There are reasons I'm not an English teacher. Despite being begged, guilted and coerced into giving lessons to just about everyone and their brother in my village, I still do not identify myself as a teacher of the English language. Never the less, I have to remind people on a daily basis: I am a science teacher. I am here to teach science. I am a CHEMISTRY TEACHER.

"So you can teach me English, yes?"

Teaching science is what I'm good at. I love demonstrating abstract concepts in understandable ways, answering essential questions about the natural world, and imparting knowledge that will affect student's lives. Introductory English classes offer very little opportunities to do this. And ok, despite acting high and mighty about it, if I'm teaching languages, I just get bored.

So I try to make my English classes fun for myself as much as for the kids. It mostly comes down to us playing games and singing songs. The kids in my classes can name parts of the body from nostril to armpit due to our countless hours of Simon Says. After learning numbers, I introduced one my favorite games of all time: Big Booty. Not wanting to explain the meaning of "Booty" to my students, I changed the name to "Big Bobby." Safe enough, I thought. I only later learned that "Bobby," pronounced "bow-bee" with a French-Guinean accent, means 'butt' in Pular. Ironic goof.

My first year in Lafou I got a kick out of teaching, word by word, the lyrics of top 40 songs to the kids. "Born this Way" worked pretty well, as did that gem of Rebecca Black's, "Friday," but after a while, all the kids wanted to sing was "Waka waka." Yes, they knew the world cup for which the song was featured was over, but they cheered for it like it was the coolest thing in the world. "Madame! Sing us Shakira!" They'd beg me after class- any class. I found myself in saying things like, "Ok, we get through these next five equations, and we'll sing Waka waka." And then I'd have to follow through, performing the first two verses solo, the entire class joining in at the Zamina mina mina part. Terrible stuff.

So this year, I tried for less Shakira, more learning. I went back to basics and racked my brain for easy children's songs.  "This old man," (Nick Nack Paddy Whack) became a fast favorite, "If you're happy and you know it," less so. I guess my kids just didn't 'really wanna show it'. Then one day, I decided to try the Hokey Pokey.

I thought it was a great idea. Body parts, commands, clapping- this song had the potential to be an English-teaching-super-tool. How wrong I was. If only I had studied my Pular more, I would have avoided The Hokey Pokey Incident.

Pokkugol just so happens to be a bad word. And Poki, the past tense of the infinitive, is pronounced just like Pokey. Ready? "Mi poki" roughly translates to "I f*cked." I had learned this briefly at some point in my service, but the word somehow slipped my mind when I decided on using this particular song in class.

So when I happily announced to my 8th graders, "Today we're going to learn the Hokey Pokey!" the boys in the back row boiled over laughing. Only THEN did I conveniently remember what the word meant in Pular. I snorted. I bit my cheeks to keep from smiling. I tried to put on my serious face. I had poki'd up.

The best course of action, I decided, would be to feign ignorance. So I taught the song, pretending I didn't know what we were singing about in Pular. I sang half heartedly, "you put your right and in, you put your right hand out..." trying not to blush or loose my cool. If they knew I knew... that would be WAY worse.

I made it to the final "that's what it's all about!" without cracking up, then dismissed class very quickly. The next time I had my 8th graders for English, the boys in the back row requested their new favorite several times.

"NO," I said firmly, "We're NOT singing the Hokey Pokey."

"But, Madame? Why not?" they whined.

"Because I. Don't. Like. That. Song." I said through gritted teeth. They didn't ask again.

Later, when I told my friend Mme. Sow about the incident, she lost it. With tears in her eyes, she kept laughing for several minutes. I sat there with my arms crossed. Come on, I told her. It wasn't THAT funny. "The Hokey Pokey!" she managed to keep repeating through bursts of laughter. Then she asked me to teach her the English equivalents. So I did.

I really hadn't prepared myself for this kind of cultural exchange. But here I am, an English teacher by force, imparting bad words to Guineans.

I guess THAT's what it's all about.