“Right everyone, good morning!” she cried cheerily at 9am the next day.
Emma looked about her as the students continued gabbling away in Italian to one another. Things were back to normal then, she thought dryly.
“I said: GOOD MORNING, EVERYONE!” she repeated, turning the volume on the ‘teacher’s voice’ she was cultivating up to BOOMING. It had the desired effect.
“Morning, EMmaaa!” chorused the cheeky cool boys equally loudly back at her.
Emma smiled. “Okay, so I’d like you all to write down some questions to ask each other, as many as possible. About anything - family, pets, hobbies - anything.”
The class groaned. Emma turned away to the board, smiling to herself this time, hoping what she was about to do would work. She wrote all the students’ names in a list on the board and then started monitoring what they were writing, correcting grammatical errors as she went with a “Maria-Grazia - there’s a word missing, what do you think it is?” here and a “Don’t forget your question marks, Alessia” there. Then she returned to the front of the class and called them to attention.
“Okay - stop writing.”
She picked up a spare chair and thumped it down in the middle of the semi-circle. “Massimo - could you possibly...” no, too polite, start again, she was in charge, “Massimo - sit here.” She pointed at the chair. Massimo obediently moved. “Now, the rest of you, you are going to ask Massimo your questions and Massimo, you can only answer by saying....” she paused for effect: “‘BANANAS’.”
“Che?” Massimo asked, looking puzzled. “Bananas?”
“Yes, bananas. And you cannot smile or laugh. We will time you and the person who can do this the longest wins, okay?” Emma looked around her and said: “Who has a watch?”
“Oh - me - ME!” Silvio said, eager to produce the enormous digital watch he’d bought in London.
“Okay, Silvio, you can time Massimo. Ready?” she looked at Massimo who was leaning slightly forward in his chair, hands clasped in enthusiastic anticipation, his competitive streak alight and raring to go. “Great. Ask your questions!”
There was a short pause before Alessia tentatively asked: “What is your name?”
“Bananas,” Massimo fired back causing an eruption of laughter.
“How old are you?” Maria-Grazia piped up, once the noise had died down.
“Bananas,” Massimo replied, his lips twitching while he suppressed a smile. Even the laziest, most uninterested students began to shift in their seats, their eyes alight with mischief.
“Do you have a pet?” asked another student.
“What is his name?!”
“Is he a monkey?” shouted Nikola, another of the cool guys, momentarily forgetting his image and wanting to play up to the now helplessly giggling class.
“What does he eat?”
“BANANAS,” replied Massimo, holding the corners of his lips down to stop from laughing.
“EMMA! He’s cheating! Look look! He’s holding his.... come si dice...?” Silvio yelled, waving his hand around his head, scanning his classmates for help, searching for the word, and then finding it: “FACE!”
“Well, you ask him a question then and, Massimo, stop holding your face!” Emma replied, tears of amusement pricking her eyes now that Massimo appeared to be holding his breath as well in an attempt to contain himself, a tactic which was turning his face an interesting shade of purple.
“What’s your girlfriend’s name?” said Silvio, shooting the question at his friend as if it were a weapon.
“Bananas,” Massimo whispered, looking like he was about to explode.
“And what’s that down your trousers?”
“BANAHAHAHAHAHAhahahaaaaa...” Massimo shouted before doubling up in loud hysterics while the class collapsed into shouts and laughter around him. Emma laughed, rolling her eyes - clearly keeping this new game clean with a lot of randy Italians participating was going to be difficult.
“Okay, that was 3 minutes,” she said, glancing at Silvio’s watch and writing the time on the board. “Who’s next?”
“Me, me!!” was the loud chorus Emma got by way of response, along with a row of desperately raised hands as if the student who could touch the ceiling would be the person she picked next.
Wow, she thought, the silliest activity I’ve done by far and they’re lapping it up. Picking Maria-Grazia next, she moved the class on to another round.
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