Makes You Think III

This week’s instalment of comments overheard in my classroom:

Isn’t it amazing to think of the varieties of fresh produce and items available in our supermarkets? One text prompted a student of mine to write, ‘She saw milk in the refrigerator.’ Yet she didn’t actually write milk. She wrote ‘milf.’

Like many others, I find the prospect of holding a social gathering and cooking for others daunting. My students, as young as they are, apparently feel the same. Instead of reading ‘picnic basket’ they repeatedly said, “Panic basket.”

Foreign names
Names such as Siobhan and Hermione have been tripping up children for years. For some of my students, pronouncing Western names proves a real challenge too. Many of the stories include names such as Anthony, Naomi and Chloe. Inexplicably, the hardest of them all turned up in an oral exam. That name was Phoebe.

Dentistry designs
One of my students was reading a personal recount about a boy on a farm. He read the phrase, “I wore a thick coat and tough shoes.” However, the /th/ and /f/ sounds caught him out, and he instead pronounced it as “tooth shoes.” I’m not convinced they’ll take off.

Marking can sometimes be an arduous task, but occasionally some absolute corkers will surface. These need no introduction, but I’d like to take a moment to apologise to my Great Auntie Melita. I was brought up to be better. That said, the last one is rather uplifting, don’t you think?

Christmas vibes
Although many children do not celebrate Christmas here, it is still prominent with carols blasting in Fairprice and tinsel exploding overhead in the malls. Although I generally wait for December, I have started early this year since most children are off on their holidays soon. Here are some terrible festive one-liners. Enjoy! 

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Makes You Think II

This week’s round-up of the weird and wonderful thoughts from my students:

One of my reading class students read the word ‘magician’ and asked what it meant. I described the traditional image of a magician using a magic wand, and pulling something surprising from his (seemingly) empty hat. The boy had a flicker of recognition pass over his face. “Like a pigeon?” In a budget show, perhaps.

Attachment issues
I always encourage the nose-pickers to grab a tissue, and as a teacher of three and four year olds, I even have to show them how to blow their noses effectively. Perks of the job. One girl successfully blew her nose, and as she discarded the used tissue into the bin, she cheerfully exclaimed, “Byeeee!” as if it were a close friend.


Most of the children who are finishing Kindergarten and moving to Primary school in January (school term starts at the beginning of the year in Singapore) are now breaking up for the holidays. Some are travelling to China, Malaysia, Myanmar, India or the Philippines to visit their extended families. I asked one of my young students what China was like as I had never been. He said it was nice, before offering to take me to MacDonalds. What a gentleman.

One of the inevitable situations in a classroom full of children is that someone will fart. It’s no good telling the children that it isn’t funny, because it is and always will be. Depending on the child in question, I will either ignore and deflect the attention to something else, claim it was my chair, or ask them that they wait for me to open the door first. During one class with six year olds, one child let rip. Another quickly rebutted, “Excuse me, I’m eating.” It was clear this was a regular comment at their dinner table.


After introducing my class rules song and threatening to enforce it by singing to the child each time they broke one, I lost my voice completely. I had to take a day off as it is difficult to teach phonics and reading without talking. My students were surprised that I wasn’t there and asked the cover teacher what happened. On hearing that I had lost my voice, one said, “She talks a lot.” Thanks, kid. On my return, I told them I did indeed lose my voice and I had to go on a daring quest through the jungle to find it. This was a bit more exciting than the Strepsil truth.

Proper nouns
I like to introduce the concept of proper nouns and capitalisation early, so when my reading class encounters such a word, I ask them, “What is special about that word?” I’ve coached them to say that it has a capital letter so it’s a name / country / month etc. On reading ‘Egypt’, I asked the same “What is special?” question. One student replied, “Nothing.” The pharaohs would be turning in their tombs.


Feminine values
On discussing gendered nouns with my lower primary students, we listed the masculine / feminine names for animal species. For example, horses are stallions or mares, female lions are lionesses, and chickens can be named cockerels or hens. When we covered cows, the children rightly said a male cow was a bull. When they realised a female was still called ‘cow’, one boy exclaimed, “It’s rude to pull milk from a cow then!” I quickly moved on.

Finally, I leave you with this body-positive thought. I asked my student to make a sentence with the word ‘hips’. She said, “I shake my hips when I dance. It shakes my bum too because they are friends!”

I’ll be back next week with more insightful comments from my students. Likewise, if you are a teacher, parent or look after little people, share your comments below. I’d love to hear them.

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Makes You Think

Each week, I’ll be posting the most thought-provoking comments from my students. If you missed it, check out last week’s edition here.

Word association
One task that we frequently ask students to complete is working out the definitions of new words within a passage. In one example, my eight year olds were asked to deduce what ‘paraffin’ meant. The sentence spoke about pouring it, so we decided that it must be a liquid of some sort. Their answers? Turtles and muffins.


Faith restored
One of my four year old kids had a very serious question for me during class. He asked whether jelly was made from jellyfish, and looked extremely relieved when I told him it wasn’t.

We teach the children a thumbs-up technique to differentiate between lowercase ‘b’ and ‘d’. There are plenty more techniques (such as ‘bed’ or ‘b has a belly, d has a diaper’) available on Pinterest. On discovering that some children were not angling their thumbs correctly, I have switched to the ‘OK’ signal as pictured below. After going round the class and checking each child could both do the gestures and tell the letters apart, one child modified his a bit. He curled down all his fingers leaving just the middle ones up.

Explaining what a disguise was, I told the students that it meant changing your appearance so that you looked different enough to go unnoticed. I gave the classic example of the bushy eyebrows, glasses and moustache. One member of the class suddenly nodded and said, “Oh, like makeup?”

Discussing journal entries, my primary class began thinking about secrets. One bright student raised his hand and told us that he used to have 45 secrets, but he told his brother two of them, so now he has 43 left. I never really considered it, but that is exactly how secrets work!

I gave my primary students a reading list and challenged them to play reading bingo last week. They were genuinely excited, except one girl who seemed perturbed. When I asked her which title she would read first, she asked how long each book was. I told her they varied in length. Another child then boasted about having read a really long book. The girl spun round and said “How long?” as she raised her arms apart. I realised then that she was thinking about the actual length of the books rather than the number of pages!

Don’t try this at home
Finally, as it was Bonfire Night back home this week, I’ll leave you with this final cracker. Reading aloud, one boy read ‘tested fireworks’ as ‘tasted fireworks.’ That would take more than some Gaviscon to fix.

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Curiosity – learning from my students

Curiosity. I lost it temporarily. The pursuit of it caused me to quit my job and move halfway across the world. Now as a teacher, my students often ask me about things I’ve never really considered, such as why a toothbrush is not called a teethbrush, or why carpet isn’t a pet for your car. I began to wonder about all the other things I took for granted growing up. After ten months, here’s a list of things I’ve learnt so far:

Simplify instructions
My classroom rules are simple. However, one boy in class took the first rule literally.


Me me me
When we celebrate a child’s birthday in class, we sing the happy birthday song and give three hip-hoorays at the end. That’s if we can get through the song without everyone shouting out their birthday, or their dad’s, friend’s, or cat’s birthday too.

Toughen up
I had a student ask me if I had washed my hair (it turned out he liked the shampoo smell), and another about the mosquito bite (read: spot) on my face. One child told me I have vampire teeth, and another guessed my age at 90.

Holding a straight face is essential
During a mock oral exam, one student panicked:
Me: Do you have a pet at home?
Student: Yes, I have a fish…but it died.
Me: Oh, I’m sorry. Which animal from the pictures would you choose to adopt instead?
Student: [Blank stare…possibly considering mortality]
Me: Right, what should a responsible pet owner do?
Student: [Shrugs shoulders]
Me: Ok, what things would a good pet owner do to look after their animal?
Student: Walk it at the park.
Poor fish…

I rewarded a boy with a holographic sticker after class. He threw it back at me – even 2D glittery purple spiders are scary.

An honest mistake
Had a dictation in class and the word ‘aching’ caused some confusion. A fair few of the eight year olds wrote ‘Egg King’ instead.

Requesting back-up
I taught a kid to pause at commas and full stops today by mimicking swimming. We fixed his reading but now he does the front crawl at his desk.

New tricks
I did the ‘pop’ noise with my finger and the kids were floored. When I taught them how to do it, they successfully impersonated fish with hooks caught in their cheeks. Drool galore.

Literal learners
During an assessment with a four year old, I pointed to a caterpillar. The child called it a worm. I told him that it transforms into a butterfly. He still didn’t have a scooby. I pointed to the picture as a cat to give him a clue. His answer: catworm.


Simplicity is beautiful
One of the nine year olds in my composition class wrote a wintry haiku. Bearing in mind it should technically focus on nature, he ignored this in favour of opening with: Hello hot chocolate. Accurate.

To help some eight year olds imagine they were exploring the land of the giants, I pretended to zap them with a shrinking ray as they walked in. I had an over-sized tomato-shaped eraser next to a miniature man (representing us) for scale. When I suggested that a giant’s sneeze would create a green pool for us to swim in, they absolutely lost it.

Not all plans pan out
During pirate week for my phonics class, we covered the ‘ar’ sound and had a story and various isolation exercises. At the end, I offered to unlock the treasure chest if they could give me a word with ‘ar’ each. The first boy said “octopus” and the next said “rabbit.” Lesson well spent.


Cultural understanding:
Me: [Reading speaking prompt question] Have you ever been in trouble?
7yo: No.
Me: [Surprised] Really? Have you ever had a messy room? Or left your dinner? Or had a fight with a sibling?
7yo: I’m from China.
Me: Right…

One child asked me if jelly was made from jellyfish which is a perfectly reasonable question. On that theme, jamming with the kids in phonics class produces some unexpected results: 

Jelly on a plate. Jelly on a plate.
Wibble-wobble, wibble-wobble
Jelly on a plate.

Jelly on the the door. Jelly on the door.
Wibble-wobble, wibble-wobble
Now jelly’s on the floor.

Jelly in my eye. Jelly in my eye.
Wibble-wobble, wibble-wobble
Jelly made me cry.

Jelly in my tum. Jelly in my tum.
Wibble-wobble, wibble-wobble
Jelly out my bum!

As Halloween is upon us, I must post these one-liners that one of my six year olds wrote and delivered to the class. I’m not sure they work, but the class struggled to breathe through their giggles and one boy even fell off his chair. Edited transcript below.* Enjoy:


I’ll be posting a weekly round-up of my favourite moments this year so far. Until then, Happy Halloween!


*Jokes courtesy of H, six years old:
Q: What do you call a bunny dressed up as a ghost?
A: Hoppy ghost.

Q: What do you do when a ghost scares you?
A: Glow like a lantern.

Q: What are you going to do when a lantern turns alive?
A: Hide in a cup.

Q: What is a spooky cup called?
A: Cup monster.

Q: What do you call a dinosaur with wings?
A: Chicken dino.

Q: Where do you go when a ghost scares you?
A: Scaryland.

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I’m a consumer.

I consume the news, the views, the Fake stuff, the praying for you’s, the foibles of democracy, hypocrisy, tragedy.

I consume Netflix, binge drinks, hollow chick flicks, Japanese pop. lit. with rave reviews.

I consume the property owner dreams, the ageing Queen, the has-beens and the gossip of those I’ve never seen.

I consume the party mandates, the ‘jokes’ about rape, the double standards, the political correctness hazards and the dubious future of the UK.

I consume the banking liars, memes that pacify us, climate change deniers, the ocean plastic fighters facing an impending doom.

I consume the beauty ideals, today’s top deals, pictures that get you right in the feels and the lazy snowflake millenials.

I consume the “Put a ring on it” mantra, the high-waisted pants, the stay youthful forever, the pungent Sex Panther, sprayed with abandon.

I want to spit it out. Gag reflex.

But Wifi is a basic necessity. Like shelter. Or water. Always thirsty.

Stop. Use my own brain. Make my own name. Produce.

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The Serpent

A serpent lies dormant in my chest

It wraps itself around my ribs, sleeping.

When I think of all my failings

It slips down, landing heavily on my gut

Squashing my diaphragm

Redirecting the blood away from my head.

Its tail flickers dangerously up my throat

The death rattle by my tonsils

I am afraid it will escape from my mouth.

I blink then stare upwards, feeling the cold air hit my eyeballs.

Ragged shallow breaths.

In. Out. In. Out. In. Out. In…

Swallowing it down.

The lump returns uneasily to my chest.

Heart burn.

Blink. Breathe. Blink. Breathe.

Until those movements become automatic again.

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As I peed unceremoniously into a transparent plastic pot, I wondered how this process has been overlooked in the medical revolution. After thoroughly washing my hands, I tentatively clutched my warm gift as I surreptitiously walked back through the waiting room. I bee-lined towards the small window, and deposited my pot. I wondered if I should announce it to the lab technicians on the other side. I was relieved to see a hand sanitizer bottle on the wall nearby.

For the third time, I sat with my crumpled four digit number in my hand. Every minute or so, a new number flashed across the screen accompanied with a beep. My number seemed to have been skipped. After an hour of fidgeting, I approached the BMI station. The nurse glanced at my number and told me I’d be sitting in the wrong waiting area.

At last, I was summoned into room 42. The doctor did not look up from his screen. Before I’d even sat down, the doctor announced, “Well, I have some good news. The pregnancy test is negative. The bad news is that we cannot locate the IUD.”

My birth control had gone MIA. The coil had gone AWOL. The doctor the previous day read out my scan results from the radiologist. “Uterus normal size. Endometrium appears smooth. Right ovary measures 2.80 x 2.60 x 1.50cm, left ovary measures 3.40 x 3.30 x 1.90cm. Ovaries normal in size and appearance. No abnormal adnexal mass or fluid in the Pouch of Douglas is detected. No IUCD seen.”

I wondered what Douglas was doing up there before blurting out, “No sign of the IUD? Are you sure?” The doctor admitted that the scan was not available on the screen.

I had the pelvic ultrasound reviewed by the radiologist. I was not keen on having another since you have to turn up with a full bladder. As the technician squeezed the cold gel over my abdomen, I asked her how long it would take, mentally planning my escape route to the ladies. Instead of seeing a baby, the technician commented on my balloon of a bladder. I was proud. She also spotted the IUD.

The second doctor who reviewed my ultrasound results said it was likely the IUD had dropped out. But, given the fact I was not pregnant and had not had a period in two glorious years, the doc considered the slim possibility that it may still be there…somewhere. Apparently, this happens to one in a thousand women with the IUD. The next step is an X-ray to discover where the rascal has ended up, followed by a simple keyhole surgery to remove it. It can even find its way into the intestines.

As I am not insured through work out here in Singapore, I am paying for each visit and was concerned that surgery may break the piggy bank. I called my insurance brokers to see if they could reimburse the damage, especially as I had not added on the special ‘lady package’. However, if I was admitted for day surgery, I could then backdate all the investigatory bills. I argued that it may be a general health issue having a foreign body lurking somewhere off limits. A few days later in the post, I received a letter from them in rather bad taste. It asked me if I was thinking about starting a family of my own.

I went to see the gynaecologist at the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital. After more basic health checks for my BMI and blood pressure, I saw yet another doctor. After establishing that I wasn’t married, I batted off the usual barrage of questions about my sexual activity. I listed the various birth controls I have used for the past ten years, and the elderly doctor began to look amused. I became quite indignant as he attempted to explain the monthly hormones that cause periods. He thought the IUD had fallen out undetected, but the reason for no menses was because I had ‘confused’ my system through being on the contraceptive pill, the Nexplanon implant in my arm and finally the miraculous Mirena coil. Through frustrated tears, I told him I did not understand why the technician said she saw it whilst conducting my ultrasound.

Finally, the gynaecologist started to hear me. He asked me to have a quick ultrasound. As I pulled down my under-crackers, he ducked round the curtain before I was ready. Feeling embarrassed, I laid back on the paper towel. The nurse hoisted up my top and slopped more cold gel on my belly. He asked me to sit up and showed me a white blob on the screen. It was not a baby, it was a blurry ghost. “Is that my IUD in my womb?” He smiled and said it looked as though it was, but I could not return the smile. I was angry that it had been missed and that I was throwing money away sitting here.

He asked if he could have a look. I had already been clamped open and subjected to this at the start, but “Why not?” I thought miserably. Peering through his thick lenses, he said he could just make out a short blue string, which arguably was the cause of all this kerfuffle. I began to cry. He kindly waived the consultation fee of my visit, but I cynically knew that he would get it back when I returned for my second ultrasound results.

So here I am. I will revisit the hospital for another ultrasound first thing tomorrow morning. Hopefully, they’ll locate it this time. It’s a bizarre position to be in – on the one hand, I obviously want to avoid surgery, but on the other, that’s the only way I’ll get my money back. Wish me luck.

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