Thursday, June 29, 2006

Those Who Can...

"Don't listen to what your teachers tell ya, you know. Don't pay attention. Just, just see what they look like and that's how you'll know what life is really gonna be like."
-Woody Allen (as Cliff Stern in Crimes and Misdemeanors)

I think back to all the episodes in my own schooling that shoulder this advice. In no particular order:

My fifth grade teacher Mr Kittrell commented to the class that my father was a psychologist. I corrected him very simply "He's a psychiatrist." To which he replied "Same thing," flipping his hand dismissively.

My sixth grade teacher Miss Ball was teaching us about facts and opinions. I labeled the following statement as fact: Chocolate is my favorite flavour of ice cream. She marked it wrong explaining herself by saying "because it isn't everyone's favourite flavor..."

When I was in the 5th grade Mrs Olson (who taught English in the high school) told me that Laura Ingalls Wilder's books were fiction because there was no tape recorder there to verify each quote. "What about the Bible?" I asked (I attended a parochial school) . She answered "Well we'd have to go to the original Hebrew or Greek to find the source - but we do have it."

My freshman English teacher Mrs Perez explaining the difference between tragedies and comedies: "Tragedies tend to be sad and comedies are not necessarily funny, but they're more about entertaining." I asked her "Aren't comedies more about a story that goes from chaos to order while tragedies go from order to chaos?" She smiled and said that wasn't necessary for the class to worry about.

One teacher (mentioned already above) insisted on pronouncing the name of naturalist John Muir as if it rhymed with "fire." I pointed out the book's pronunciation key - /myoor/ - but he was unconvinced. In fact he believed this proved his point.

And of course I'm absolutely sure that several of my former students have similar stories about me. I can remember some of my own mistakes and moments of faulty confidence. I once spat out a comment about a a young pantaloon in The Taming of the Shrew. One student had to point out that in fact a pantaloon is by definition old. I'm sure I responded dismissively.

And I never even did my students the favor of caring enough to look good for class.

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