Armed with this information, I began the lesson, speaking a little bit more slowly, using lots of pictures. It took a few minutes for a few of the brighter members of the class to work out how to say, "We don't understand anything you're saying." The members of the class explained that this was their very first class--in other words, they had had absolutely no teacher before we arrived. We were being thrust on them the very first time they had ever had a class at the school. They asked me, somewhat plaintively, if I spoke any Arabic and I told them that they didn't. They asked me, "Please, say just one word in Arabic!" To which I responded لا (No.)
Fortunately, the whole thing was videotaped, so I could see what I looked like when it dawned on me that:
- I now had no lesson plan
- I had no idea what level these students were actually at!
I decided to go with feelings, and drew a variety of faces on the board, starting with basic emotions (sad, angry, etc.) and then drew faces with even stronger emotions and began to move them from recognizing "more sad" and "more angry" and then moving on to the expand the vocabulary to "miserable" and "furious". I then did some impromptu dialogue:
A: I'm angry.
B: I'm more angry.
A: I'm furious!
...and so on, making the students use the dialogue to learn the words. I then got them to write the words on the board. They seemed to understand.
I kept asking: "This is okay?" "Yes." "It's not too stupid?" "No." "You're learning?" "Yes!" "Okay!"
Okay, I was thinking, I'm teaching them emotions Then I said, "So we have sad and miserable, angry and furious, tired and exhausted, happy and delighted; so these are emotions that are more; these are feelings that are stronger." I wrote more on the board. "You know this word, right? More?" I then drew three stick figures with bizarre numbers of fingers on their hand: one with 4, another with 7 and another with, perhaps 9. "So this person has more fingers than this person, and this person has the most fingers." Oh, I realized. Now I'm teaching superlatives. I went on to teach them big, bigger, biggest and good, better, and best before finishing off the class with a tic-tac-toe game featuring emotions learned during the class.
When we took a break between classes, Chris and I went to the main desk to talk with the director about the misunderstandings regarding the class. It turns out we were given not a level 10 class, but a level 4 class. The unit we were supposed to cover was in the Intro book, while the one we'd prepared for came from Book Six of the series. And, coincidentally, the unit we were supposed to have taught focused on describing people, including the color of their hair, their type of hair, and -- get this -- superlatives, like shorter, taller, and so on. Chris scrapped his lesson plan as well (which focused on tag questions, one of the stranger features of English) and focused on the material in the unit in question. I thought he did a fantastic job.
I'm perhaps a bit excessively proud of how well I did (all things considered). It doesn't help that Chris kept saying, "You were awesome. It looked like you had the whole thing planned." Thanks for boosting the ego, Chris.
After the dinner we went to a restaurant institution in Alexandria, Mohamed Ahmed which serves the best fuul I've eaten in Egypt so far (Toby, take note), rich in cumin-y goodness. They also served this thicker bean dip the texture of refried beans covered with deep fried onions, which I believe was called Basara. I had an egg dish called shakshooka which is normally made with meat and tomatoes but here was made just with the tomatoes. A very delicious end to a very mixed experience.