The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 6

Or, the Scamp gets a Ticket to Ride.

I currently have four jobs. I never really know what day it is, or how much sleep I’ve gotten, or even which job I need to be at and at what time. For the most part, I am not sure what work I am getting done, what work needs to be done, or if I have been paid for everything that I’ve done.

I’m tired. I want to sleep. I want someone to hug me and tell me I’m doing a good job. I want my kitty.

Speaking of my kitty, he made an emergency trip to the vet this week and unfortunately lost an eye. He was poisoned when he was a youngster and has been blind in that eye for a long time, but it seems that it got infected, or something bad happened, and my mother was worried and took him to the vet. He’s fine, he doesn’t look like a monster, and I know when he gets home, he will be back to rolling in the dirt in no time.  I just wish that I was there to hang out with him and cuddle him and hand feed him turkey and cheese.

But back to my poorly placed reference about a board game. On Thursday nights I teach an English exam prep class. I try and have fun things for them to do that allow them to practice their speaking, read, and write. It does not follow the regular exam class format, but I’d like to think that there are still some good things about it. A couple of weeks ago we watched a video of people playing the board game Ticket to Ride. I wanted the students to have a chance to listen to different accents, and I knew they would have to focus on listening to figure out how the game was played. The students really struggled with it, one because the rules of the game are a bit complex, and because a lot of the jokes went over their heads.

I thought since they had seen the video of the game being played, it might actually be fun to play in real life. I love the game, so I bought a copy and took it to class for game night. I had two new students, and I am not sure that game day was a good class to start with.  It took a few rounds for the students to figure out what was supposed to happen in the game, and then once they did, the new students weren’t that impressed. I know that language was a part of the problem, not letting them speak Spanish while they played was an issue, and the fact that it was not a class that was giving hints and tips for passing the exam (and one of my new students really wants that).

I was sad because I thought the game would be a good chance for the students to speak to each other, and a fun thing to do at the end of the week. I was wrong. I don’t like when my lessons don’t work, and I don’t like feeling like I am not helping my students. I am going to have to go back to the old format of teaching, which I am not super excited about, but at the end of the day, their learning is way more important.

But man, I really wanted them to enjoy the game and have fun with it. If you are curious about the video I showed them, and or if you just love the idea of watching Wil Wheaton play boardgames, here is one of the greatest things on Youtube.

and here is the version of the game that we played.

I now have my own copy of the game, so anyone who wants to play, let me know. It is a really fun game, I like to think I am really fun company, and trains.


The Scamp Wants a Superpower

I don’t think I know anyone who has not wished for a superpower at one point or another. The person sitting in traffic wishing they could fly; the child who lives far from home wishing they could teleport; the slightly pervy guy who wishes he had X-ray vision. Kids who want to be like Batman, Superman, Captain America, or one of the X-Men. No matter what the age, I think that most people can agree that it would be really cool to have a superpower. The challenge for this week (week 43 already? Seriously?!) is to write about what super power I would like to have.

If someone had asked me this question last week, I probably would have said I would like to be able to fly or teleport. I’d love to be able to get to California to see my family for dinner, and then back to work in Edinburgh the next day. My life would be so much easier that way. After this week though, I have a new superpower that I wish I could have. I want the ability to understand and speak any language. I usually teach advanced conversation classes for the language school I work for, but this week, I was with students whose levels of English ranged from basic to intermediate. I thought it would be fun to do a Halloween themed activity, and even had Candy Corn that my mom sent me from the US to share with the students. They were all from Spain, and I know that Halloween is not celebrated there, so I figured it would make for good conversation and would be fun to see what the students thought of the candy.

One of the students I was working with had a very basic understanding of English and was finding it quite difficult to keep up with what was going on in class. I understand Spanish, but it is not good enough, and I am not as confident in my ability to explain concepts to someone who doesn’t understand English. The student was not a fan of my class, and I could see him getting increasingly frustrated as the class went on. Two hours is a long time to sit in a room where you don’t really know what is being said….especially since you are paying to be there. If I had the ability to speak and understand any language, I would have been in a better position to help him enjoy the class, lack of appreciation for the Candy Corn be damned.

This is not the first time this has happened to me while working at the school. Several months ago, a woman came to the school to do her initial assessment, and she spoke no English. We tried to muddle through a conversation while I gaged her skill level, and explained what the classes would entail while she was a member of the school. Somewhere in my explanation, the student thought I was telling her that I was not going to be working with her, not because my boss handles the students’ assignments, but because she was Polish and I didn’t like her. I was mortified. I would never want to do anything to jeopardize the reputation of the language school, but I also never want to offend people on purpose (well, some people, but they are jerks and they deserve it). If I had been able to speak Polish, I would have been able to help her, and help her with the start of her English training.

I’m hoping that one day someone will make this little dream a reality. In the meantime, I am going to try my best to not offend any more people, and brush up on my Spanish skills.



The Scamp Swears like a Sailor

I always knew my penchant for swearing and my love of a well-timed insult would come in handy one day.

I just didn’t know that that day would be in an evening Advanced Conversation Class at Simply English Edinburgh.

I love my job there. I have the chance to help some really lovely and amazing people improve their English skills. One of my favourite people owns the school, and has graciously hired me for to teach some classes, and act as a sub when needed. It puts me back in the classroom (which is something that I miss), and I get to meet really great people.

I have been working with a student who is in Edinburgh for a few months for work, and is at the school to improve their English Language skills while they are here. So far, their time here has been less than ideal. My student works in a horrible department, spends most lunch breaks eating alone, and is dealing with a major setback with work.

By the time my class rolled around, my student was not in the best of moods. Luckily, the other students in the class were not about to let a bad work environment ruin the magic of the city. I gave them the option of what the focus of our class would be, and somehow, we ended up talking about cuss words and insulting people in English. The students took notes on the sayings and insults, and then we looked up the best Scottish insults and I translated them from Scottish slang to English they could understand.

Now, to be clear, this is not something I would normally do. I know that as a teacher, I have a responsibility to be professional, but right at that moment, this is what the student needed. All of the students in my class are in their 30s, and before we started, I made sure that everyone was going to be comfortable with the subject matter. Everyone was laughing and chatting away in English and sharing where they learned some of the more creative insults.

I think I was more embarrassed explaining it to them then they were hearing the insults. This is not going to be an everyday thing, but when I left the class, my student who is struggling was laughing and felt better (they even had a list with all the insults written down to take to work for when the co-workers start to act like jerks again. The hour and a half of laughter was worth it for me. Just in case anyone was wondering, I worked in grammar, new vocabulary, and how to structure the insults in the best way possible, so learning was taking place.  It’s amazing how good a little swearing can make you feel.

In the interest of fairness, here is the article that I used for the Scottish insults. If you are easily offended, please don’t click the link. I’m not going to post the ones that I gave to them, just trust that they were really nice and colourful. Twatscile was one of them (okay, you get one from me).

Feel free to share your favourite swear word or insult with me, or just scream it out loud in an empty room when you are having a bad day.

The Scamp and a Story

On my last day as a language teacher I had a massive headache. I blame all the cider that I had the night before, but there was not a lot of options in terms of calling in sick, so after calling the boss to make sure that it was okay that I wasn’t operating on all cylinders, I limped to class and decided that I was not going to do any teaching. For the next few hours I had them make up stories and write them on the board. The second half of class we decided to play a game. We all wrote words or phrases on scraps of paper and put them into a tine. The first student picked a piece of paper out of the tin and started the story, and the second person pulled a piece of paper and continued the story working that word into the dialogue. We continued with the story until all of the papers had been used. The following is the story that came from that game. The words in bold are the ones that came from the tin.

The Fringe is a very popular festival in Edinburgh. There are a lot of cabaret performers, but one was better than all of the others. While she was performing, she slipped and fell on the stage. After she fell, a crazy man from the audience came rushing forward and pulled the woman off the stage. He went running off and the audience is too stunned to do anything to help the poor performer. While this is going on, there is a juggler across the street who is trying to put on a free show for the people walking by. While he is trying to gather a crowd, the crazy man goes back to the stage and starts yelling at the crowd about a trip he took in an African Safari Park. People were a bit frightened by it, so they moved across the street to watch the juggler. The juggler needed some volunteers from the audience because his next trip involved a jump rope. He found two kids, including one who was a teacher’s pet. The teacher’s pet wanted to make sure that the performance was perfect. The juggler did his juggling while he was jumping rope. Across the street, the crazy man was still talking about the safari park, and while he rants, he remembers a billboard that he saw once for a zoo in Spain that he had always wanted to go to. This makes him sad again, so he gathers up the cabaret performer and runs off to Portabello Beach. While at the beach, the two fall in love and decide to get married while watching a sunset. 

A few years later the couple are walking through the village and they find an abandoned dog. The dog was very cute, but the village that the couple lived in did not allow dogs to live in the houses. The couple decided that they needed to find a home for the dog, and in an effort to make him look as cute as possible, they tied colourful balloons to his collar and took him to the next town over. While walking through the town, the couple found a house for sale that had a large heated swimming pool. The couple loved the house, and loved the little dog, so they decided to buy the house and sell their other one. Years pass and now they have a little boy. The little boy does not like other people, so he spends most of his time playing in the front yard with the magic wand that his uncle gave him. The dog tried to play with him, but the boy did not want it. One day, while the dad was looking through boxes, he found a magic key. He remembered that when he was in the Safari park that the key was part of a hidden treasure.

After a lot of searching, the dad locates the treasure map. The dog has died, and so the boy uses his magic wand to turn the dog into a monkey. The dad, the boy and the monkey set off to follow the map and find the treasure that the key unlocks. They finally get to a cave and as they go deeper and deeper into the cave, they worry that they will never find the treasure. They finally enter a room and see the giant box! When the dad puts the key into the lock, he cannot open the box. What no one notices is that a giant stone solider has now blocked the exit from the room. He is a Scottish solider, so he is wearing a kilt. He decides that the boy, the monkey, and the dad cannot leave the room until they answer a question.  He asks them, ‘Do you think the haunted house on the island is actually haunted?’ The man starts to get crazy again because there is no way to answer that question. As he gets ready to fight with the solider, the monkey knows that he has to do something to calm everyone down so that the kid doesn’t come to any harm. The monkey starts to do monkey things, and the solider notices this. He throws a banana at the monkey to try and distract him. The monkey catches the banana and while the solider is surprised, the boy, the dad, and the monkey get the box and make their way out of the cave. On the way home, they find the real key to opening the box, and it is in binary code. When they get home, the mom comes out to greet them and announces that she has gotten them a horse. The dad and the boy ride the horse around, and it accidentally steps on the monkey. While the dad is burying the monkey, he remembers a friend of his who might be able to help solve the binary code and open the treasure. He calls his friend on the telephone. While the phone is ringing, his friend tries to get to it. He slips and falls, hurting his foot. While he is in the bathroom using his first aid kit to make his foot feel better, the phone rings again. This time it is a stripper, and she is calling because she can solve the code and open the box of treasure. She finds the dad, and solves the code. With the monkey, dog and horse now dead, the family decides to move back to the beach, and they open the box and live happily ever after with the treasure.

I think that right there is an award winner. They did a really good job of keeping the story going, and it took some very strange turns. I enjoyed it though, and it might be something that I try again with other classes if I make it back into the classroom one day.