Swords or pistols? or a dictionary?

A  shy student   lost his shyness and  became aggressive in class, questioning me on points of fact every chance he got. I had occasionally  encountered this before. It was demoralizing and terrifying when you weren’t sure of what you were doing.

However, I pretty much knew what I was doing. Well,  in Latin, anyway.  Ok , I knew more than they did.  Alright,  I fake it pretty well.  When a kid asked why I didn’t know what a Latin word meant, I hauled out the BIG Merriam Webster English dictionary.

“ You know all the words in here, right?  Well, how about half?  Ten pages? Hey, isn’t English  your native tongue?  You don’t know all the words?”

But this kid challenged me on more than just word meanings. Sometimes it was grammar, mythology,or the time of day. It annoyed the other kids after awhile.  Finally one day I wrote my name and his on the board and sectioned it off like a score board, writing my name much larger, of course.

me  him scores

Used this same technique on five year olds. Its very versatile.

He wasn’t the only one who challenged me. (the context in which I use the word challenge is not as in intellectually challenging. More like challenge to a duel. Swords or pistols?)  Another student corrected my pronunciation of a five syllable word, irrevocable.

There was a strained silence in the classroom.   I’m not omniscient. We looked the word up. We were both  wrong.

Often I was grilled on English vocabulary I taught them. They assumed that if they had never heard or read a word, it didn’t exist and I  had just made it up on the spot. So I offered,“You want to bet your grade on it?”

Some poor fool always took me up on it. Dictionaries were tossed through the air.  (My husband once argued with me on misanthrope.  I was right. He was wrong. There was no way to penalize him, though.)

I wrote thirty words on the board. Three of them I made up. They had to identify the fake words.

No one ever thought to actually look the words up.

( I had to check myself. You would be surprised at what is considered a word.)

Kerfuffle  is my favorite real word.  My favorite fake word  is arismatic.


The apology

I used to teach French to kindergarten through 4th grade. None of them knew my name, I was just The French Lady. This was my teaching technique:

“You guys won’t remember anything I teach you. ”

“Oh yeah? We will so!”

“Nope, you won’t. I’ll prove it to you.  If you remember these four words, you get a point. If you forget them, I get a point.”      Then I made the scoreboard.

me you guys scoreThis generally put them into a feeding frenzy. If any classmate had dared to forget a word they would have lynched him.  Every point I got took up the whole board. I made their  points  tiny dots on the board. If they started to win, I would say,

“You know, I really hate kids.”

“Oh yeah? Then why are you here teaching kids? You don’t hate us. You LOVE us!”

I first heard my dad say this to my daughter when she was four years old, and I was appalled.

“Why should I give you lunch? I don’t even like you.”    She didn’t even bother to look up from her book.

” Yes you do Pop Pop. You love  me lots and lots.”

So I tried it.  The kids don’t believe me either.

One day a first grade class got very rowdy.( I’m sure I had nothing to do with that at all)  The teacher was mortified and made every child make me a card with an apology.  One card said this:

im sorry but thas all

Thas  it.  Thas all I’m getting.

Ten years later a student stayed after class to talk to me and mentioned where she had gone to grammar school. It was where I taught ten years ago. And then it hit me. “Did you have really blonde hair and a ponytail?”

It was her.  And I still had the card.  Which I of course brought to class and told this story to her mortification every chance I got.