Tuesday, 6 March 2012

A Week of Breakfasts and Eigo Noto

Bagel and Scrambled Egg
I know, it doesn’t sound interesting. My breakfasts aren't, but keep reading anyway, because hopefully the story is. One of the lessons in the recently introduced text-book for fifth-grade elementary school has the students listen (the CD is provided) to four descriptions of breakfasts, delivered by Americans putting on accents that would be considered a form of ethnic vilification in most other contexts. The point of the exercise is for the students to answer what country they think each breakfast-eater comes from. So we have the Japanese girl eating rice and natto, the French boy with his croissant and the Korean girl eating kimchi. Because of course all Koreans eat kimchi for breakfast. Korean culture is kimchi, K-pop and TV dramas about terminal illness, right? Check the box and move along. The fourth breakfast is a bowl of cereal. I stop the CD before it gives the answer (America, of course!) every time I do this lesson and ask the kids what they have written. Then I tell them that all of their answers are correct. Because a lesson that requires me to say to a child: “no, Australians and British people and Canadians and New Zealanders don’t eat cornflakes you fool! Only Americans eat cereal!” makes me die a little inside. Then I ask the kids what they ate for breakfast that morning. In three years I have never had a single child answer natto. Some have rice, most have toast, a few get grilled fish and a disturbingly high number eat chocolate buns and coffee milk. This exercise isn’t usually on the teaching plan and often makes the home room teacher embarrassed, as though by admitting to eating toast the kids are letting Japan’s image down in front of a foreigner. Several teachers have entreated the students to eat more rice after I do this. I know it’s a little cruel to deviate without warning from the script, but I think it is worth it.
Porridge and Berries
I am teaching this lesson tomorrow and I was given a script that goes:
Me: “Ms K, what do you eat for breakfast?”
Ms K: “I eat miso soup and rice. What do you eat for breakfast?”
Me: “Today I had cereal and a banana and a glass of milk and a boiled egg.”
These are supposed to be examples to illustrate the kinds of model dialogues teachers can have in front of the class. Because English is still a new subject and many of the teachers are deeply insecure about speaking English the examples in practice become scripts, with ten out of ten teachers saying “I eat miso soup and rice” when at least half of them have nothing but canned coffee from the vending machine for breakfast. Because I got advance warning this time, I decided to be pro-active and photograph my breakfasts for a week. The kids learned the days of the week recently, so I am going to combine some review with the new material by saying “Today I ate cereal. On Monday I ate toast.” It’s not that my breakfasts are interesting or healthy, but they also have very little to do with the colour of my skin or the accent I speak, and that is the subversive message I want to sneak into the lesson. Maybe I’ll even eat kimchi tomorrow, just to confuse them!

Cereal... not in America!
Eggy Bread
Beans on Toast with Garlic Scrambled Eggs
Pancakes with Banana and Honey
Share this article :


Post a Comment

Because of all the spam lately, comments on old posts will now be moderated. This means it may be some time before your comment appears. You can always email me directly, check the contact page for details.