Sunday, April 4, 2010

Hello, Kitty!

I teach an English writing class on Thursday mornings at 8:00 AM. I'm often just a bit groggy coming in, so I don't always have the sharpest first 15 minutes of student interaction. Once things start to pick up, students begin interacting with the material, and I drink a liter or so of water, I'm usually right there with the fast-paced group.

I entered my first ten minutes taking attendance, still with a fog of-yet abiding from the night before. After attendance, I had the students copy down a quote from Dale Carnegie and analyze what they thought they would say to finish it:

"Many people think that if they were only in some other place, or had some other job, they would be happy. Well, that is doubtful. So get as much happiness out of..."

As I walked around the students' desks leering at answers and passing out the day's worksheets, I paused toward the back of the room. This class is small compared to some of my 50-student lectures, finding only about 15 non-English major students, so there were several empty desks with no students. I looked toward the middle of the last aisle and thought I saw something moving, maybe something blown by the wind. As I investigated closer, I realized the shear folly of my judgment: right there in the back of my classroom, over which I am expected to maintain complete control at all times, there was a brown, yellow, and white-striped cat balled up on one of the chairs snoring blissfully through the morning's exercises.
"There is a shao mao!" I said, noting the small cat's presence. The students seemed puzzled: was there really a cat here in class?

"Hello, kitty!" I said in a high, shrill voice, inching closer to the bobbing body of the cat. The students were still perplexed until then came closer to see that, indeed, there was a sixteenth student present in our activities. Several of them shouted in surprise, while others seemed less amazed: perhaps for them the biggest confusion would not be that there was a cat present, but understanding why they were not able to join him in his excursion through oblivion?

Perhaps the cat, too, deserved an opportunity to learn English?

"Ta ye yao shue shi!" I said, slipping one of the hand-outs under the cat's snoozing body, indicating his desire to study along with the class. The students laughed and continued buzzing at the new student's skills. I can only hope that my English students don't feel too intimidated by his rapid success, as he has already mastered the art of the "R"-trill: Prrrrrrrrrr!

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