Let me tell you the story of a class.

When I met them in September, I was perturbed. I was more than perturbed. I dreaded Thursday mornings, when I knew that they would tumble through my door with raucous disregard for my precious routines and expectations.

You see, I expect my classes to line up quietly outside my door and wait to be invited in. I expect them to walk quietly, single file, to the blue line on my floor, and wait quietly to be invited to sit on the carpet in alphabetical order. I expect them to sit quietly while I read over my class list, study their (very similar) faces, and practice their (very similar) names. I expect them to remain still and silent until I can say every name without looking at my list. This may not sound like a stupendous feat to you, but believe me, it is, when you are new to a foreign school and you have four hundred nearly identical students that you only see for 50 minutes a week.

But back to my story. In September, we had to practice lining up outside my door over and over every single time the students came to class. It took five or six tries to walk to the blue line and get settled at the carpet. And it took an agonizingly long time for me to practice their names, because I couldn’t concentrate with all the hooliganism going on before me. At one point one of the students blurted out insolently, “This isn’t music! This is just names!” And, wearily, I agreed. Perturbed, indeed. Continue reading