I Take It Back, Grading Papers Is Not Boring

I have a confession to make, I’m a thief.  I didn’t write most of the following words.  Instead, I made my students write them as their homework assignment and I put them here.  If only they knew that I was helping them become famous.

These are all from my 9th grade students who are mostly beginners.  They are divided into three different classes that are each at a different level.  I’ve been complaining about the difficulty of assigning writing tasks to conversational classes, but I’ve outdone myself with this one, if I do say so myself.

They had to write some things describing themselves.  Then they had to say a few things they like and a few things they don’t.  Also, I wanted to know if they have any big dream or goal in life.

Boring.  That class sounds lame.

It was.  That’s why I came up with the genius part.  I made them tell me their favorite English word.

I anticipated a lot of “Alex, I don’t have a favorite English word,” so I told them my favorite Hungarian word:  Krumpli (pronounced crew-m-plee, it means “potato”).  They love hearing me speak Hungarian, so after I said this, I didn’t hear any complaints.  They were baffled by the simplicity and ridiculousness of my word.

Before I tell you the words, let me go over some of the other highlights of the assignment.  One student listed going to my class as one of the things he enjoys.  Nearly everyone said they don’t like waking up early – more proof that all high-school students are the same.

It also helped me learn about some of my students.  I was unaware that a few of them have ambitions to go to Harvard or Cambridge.  I’m pretty impressed at that.  Suddenly my teaching doesn’t seem to be a high enough standard, I better work on that.  There’s a certain amount of guilt involved in knowing you deprived Hungarians of going to Harvard.  I can’t live my life with that on my conscience.

Also, I learned that one of my students lives in Romania.  I thought that was pretty cool.  Suddenly I teach at an international school - I better update my resume.  I found his town on the map, and it’s pretty close to here (for being in another country), probably about 40 kilometers away.  I bet it’s a Hungarian town that just happens to be in Romania right now.

One student likes “playing with electricity and fire”.  Another said “I don’t like boning.”  I did a double take on that one and realized it said “boring,” she doesn’t like being bored.  The most shocking was the girl who listed this as her big goal in life:  “I really want to explode two people.”  I’m not sure what to do about that one…

Finally, their favorite words (in order of appearance except for my favorites which I saved for last):

  • Love (written by many, many different students)
  • Cheetah
  • Smile
  • Sausage
  • Suppose
  • Remember
  • Headshot (don’t panic, he just finished talking about his favorite video game)
  • Diamond (written by a boy, I think he’s going to have a very happy wife some day)
  • Puppy
  • Changeable
  • Football
  • Present
  • Water polo
  • Holiday
  • Dream
  • Tomato
  • Zoo
  • Wanna (“gotta” love the text message generation)
  • Pillow
  • Engagement and my favorite sentence is “The lesson is over.  Goodbye!” (she’s allowed to say that because she’s a good student)
  • Butterfly
  • Love
  • Dream
  • Strawberry
  • Holiday, summer, seen, ruler, and lovingly (?)
  • Rogue and want
  • Perfect
  • Plump
  • Chubby
  • Entertainment
  • Respect and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (this word was once used in hangman, it was a disaster)
  • Desire
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Gorgeous
  • Sparrow (two in a row, the little cheaters)
  • Discuss and opportunity
  • Peacock
  • Sunshine because it’s a happy, optimistic word
  • Pencil case
  • Weightlessness
  • Beach
  • Skull
  • Peace & Love and California
  • Mondayless, Tuesdayless, Wednesdayless, Thursdayless, and Fridayless weeks.  So just WEEKENDS!      

And finally, my personal favorite list by one student:

  • Love, Peace, Murderer, Rose, and Disappointment


Hungarian word of the day:


Pronounced Folk-hodge(rhymes with lodge)-ma (like mother).  It means Garlic.  I had dinner at the restaurant with that girl who happily talks to me in Hungarian, and I had some sort of very good garlic chicken with paprikas and strapatchka.  I can still taste the garlic.  A lot.