Storytime! Funniest Teaching Moments

in ELTABB/Teaching
Photo: Ben White, unsplash

We asked teachers about their funniest experiences in class. Here’s what we got.

Clumsy Teacher

When I did my CELTA at the Berlin School of English in October 2016, one of the students asked me during the break what the word ‘clumsy’ meant. He seemed to understand the meaning, but was struggling to use it. As you all know, CELTA trainees have each 40-minute-slots to teach. It was my turn after the break. Although I was already an experienced teacher, I was very stressed being constantly observed and given feedback, by the lack of prep time and all the ‘lovely’ factors the intensive course provides. I totally messed up with tons of copies I made for the group – a bigger one, over 10 people. The lesson didn’t go as smoothly as I would have liked, so I tried to play cool. While giving new instructions, I was backing off to the teachers desk, when suddenly I stumbled over the chair. I almost hit the floor and the handouts fell out of my hands in the best traditions of silent comedy movies. Jumping upright again, I cried out, “That’s what being clumsy is!”


Mr and Mrs Dictionary

It was a Monday morning the day new students arrive. Fresh faces. Starting the class, I introduced the new students and asked them to tell us a little about themselves. This went as normal, embarrassed students with a resentful look saying “I can’t believe he is doing this to me”, saying a few words and sitting down.

That was until we got to Gabriel, or Gabi, as he introduced himself. Ten minutes later, Gabi had given us a brief history of his 20 years on this planet using vocabulary that stunned me for a B2 class. Once I regained composure, I went on with the class, a vocabulary lesson covering idioms and phrasal verbs. Every time I tried to elicit a word, inevitably Gabi would raise his hand and say the word I was looking for. I thanked Gabi for making my job easy, “Thank you Mr Dictionary “. The class had a giggle as did Gabi. I spoke with Gabi after the class and asked him why he knew so much vocabulary. “I read the dictionary all the time”. In fact, he had one in his hand.

I had to move Gabi to the C1 class because by the end of the week I was convinced he was misplaced.

The following Monday, and again the class started as normal. Well that was until we got to Yasmin. Groundhog Day, but this time Yasmin spent ten minutes telling us about her 21 years on this earth and also her hopes for the future. Once again the variety of vocab shocked me. Once I had gotten over the sense of deja vu, I went on with the class. Things went in much the same way and by the end of the week I told Yasmin she would be going to the C1 class, because I thought she too had been misplaced. I also told Yasmin there was a guy called Gabi in the class she would get along with.

A few weeks later at a school pub night I saw Gabi and Yasmin walking in together holding hands. I greeted them, “Oh hello, Mr and Mrs Dictionary!”.

Unfortunately, Mr and Mrs Dictionary split up when Gabi returned to Brazil. I spoke with him a few weeks ago. He reads the thesaurus now.


“You bet!”

Last summer during a Business English lesson revising presentation skills, trying to focus on signposting language and body language while presenting the most recent projects our group had at work.

So, meet Vlad, a hipster-looking, extremely smart and witty co-founder of a gaming IT start-up in Kyiv. He would always be on time, ticking on his clock to everyone who was late in the group, even 30 seconds later. Vlad would always arrive with a fancy coffee or specially brewed tea in his hand. Sometimes on his electric gyro-scooter right through the glass doors of our Business English classroom. He likes to be in the focus and enjoys it. And here’s the time to present his project –  a “wheels of fortune”-like game-app they recently created for the US market.

I assigned the other girl, Valerie, a tender and feminine (but extremely competitive and passionate) sales assistant, to count the number of signposting and linking phrases Vlad would use during his 5-minute-long project presentation. They made a bet: he’d use 20. Yes, in 4 minutes. Yes, along with the presentation of his project.

And here he goes: Vlad actually built all his presentation around functional language, trying to underline each phrase with mimics and hyperbolized body language, to make sure Valerie counted each of those. When he used “and”, “but”, “also”, Valerie would not count it, showing vividly she wouldn’t bend her fingers for such “basic” linking words.

The guys were so artistic and so into it, we were all laughing and keeping our fingers crossed hoping Vlad would win this bet. Val is counting using her fingers so that everyone sees nobody’s cheating. The time is about to run out.  It’s 18 phrases counted and 30 seconds left… Everything’s at stake and he says: “That brings me to the end of my presentation.” – 19 phrases. “Greatest thanks for your attention” – 20 phrases!!! “The floor is yours, Val!” – The timer goes off.  “But, you’ve run out of fingers, Val!”


If you had fun reading this, check out Evan’s post and learn how not to be a muggle when teaching ESP to cosmeticians.

The Editors

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