Thursday, October 18, 2007

Thou hast offended me with thy eloquence

You know what really drives me crazy? When a student takes me to task for using "big words."

Today, I had just set up the overhead and put a transparency up for the students to begin copying. A new student in the back asked me if she could sit up front while copying. I asked her, "Is someone's head in the way, or do you need to see an optometrist?" She smiled and said, "I need to see an optometrist."

Enter the mental meanderings of... oh, let's just call him Knucklehead. Here is the conversation:

Knucklehead: What's an optometrist?
Mr. Chanman: An eye doctor.
K: Then why didn't you just say 'eye doctor'?
C: Because I say 'optometrist'.
K: Instead of using big words, why don't you just say 'eye doctor'?
C: I prefer 'optometrist'.
K: Well, you say 'optometrist', I'm gonna say 'eye doctor'.
C: Thank you, I will. I am a teacher, so I'm allowed to teach you new words. Now you're going to go home this afternoon having learned what an optometrist is. As a teacher, that makes me feel like I accomplished something today.

I mean, Knucklehead truly sounded exasperated and offended that I said optometrist rather than eye doctor. How DARE I teach him something new! I didn't mind engaging him in a little repartee, because I had a few moments to spare while students were still transitioning to the notes on the overhead.

Just another day in the trenches.

Good Day to You, Sir


bluejay said...

Don't feel bad. While preparing to take the PSAT this week, one of our junior students was filling out the bubble information section and asked the administrator what "omit" meant!

Tyralis said...

As a high school student, i laughed out loud when I saw this post. As one of the few non-honors English students that actually enjoy reading, I during English class, a fellow student who was reviewing my essay once told me that I, and I quote this directly "Shouldn't be usin' dem big words cause they make ya sound too smart" Since when is using a decent vocabulary taboo among students. it should be something to be celebrated when you
learn a new word, not cast upon with the casual derision so common amongst my peers.

Rho said...

I teach ninth and tenth graders- English I and II and I hear this all the time. I tell them they are not listening very well, as every time I use a word they might not know, I also reinforce with an appositive phrase (then they really look at me!). I might put three different words in a sentence that mean the same thing-what do they expect- to remain in their ignorance?
Part of my set speech on the first day of each year is that we will speak standard English (no more he don't, I seen) because they have no idea where they will end up in life and the chances are that there will come a time when they want to sound educated. The job they really want will go to someone else who bothered to learn to speak and write in standard English. I'm too old and ornery to give up the fight, and I have enough graduates who come back and tell me to keep doing what I'm doing to keep me at it.

Texas Truth said...

You know what my old English teacher used to say, "If you can't spell the word, don't use it. If you can, then use it." I guess this student couldn't spell it (along with other perfectly good English words).

I bet he/she can spell the words they wrie on the bathroom walls.

Anonymous said...

I would add that students need to know that much of society uses big words, and that "eye-doctoring" is divided into different specialities such as opthamology, and that someday they might need the services of one of those "eye-doctors".

Also, the way we solve problems and analyze is rooted in our ability to use language - hence the need to build more prisons. Many of those in prison lack the the ability to handle conflict in a reasonable way.