On the light railway* the other day, I overheard a woman with an American accent** talking to her son, who had an Israeli accent:

“Do you know what a metaphor is?”


“It’s when you say, ‘like.’ It’s when you compare something to something else.”

She went on to give examples. I turned round, dying to say, “Rubbish! That’s not a metaphor. That’s a simile.” But I didn’t. I let her continue teaching her son the wrong thing because… well… it didn’t seem nice to contradict her.

The incident reminded me of similar incidents.

When I was ten, we took an exam called the 11-plus, the result of which determined whether we continued our education in a grammar school or a secondary modern. The final question of the arithmetic exam was about counting in octal instead of decimal. We hadn’t learnt about this and the question didn’t assume we had. It just talked about counting in eights instead  of tens and asked what a certain number would be in that system. After the exam, the question was discussed with our teacher. The answer she gave was one that several of the children had given. My answer was different and I thought I was right, but didn’t say so. Later I asked my father, a maths teacher, and he confirmed that my answer was correct. I never told the teacher or the other children.

In a class for learning Hebrew when I was fairly new in the country, the teacher made a mistake in explaining the meaning of a word. I’m sure she would have known how to use the word herself, but she didn’t explain it properly. When I tried to explain the problem, others in the class were shocked that I argued with the teacher.

Our daughter was once told by her English teacher to correct the tense of a verb in something she’d written. We knew that our daughter was correct and explained our reasoning to her so that she could tell the teacher. I’m sure the teacher would have understood if she’d tried to. Instead she said, “Are your parents English teachers?” implying that English teachers always know better.

So I wonder, what do you do when the teacher is wrong? How do you avoid an argument?

*Sorry to keep mentioning the light railway. I’m still not used to it being here. And working!

** Or Canadian (sorry I can’t tell the difference).