We had a huge thunderstorm here on Friday afternoon.
The day had been ‘very close’ as the folks back home say, and then all of a sudden the sun disappeared, the heavy grey clouds seemed to drop right down on top of the buildings, and darkness fell. I have to admit, it was a little eerie for it suddenly to be dark at 2 in the afternoon. My class of second graders joked that I should turn out the light and tell a ghost story, and were delighted when I did it.
One of the things I love about my job is that because my goal is to get them speaking in English as much as possible, we don’t have to stick rigidly to the course books – it doesn’t matter if they’re excited about some other topic and just want to chat about it. As long as we chat in English, I’m still doing my job and they’re still getting good practice. Probably more than they would from conjugating verbs and answering grammatical questions.
And my kids really love to chat! They’re very bright, imaginative and entertaining, and as their English gets better, I enjoy my conversations with them more and more. I’ve stopped standing at the front of the class in the traditional teacher pose with my 3 (relatively small) elementary classes, finding that seating them in a group and then sitting down at the table with them makes the class much more informal and conducive to conversation. I don’t shush them if they stray from the book topic at hand, preferring now to encourage the conversation and ask them questions.
“What sort of weather can you predict by looking outside now?” I asked, seizing the chance to practice recently covered science vocabulary as they stared in fascination at the ominous darkness outside. “It’s going to rain. I predict very big storm!” said Lily. “What other things happen in a big storm?” I asked. “Thunder!” “”Lightning!” “Wind!” came the replies from around the table. “Let’s keep looking out while we work, and see if your predictions were correct,” I said, pleased, and picked up my book again to resume the lesson. Lily, however, was looking thoughtful.
“Teacher? Do you know the man in America, says the earth is going to die?” Excellent. A discussion on end-of-the-world prophecies with 8-year-olds, just as the view from the window had started to look decidedly spooky. Unsure of how to handle this, I tried to pretend I hadn’t heard, but by then her friends were all intrigued, and before I could decide what to do she had explained the whole sorry Camping tale to them. They looked amazed.
“The world is not about to end!” I assured them firmly, just as the sky was suddenly ripped apart by blinding flashes of lightning. Rain began pounding against the windows, and the thunder rolled so loudly that it wouldn’t have been difficult for a child to believe that the world was indeed on its last legs.
“Now, listen!” I said firmly above the thunder and the gasps, fearing impending disaster in the form of tears and screams. “You predicted this! You studied this! You know why storms happen, and you know what all these things are. You predicted the weather – but NO ONE can predict the end of the world, understand?”
They stared at me. Then Sally piped up, “We know, Teacher. Man is very very crazy, I think.” The others nodded and giggled. “And storm is very fun!” added Kelly. “May we watch please?”
And I agreed to let them take a break from working to watch the flashes light up the rain-drenched landscape, with a chorus of excited “Ohhhhhh!”s and “Wowwwww!”s at every clap of thunder and every burst of lightning. They were impressed and thrilled by the spectacle, and I was impressed by them.
The world did not end. And I think I love those children even more than I did before.