Wednesday, August 24, 2005

"she doesn't know what she's talking about" or the day the kids found me out

I'm terrible at grammar. Always have been. I remember sitting on the floor in the family room trying to learn about direct and indirect objects and sobbing because I didn't understand them. I was relieved after my 9 weeks of grammar at age 15 that the whole ordeal was finished. Never again would I have to know what an infinitive was, or a subordinate clause, or a demonstrative noun. I would go on speaking correctly because I have a good ear for the language and bask in my knowledge that I spoke well. Not good. Well.

Today in college prep grammar a kid called me out on my explanation of an adjective in one of their homework examples. He was right, of course, and as I grappled for the explanation of WHY he was right (I always make them justify their responses, so I felt that if I was wrong I should at least do the service to the class of explaining why he was right) and stood at the front of the room stammaring, I heard it.

One voice, toward the back right corner.

"She doesn't know what she's talking about."

You can't fool kids. You just can't. They know what you think, how you feel, what your experiences are, and how well you know what you're teaching. They know when you're being fake and hate you for it. They know when you're being real and respect you for it, no matter what your "real" is.

I went into this class trying to fool the kids, trying to make them believe I had taught the class before, that I know as much about grammar as I do about literature and writing, because people don't accept less than that. People expect English teachers to know everything about the written word. What I SHOULD have done was to go in on the first day and tell the kids I was just as scared as they were, that I was going to be learning right along with them. But, my ego got into the way and I thought I could fool the unfoolable.

Tomorrow will be damage control and perhaps a dose of honesty as well.


Nance Knauer said...

amazing honesty. great insight. good luck today.

Myfanwy Collins said...

This is great writing, Kelly. Love your honesty.

Gary LaPointe said...

I'm so lucky that all I have to teach is technology and no one ever comes to my (generally optional) classes unless they want the knowledge (i.e. they don't have it).

I'm also fortunate to know (and able to use) the three magic words which (I think) while pleading ignorance is also a sign of intelligence, "I don't know".