I have three rules for my classes: 1) Come to class. 2) Come to class on time. 3) Come to class prepared (do the work and bring a notebook and writing utensil). Most of the time my students comply.
The other day two Russians raised their hands and in unison asked for pencil and paper. I’m usually an easygoing teacher, but when given the opportunity (i.e. breaking one of my three rules), I ream my students out, and that’s what I did: “I wake up every morning at 6:20 so I can be here on time to teach you! And when I show up, I’m prepared! Show some respect, and show up prepared yourself! Bring your own stinking pencils to class! And, no, I’m not giving you a pencil! Find one yourself!” I never yell, and I’m not mean, but students get the point. In this instance, the Russian students begin inquiring around while I fired up the powerpoint.
I said “Russian” but really what I meant was an ethnic Korean raised in Kazakhstan, and a Tatar, who were both native Russian speakers. (Its easy to forget that Russian influence and culture is bigger than Russia proper.) After a minute of searching, the Korean, Kazakhstani Russian speaker raised his hand, and upon acknowledgment asked, “Mr. Bellewether, are you Jewish.” Confused, I answered in the negative. “Why?” I asked in clarification. A come-on-you’re-not-stupid look spread across his face and he responded: “Paper, pencil…so cheap.”
Speechless I covered my mouth with the papers and stifled a laugh.