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?”

“No.”

“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).

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 Baby

In my previous post, I suggested that writers’ blogs are shallow and uninteresting. By writing that, I have been introduced to some very different blogs, and especially mapelba, who poses some thought-provoking questions. The question in her latest post is: “Where do you come from? Does your answer explain your writing?” Some people come from some very dark places. I come from a place of love, protection and loneliness….

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I come from a place so deep in suburbia that the bus came only once every half hour – if you were lucky.

I come from a world of secrets and pretence. Of feeling guilty every time I forgot.

I come from a father who I now know was a people pleaser, who needed everyone to think well of him, and who took out his frustrations on his wife. And a mother who never understood that. I come from a mother who never understood many things. I come from parents who had had enough excitement in their lives by the time I was born.

I come from a place where religion is a noose, a chore, a secret, an embarrassment, a reason for keeping quiet. But also a fine tradition, an offloading of worries and hopes, an expression of sadness and joy.

I come from a place where teachers just taught and children were free to torment as much as they wanted. Where no one explained to them that their actions could be a life sentence.

I come from a place where loneliness is the norm and thoughts have no human outlet.

I write to tell the world that whole lives can be spoilt because of where they come from, if no one notices or acts in time.

Me at eleven

Me nowWe learn throughout our lives, but most of our learning is done in childhood. In eighteen years, we’re supposed to advance from knowing absolutely nothing to knowing enough to manage on our own in this complicated world. What we need to learn isn’t just how to calculate the area of a triangle, or the difference between “its” and “it’s” [sorry – forget the second one: it’s apparently not important these days and probably not PC to even mention it].

We also have to learn how to get on with other people, how to communicate with them, because we’re all in this world together and we need each other to get anywhere. Besides, it’s pretty boring with only yourself for company.

Most children get sent to school to learn these things. This seems a good idea because, not only do you learn academic subjects, but you also have to interact with a lot of people. What happens if it goes wrong? – pear-shaped, I believe, is the current term.

I didn’t learn how to communicate with others at school. Instead, I learnt not to communicate, because anything I said could be remembered and used to bully me. And my teachers, who knew how to communicate and should have seen what was going on, didn’t think of communicating anything to me or finding anyone else to communicate with me. Reports complaining that I didn’t take enough part in lessons, and monologues after years of my non-communication telling me to change my attitude weren’t exactly the right approach.

Someone should have delved deeper and made me understand how I felt when I was teased or ostracised, or when my only friend suddenly vanished. But no one did.

I’d like to think that things have changed in all the years that have passed since I was at school. I’d like to think that teachers now care about the emotional well-being of their pupils and know how to handle problems. I fear that this is not true. That, just like then, they act when children are disruptive and fail to act when they’re not.

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