So I arrived at school on Thursday to discover that I had a second class with my year 11.4 students. Of course, I didn't have a lesson prepared because I wasn't expecting it. I took the kids into the computer lab to play a learn to type game instead of boring them by trying to pull a lesson on computer theory out thin air.
Now, one would think that taking close to 36 students into a lab with only 12 computers was going to lead to chaos. However, one would be wrong. Though they are the biggest class I teach and the class with the least English proficiency, they were the best behaved in the lab so far. Usually when I take kids into the lab, the first thing they do when they get within arms reach of the computer is starting messing with stuff. They change the backgrounds, accidentally delete important operating system files, manage to rename the My Computer icon things like JKL and generally just mess things up.
I instructed the year 11.4 class that they were to sit at their assigned computers and not touch anything until told to. And they did. I instructed them to start and then play the typing game. And they did. I instructed them to make sure that everyone got a turn. And they did. They were also very well behaved and relatively quiet. It was amazing.
There was one computer with two girls doing the typing game. The way it works is these fish with words on them swim across the screen and you have to type the words before the fish attack your diving man. These girls had discovered that if they waited for the fish to show up, looked at the first couple of words and then hit the pause button, they could take their time in locating the keys on the keyboard. Then they could unpause and type the words very fast. This phenomenon quickly spread through the room and by the end of class they were all doing it. At first I was a pretty impressed with the students for coming up with this idea, but then it occurred to me: these kids are like 15 years old, I shouldn't be impressed, this is totally the sort of thing that a 15-year-old would figure out and do.
That clued me in to the fact that on some level I find myself assuming that if the kids don't understand what I am saying, they must not understand other things. But that is a failure on my part. A kid's English skills is in no way a reflection of that kid's intelligence.