ But I also try to remember how HARD it is to come up with just the right word in a second language. Sounds like these students are doing a great job in that they are expressing themselves in English so much!

    1. says: thatbackpacker

      They are doing really well! πŸ˜€ I think back to when I was studying German in university and how frustrating the language could be some days…these kids are way beyond the level I got to after four years of studying.

  5. says: Waegook Tom

    My students told me that Chinese people are crazy because they skin people and eat them alive. I tried to persuade them otherwise but they weren’t having any of it.

    Also, my middle school first grade boys ask me if I watch porn movies, or read dirty Japanese comic books. I should officially disapprove but I can’t help laughing my ass off.

    Some of the things the students come out with are gems. My favourite was an essay about Michael Jackson after his death: “He face is scary, so I not like him. Now, he is dead. My feel is so-so.” Or when a 3rd grade elementary boy told me, “Teacher, you’re RUINING MY LIFE!” I don’t think he understood why I was laughing so hard.

    1. says: thatbackpacker

      Haha, yeah, I remember hearing a bit about that second one from across the dinner table last weekend… πŸ˜‰

      Your students sound like an entertaining bunch! I haven’t had anyone tell me I’m ruining their life, but a student has offered to pay me to go home and not teach the class… for a mere W1,000!

  6. says: Rachel

    Haha, these are some good ones. I can’t think of any amazing ones from my school, other than maybe “TEACHER, can you fly?”

  7. says: Michelle

    Hahahahaha this is hilarious. Haven’t started teaching yet, but I hope my students are as entertaining as yours.

    1. says: thatbackpacker

      Best of luck with the new teaching position! I’m sure there will be plenty of laughs in the classroom. πŸ˜‰

  8. says: Tiffany @ theUnimaginedLife

    These were hysterical! I’ve never been a teacher, (well, not yet, anyway) but have definitely quoted my fair share “Oh, that’s interesting” responses!! Cute post πŸ™‚

  9. says: Suzy

    How funny! When I taught kids in Sicily for a few months, they would all just ask me about High School Musical and if I knew any celebrities personally. I think I was really disappointing to them having no personal friendships with teen celebrities.

  10. says: Ceri

    “…when I couldn’t understand them I would just nod and reply with something neutral like β€œOh, that’s interesting.” ” – Hahahahaha. This was exactly what I did when I first started teaching. Hahaha. Love it.

    I love this list. I think I’d be open to teaching kids one day. Though I do have fun with my adults. I teach in Mexico.

    One of the best moments I had was:
    Me: “Finish this sentence. ‘I hope I will never have to … ‘ ”
    Student: “… kill the President.”
    *awkward silence*

    1. says: thatbackpacker

      Haha, that’s funny! I imagine there would be a lot of politically infused comments when teaching adults. πŸ˜‰ Teaching kids has been fun, but I’d like to try teaching adults at some point. I have a feeling they would be a bit more motivated than my current students.

  11. Hilarious post, that is so funny, especially the cultural difference of what is appropriate and what is NOT appropriate to say. Certain cultures are definitely very direct when something comes to mind. I am from Eastern Europe, and I know a bit about that as well πŸ™‚

  12. says: Jessica

    In Thailand, where I teach ESL, it’s normal for all people to be called by a nickname instead of by their full name. Some of my students include: Dragon, Mammoth, James Bond and Bonus. It has been one of the most unexpectedly funny aspects of teaching for me.

    1. says: thatbackpacker

      Some of the names they come up with are priceless! I have taught a Wi-fi and a Powerade. I wonder what the next semester will bring… πŸ˜‰

  13. says: Arielle Bergner

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, oh dear. Good way to start my day! Makes me want to visit your students. Those funny bunch!

  14. says: Ashley

    oh my word! I can’t believe i didn’t catch this entry earlier, soooooo funny!!!!

    my ‘not so funny moment’ : last week a patient told me “you’re’ so cute, like my granddaughter. such chubby cheeks” . What? I dont have chubby cheeks!!! right?

  15. says: Jasetyn

    My kids are too sweet!!! They have said a million funny things, but I think my favorite was my fourth graders trying to write our classroom rule (Be nice!) and my name on the whiteboard simultaneously. Except that they wrote in VERY large letters “BE NICE JEWS”

    My name is Jase. Hahaha, love them!

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