Killer in the class

One of my students told me today how he killed somebody.

We were practicing the simple past tense with the question When did you last lose something? And he told me how, in his country, somebody stole his wallet and he pursued him in his car.
'He died when I hit him'
'So he ran out in front of you and you couldn't stop in time?'
'No, I chased until I hit him'
' did you feel?
'I was scared'
'I'm not surprised. I would feel bad about killing somebody.'
'I was scared about the police'
'Oh. What did the police say?
'They said it was OK. Nothing happened'. trace of regret or emotion. And he had seemed like such a nice boy.

It's amazing what students will reveal in class. Generally teachers encourage bringing personal experience into language learning, but at the same time we hope the students keep things bland enough to avoid a diplomatic or emotional crisis. In one of the first classes I ever taught, I went round the class asking What do you like? What do you dislike? Expecting answers like ice cream, opera, noodles, I came to the Palestinian teenager. He stood up and shouted 'I hate the Jews for taking the land from our people!'. Luckily the only other people in the class were two Chinese people whose English was too weak to understand what was going on.

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