Some days teaching ESL is rewarding. Sometimes you feel like you got through to the students, that you really made a difference, that they'll be able to string a few words together and communicate in English. Today was not one of those days.
I buzzed at the building, and when I got up to the apartment, the door was ajar. I opened it tentatively. "Hello?" No answer.
I walked in and there was my twelve-year-old student, curled around his iPad playing a game. Great.
"Hi!" I said cheerfully. "How are you? You ready to start?"
He immediately flopped over on the couch and pretended to go to sleep. I told him that I was going to go to the bathroom and when I came out he should be at the table with his books ready to start. Of course, when I came out, he was still playing his game. I told him to get his books. He told me to get them in his room. I stood my ground.
Eventually, he went to get his book, complaining all the while about how he had just come home from school and how he was hungry and how he didn't understand what I was saying and could I please just speak in Italian.
Sigh. We got started by playing some reading and vocabulary games. This kid is way below where his level should be and he cannot sit still for more then 30 seconds. I tried to keep things fast-paced and to keep him focused despite CONSTANT interruptions. "Can I get a snack?" "Can I go to the bathroom?" "Hold on, I have to go see something." My patience was wearing thin. Finally he asked if he could get a drink of water. He even offered to get me one. How sweet!
He went in to the kitchen while I stayed at the table. I heard him get a glass. I heard him start pouring water. I heard a grinding noise--
"Hey! What are you doing?" I got up just in time to see him slip the salt grinder back on the shelf. He pushed the glass away from him and said that one was for later. He got two more glasses and filled them with water.
"Ok, you got the water. Let's go sit down now."
"Ok," he grabbed a glass of non-salted water.
"What about mine?" He blocked the edge of the kitchen.
"I'll get it! Just one second!"
I don't think so, you little... I pushed past him, grabbed the other glass of non-salted water and
walked back to the table.
We sat down and continued the lesson. About halfway through, he switched to the other side of the table claiming he couldn't read the flashcards because there was a glare. He grabbed my glass of water and started drinking.
"That's my glass!"
"Eh, va be'. Oh, well. I'm on this side now so it's closer to me. You can drink mine; I haven't touched it yet."
OH. It dawned on me that maybe he had switched his glass with mine after I had turned my back to go to the kitchen. He had to get up to get more water (he was just "sooooooo thirsty") so I took the glass before he could see me and stuck my tongue in. Blegggh. It was like sea water. I quickly put the glass down.
"Why aren't you drinking your water?" With his pudgy cheeks, blue eyes and blonde hair, he could have been a little cherub. But I knew better.
"I'm just not thirsty right now." We reviewed question structure.
He pushed again. "If I do these 3 questions right, we should have a competition to see who can finish their glass of water the fastest."
"How can I finish a whole glass of water if I'm not even thirsty and I'm really full? That's just not good for you." Italians are kind of weird about their water. This was a good excuse.
"Come ON!" He prodded. "I'm not going to do anything else until you have a competition with me!" He crossed his arms, pouted, slumped in his chair.
I wouldn't let him win. I didn't want him to know I knew about the water, but I obviously wasn't going to drink it either. I plowed on. Only 10 more minutes and we were done.
He shifted in his seat so he was sitting on his knees. I ignored this and went on. He stood up on his chair.
Instead, he climbed up on the antique table. It teetered. His empty glass fell over. He grabbed at the chandelier.
"Get down." I repeated trying not to lose it.
"One day, I just want to take one of these off," he said, grabbing at one of the crystals.
Finally he got down. He did the rest of the questions. As soon as we were finished, he begged, "Come on! Now you have to do the competition! You promised!"
"I didn't promise anything, and after your behavior today, I am not going to have a competition with you."
"Next time I'll be extra-good! I promise!"
Nope! There are consequences to every action, I told him. Ha! I thought to myself! I won.
I got out of there as fast as I could gather my things. I went downstairs and stood outside the front door of the building to call my husband.
SPLAT! Water--salty water, I imagine--splattered next to me, just far enough away to miss. I didn't look up, but I knew it had been tipped out of a glass from the third floor.
I sighed and walked away unscathed. Until next week.