That’s One Enormous Hamster

Sometimes I am a really bad teacher.

Recently, the ‘word of the day’ for my free talking class was enormous.

To explain it to the kids, this is what I said:

“So, pretend you have a hamster.  But it isn’t a little hamster, like this (cup imaginary hamster in palm of hand).  It’s head touches the ceiling.  The hamster is like this (make frantic gestures indicating shape of giant hamster).  Then, you could say, ‘That’s an enormous hamster!'”

I have never seen these four girls look so confused.

“Hamster is big?” Min-hae asked.

“Hamster is enormous!” I stressed, again outlining the phantom hamster with my outstretched arms.

“Why hamster is big?”  Asked Yun-jin.

“It doesn’t matter,” I said.  “Just pretend.  If it was that big, we would say it was enormous.”

“My hamster is small,” said Min-hae.

“Me too,” said Yun-jin.

I still don’t think they understand what enormous means.

Now that's an enormous hamster.


To follow up this stunning display of teacherly competence, I decided to do a two-part lesson on zombies.  Keep in mind, these kids are in 5th grade.

I got the idea and materials for this lesson from  It was originally intended for middle or high schoolers, but I figured it would be okay for my students.  I’d just tone it down a bit.

Day 1

I showed the students a short power point story in which imaginary zombies attacked Yeongwol.  They were captivated.

“Teacher, really?”  Min-hae squealed, ramrod-straight in her chair.

“No, Min-hae.  Not really.”

“Oh, okay.”  She visibly relaxed.

“What is a zombie?”  I asked.

The class gave me words like ‘ugly’, ‘scary’ and ‘gross’.

“Why are they scary?”  I asked.

They couldn’t generate a specific answer.

“They are scary because they eat people,” I announced, eliciting the expected shrieks of terror.  Min-hae in particular quailed in fright.

I split the class into two teams and asked them to make a list of items they would need for their ‘Zombie Survival Kit.’  This are some of the items they came up with:

1.  Rice (because we will be hungry)

2.  Spoon (to eat the rice)

3. Pizza (again, hungry)

4. Fork (for eating, despite the fact that Korean kids rarely use a fork)

5. Chopsticks (…eating)

6. Dessert (‘teacher, we will be very hungry’)

7. Shampoo (‘hiding, running from zombies – makes us dirty)

8. Lighter (for cooking)

9. Oil (for cooking)

10. Gun (to kill zombies)

11.  Car (to drive away from zombies.  And, presumably, to store all of those eating utensils in)

I explained that they might want to re-think those items.  Zombies aren’t going to wait while you eat your dessert.

So the list was amended:

1. Rice (we need some food, teacher)

2. Spoon (to throw at zombies)

3. Pizza, dessert (We will give to zombies and say, “Here, zombie, eat this.  Don’t eat me!”)

4. Fork (to stab zombies in the eye)

5. Wooden chopsticks (We make on fire and throw at zombies)

6. Lighter (to burn zombies & light chopsticks on fire)

7. Oil & frying pan (to make hot oil and throw on zombies)

8. Soju & beer (“We give to zombies so they like this…imitate staggering drunk zombies…then no eat us.”)

9. Gun and knife (to fight zombies)

10. Car (to drive away)

11. Big Doll

Me:  “Big what?”

Su Ji:  “Doll, teacher.  D-O-L-L.”

Me:  “Why?”

Su Ji:  “Zombies chase us.  We run.  We throw big doll over there.  Zombies think person, chase big doll.  We get in car, drive away.”)

Of course.  Big doll.

Day 2

The kids had already written ‘zombies’ on the board when I walked in the room.  They begged to watch a zombie movie with the lights off.  Seeing as how they were mentally unscarred by the previous day, I played a choose-your-own-adventure-style YouTube video called ‘editing the dead.’

It was an old black and white zombie movie that stopped every minute to allow the students to make a choice:  run or stay in the car?  Fight back or hide?

Here is where I made a rookie mistake:  I didn’t fully vet the video before showing it to the class.  I watched it for a few minutes, satisfied that it was age-appropriate.  Most of the scenes showed the two non-zombie characters running around a boarded up house. There were a few shots of Frankenstein-like zombies, but nothing nightmare-inducing.  About 10 minutes in, the kids made a series of choices that led to the female character discovering two dead bodies in the basement, oozing blood from various hacked-up body parts.

Then there was  a shot of some zombies approaching the house.  The camera was behind the zombies, all walking in that awkward zombie way, all wearing torn, dirty clothing – except for one. One zombie was a young woman, and she was completely naked.  The class was scandalized.  I fast forwarded, but the damage was done.  At least it wasn’t a full frontal shot.

On par with the nudity was the gore – there was also a scene of a zombie eating the flesh off of a dead body.  It was similar to something on National Geographic, when the hyenas go crazy with bloodlust.

The video ended after both of the protagonists suffered a bloody death at the hands of the zombies.

I turned on the lights.

The kids were incensed with excitement.  Nudity!  Blood!  Zombies!

“Teacher, I think I have bad dream about this zombie,” Min-hae said.

“Let’s play a game,” I shouted, desperate to get their minds on something else.  Then I remembered an old camp song that I had been meaning to do with them.

“First, I’ll teach you a fun song to take your minds off of zombies.”

It wasn’t until I was halfway through the song that I realized it was only adding fuel to the fire.

First zombies, now shark attacks?  What kind of a teacher am I?

I switched to spoons, the four-of-a-kind game I loved as a kid.  It seemed to placate them, though Jong-woo still marched out of the classroom with his arms stiffly out in front of him, and Min-hae looked considerably paler than normal.

I think I’ll do a lesson on baby animals and sunshine this week.



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