The most baffling student I ever met: Chicken-Bean

22:05 Amy 0 Comments

I teach English to a boy I've nicknamed Chicken-Bean.

I really like him. He's a happy boy, friendly and super-talkative. He's good at English and usually gets great grades.

He is the strangest student I've ever taught.

The word 'chicken' spills out of his mouth at any given opportunity, and occasionally he'll say the word 'bean' a few hundred times too. He says it in sentences, so I don't think that it's uncontrollable. I don't *think* it's tourettes. I don't tell him off. I either ignore it, or try to change the topic, but he's pretty determined to speak about chickens whenever he can.

What's your favourite food? - Chicken!
What did you do yesterday? - I ate a chicken!
What is this huge blue thing swimming in the sea? - It's a chicken!

The poor girl sat next to him ignored it at first.

After a while, she started to giggle at it. I asked her not to, so as not to encourage the chicken/bean obsession. Now, she sits, quietly giggling under her breath, and he continues talking about chickens and beans, oblivious. I'm expecting her to start rocking back and forth soon.

The following classroom conversation happened today. It's far from an isolated incident; Chicken-Bean can turn any topic back to chickens or beans. Halloween? "Chicken ghosts." Past continuous tense? "The chicken was eating a bean." Titanic? "Chicken ships." (I laughed at that one, regrettably!)

My students have been learning about The Day of the Dead, and to help them to remember it they made a poster of a sugar skull with key words about the festival all around it. Before they began, we brainstormed on the board. The students called out key words, and I wrote them:

Me:    "So what are some things you see at The Day of the Dead?"
C-B:   "Chicken!"
*purposely ignore Chicken-Bean*
Ploy:  "Orange marigold flowers!"
Me:    "Excellent! What else?"
C-B:   "Chiiiiiiiicken!"
*ignore, ignore, ignore...!*
Ball:   "Visiting graves!"
Me:    "Yes! Graves!"
Ice:     "Bread of the living!"
Me:    "No! Not chicken!"
C-B:   "But I saw a chicken!"
Me:    "There was no chicken! Chickens are NOT A KEY PART OF THIS FESTIVAL!"
C-B:   "I SAW the Day of the Dead chicken!"

Later, he called me over, and told me that his skull was not a skull, it was a chicken.

I asked him if he thought about chickens all day.

He confirmed that he did, so I asked him why. He really liked chickens. I looked over to another student and asked what it was all about. She shrugged, and said that it had come from a TV advert. I suggested that he think about something different, just to try it, and he happily refused.

What can we learn from Chicken-Bean?

Persistence. He never gives up. Every day is an earnest, completely malice-free attempt to say the word chicken as many times as possible. Perhaps he has a daily goal: 'I will say the word 'chicken' in a sentence 624 times today'. Perhaps it's as addictive to him as Candy Crush Saga is to the other students. People give up on stuff all the time, but not Chicken-Bean. I think we can all take a valuable lesson away from that.

She's pretty sure these posts will be your cup of tea:


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