Teaching Milestone: “He is a donkey”

We’ve reached an important milestone today in my English classes: speaking in grammatically correct, full sentences.

Background context:

Most of my “conversations” with the kids I teach consist of:

Child: “Teacher! Teacher!” points to the kid next to him, “Ahmed baby!” or if they’re feeling a little more inspired that day, “Mohamed baby rabbit!”

Child who has just been called a baby, baby rabbit, or perhaps something less nice, such as a snake: “No teacher! Paewand baby snake!”

Me: “Uh huh. You’re all babies to me.”

Children: “Nooooo teacher, you baby!”

But today, during lunch:

I’m having a conversation about an upcoming birthday party with Saya, a third grader who’s lived in London for a few years and speaks English pretty well – she’s the only one I can really talk to. She even interprets for her teacher. It’s convenient, but I’m not sure if my 8-year old student is actually telling her teacher what I say. Maybe she tells her teacher I’m in love with Justin Bieber, or something. Anyway, I digress.

So I’m having lunch and talking to Saya, when I hear the boys next to me start up their favorite English conversation (and perhaps the only one they know how to have). “You baby!” “No, you baby!”


Hastyr is a fourth grader who couldn’t say anything other than his name in English at the beginning of the year.

But today, Hastyr says, “Teacher Yein, Blund, he is a donkey.”

Blund: “No, Hastyr, YOU are a donkey.”

(quotes, verbatim)




I LOL’d when I heard this and realized that my students have actually learned what I’ve been teaching them (parts of speech, pronouns, using full sentences rather than vocab words, etc.), but they chose to demonstrate it by calling each other donkeys. Donkeys!

Okay, this may not be that funny if you’re not in on the joke.

We were driving through the town center on the morning of Eid, and there was not a soul in sight. Someone in the car says something in Kurdish, and everyone starts cracking up – everyone else in the car were men, so I figured they had told a dirty joke (lol not that women wouldn’t make dirty jokes… HA! You don’t even know. But I’m just sayin’, because we’re in Kurdistan.. ya know). My English-speaking friend deigned to translate for me, and now I can’t help but laugh whenever I see/hear about a donkey.

Apparently, there’s a saying here in Kurdistan to describe when a place is completely deserted:

It’s so empty I could f**k a donkey.


Really?!?! What the WHAT. Is this forreals?! (Apparently there is an entire wealth of sayings, jokes, and stories centered around donkeys in Kurdish culture. Anna and I are planning to write an anthology titled, Donkey Love and Its Awkward Consequences. Look forward to it).

Okay so I may just have corrupted a completely innocent quote by a small child, that should instead be celebrated as a great achievement in his process of learning English. “He is a donkey” is a grammatically correct sentence that I am proud of Hastyr for saying instead of, “Blund donkey”. Milestone reached.

But donkey love is pretty funny too.




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