The “NO” lesson in Mandarin Chinese class

One day during the Mandarin Chinese classes (I teach in elementary school), I had to teach the word “NO”. For those of you who does not know Mandarin Chinese, there are actually several ways to say “NO”, depending on the situation. In this particular lesson, I was teaching if something is “correct” or “not”. I spent all night planning the perfect lesson down the the body movements as I talk/teach with dramatic gestures. The first couple classes with 1st and 2nd graders went relatively well, students were engaged and loved the lesson. However, as my 3rd graders comes in, for some strange reason, I had huge problem with the classroom management issue each time I use/teach the word “NO”. Initially I had thought it was my funny body movement, as I had one of my hand resting on my hip as a teapot handle, the other hand, with finger sticking out gesturing side to side with a wave “NO”. As my 4th graders comes in, the classroom behavior was getting worse and they looked shocked and surprised. By the end of the day, I had few 5th graders in my class and I was just exhausted and felt defeated. I confined in my students and told them that I had a horrible day and I am not sure what went wrong. I said, every time when I try to teach the word “NO”, the entire class lost it! I proceed to do my dramatic body movement and said “bu2 shi4”, repeatedly to try to reenact my lessons. Suddenly, one of the 5th grader burst out laughter and said, Chiang Laoshi, you have a potty mouth! I still didn’t get it and continue on my movement until…. I finally realized that students have thought I said the infamous “bullsh*t” all day long.

I am sure every world language has similar stories but guess what, ALL of my students will never forget how to say “NO” in Mandarin Chinese

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