Summer colds are awful. And trying to teach with a cold is one of the most wretched things, too. So when I wound up coughing myself to tears mid August, I simultaneously became one of the worst teachers.
I spent the entire week mostly sitting at my desk and occasionally croaking at different children to read certain pages. When I had to stand, I did it like I had old bones beneath my skin. I continuously spaced out throughout my classes. And then I fucked up hangman.
I was teaching a group of really great kids. They took turns reading about a girl who fed chestnuts to squirrels. We talked about the kinds of nuts that squirrels will eat, and I taught them the word ‘acorn.’ Koreans eat acorns that are processed into a wiggly brown cube, like a nutty jello, but few Koreans know the word acorn.
We finished the chapter and had a few minutes left in class. I didn’t have the energy in me to play a fun game, so I opted for hangman.
I grabbed a piece of candy from my desk drawer and lurched to my feet. As I drew the familiar upsidedown L shape, all the kids began murmuring, “hangman! Hangman!”
I decided that ‘acorn’ was too new a word to use, so I drew out 6 little dashes for the word ‘peanuts.’ I was still in my sickness daze, and didn’t realize that ‘peanuts’ is made up of 7 letters.
The kids began guessing letters and I slowly filled in the correct ones. Soon all that was left was the first letter.
“W?” One kid asked.
“R?” Said another.
I was shocked that no one could figure out this simple word. We had even talked about peanuts as squirrel food! Why were my students so oblivious?
Finally one kid said, “p.” I wrote the letter down and threw him a piece of candy. He looked confused. “Peanus?” he asked.
“Peanus? What is Peanus?” Another said.
I stood there, mortified and wondering why my whole class was asking about genetals. Then I turned around.
In my absent-mindedness, I had skipped the letter ‘t’. So sure enough, “Peanus” was on the board in my very own handwriting.
I quickly wrote in a ‘t,’ and then erased the whole board. “I forgot the t, I’m sick, class dismissed,” I mumbled.
They zipped their backpacks and walked out, while I eased myself back into my chair and rested my bright red face on my hands.