A Night in the Basic English Computer Class

I wish there was a tasteful way to create a sitcom about an ESL school. It would be so tongue-in-cheek but it would be so stinkin’ funny.

Today’s funny story comes to you from our computer lab. The computer lab is an excellent source of funny stories. My first week on the job, I walked into the lab to discover a student who was attempting to use the mouse backwards.

This semester, we decided to throw our Basic English class into the technology mix. These students are in our lowest level class- most of them are illiterate in their own languages so the English learning process moves a little slower. We haven’t had them in the lab before today so it’s all new for us. This afternoon, I helped a lone-teacher in the lab with 12 Bhutanese students. Here’s an example of how my day went:

1. You get a student, let’s say her name is Adai, on the correct website- a mouse skills website where you literally chase a picture of a squirrel around the screen.

2. You show her what to do by saying, “Chase the squirrel!!” in a high voice so that it sounds fun, instead of lame. She is not amused.

3. Once you’re sure that she understands what’s going on, you turn to help the next student for one millisecond.

4. When you turn back around, Adai, who has a trouble even understanding what “follow the squirrel” means (much less how to accomplish said task using a computer mouse) has managed to find her way into the interior of the computer and has initiated the “self-destruct” function. She’s also managed to download a virus, play a round of online poker, and send 10,000 dollars to a Nigerian princess all while simlutaneously holding down three buttons (left, right, and scroll wheel). 

It’s truly amazing how quickly things can go so wrong.  This happened at least three times today. We got better about heading them off at the pass. If they started to right click like crazy, then you knew something’s about to go down. My friend Kateri and I got good at saying, “Whoa, whoa! Watch out! Miguel’s going for it!” Some of them would let you know that they had veered off into unfamiliar territory (most of the time all it takes is a confused look). Others would happily click away, ordering panty hose on Amazon and changing the visual settings on the screen to “fisheye”, until you saw that they were reading a website in Russian and steered them back to that eternal “squirrel”.

If my ESL sitcom, Speaka de’ English, ever comes to fruition, episode one will take place in the computer lab.

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