“Who does she think she is?” asks Stefan Petrescu hurling his water bottle into the bin outside the classroom. “Thinking she’s so smart. I’ll show her!”

As Stefan storms down the stairs and out onto the street, a classmate is willing to share the story with our reporter.

“Stefan’s been studying here for ages,” Gabriella Ardeleanu tells us in confidence. “He’s been in the Advanced class for more than a year but there’s no other class to move him to and he insists on continuing so they just put him back to the start of the book again. Anyway, he prides himself on finding the most difficult questions to ask the teachers.”

As she speaks, an EFL instructor removes his glasses to rub his eyes as he leaves the classroom and heads for the fire escape, fumbling a cigarette into his mouth.

“On Monday, for example, he asked Henry why we say A UFO instead of An UFO. ‘Cause it starts with a vowel, right? Henry got all flustered and Stefan left happy, thinking he’d got his money’s worth.”

A tall woman with horn-rimmed glasses leaves the class, her heels clacking against the tiles of the corridor as she nods to Gabriella in acknowledgement.

“Anyway, that woman there only joined the class today so we didn’t know what to make of her.”

Gabriella gives a wry smile as she begins to enjoy the telling of the tale.

“So, business as usual, Henry is showing us some pictures of buildings and we’re supposed to be guessing what the content of today’s lesson is. Somehow – I can’t remember how – Stefan manages to contrive an excuse to ask Henry to explain the subjunctive mood. Henry’s standing there, gazing off into the distance, wondering where he’s gone wrong again when that new student clears her throat and goes ahead and explains it to Stefan.”

Gabriella pulls her face into a mask of condescension as she mimics her long-standing classmate.

Thank you for that explanation, Stefan says. It’s something neither Henry nor our previous teachers has been able to clarify. She looks over to him and points out that, because our previous teachers is plural, he should have said have been able. Stefan went as red as a bowl of Borsht!”

As she follows her classmates down the stairs, giggling, Stefan has already ordered a coffee in the nearest cafe with Wi-fi and is googling something nasty to bring up about adjective order on Friday.

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