The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

I know the axiom that the only truly stupid question is the one you're too scared to ask, but ... when you're a teacher, you're the repository for every stupid question anyone ever dreamt up.

The questions in this post are all taken from direct experience - in fact from the previous week.

  • You'll know this: what's the central river in Tokyo?
    It could be pub quiz night and your team is losing. You could be going for the high scores on your armchair version of the Weakest Link. Ask a teacher. They'll be delighted to brush off their fail-grade in geography and help out.

  • I can't find that piece of paper you gave me three years ago that had lists of poems on it. Do you have a copy?
    Never fear, my dear. Teachers have endless copies of everything. For the past forty years, indexed, filed, and directly to hand. Three years isn't too long a distance to be able to interpret a vague description of a 'piece of paper' containing 'lists of poems'. No, those books your teacher was trying to mark are not important. Pshaw! You're the head of department after all. Your mysterious piece of paper is your teacher's real priority.

  • My daughter hasn't attended any of her sixth form lectures, and she has her A level exam on Hamlet in a month. Could you give me some ideas on what she should study at home?
    You could try 'Hamlet', of course. Just a wild guess. Or persuading her to attend lectures. Didn't they tell you that at headteacher training college?

  • Could you just come over to my classroom and tell the students to sit down and start the lesson?
    A teacher never has anything other to do than answer your question, and there's no personal cost. No, no, ignore the desperately combative situation that's occurring in the room behind your teacher. They will quell the trouble by osmosis; it's respite for them to come deal with your troubles instead.

  • Where did that chair come from?
    Un moment, s'il vous plait. Your teacher will take but four seconds to whizz through their personal all-corridor surveillance system. Regardless that their own classroom is situated half a mile away, we have neural networks that cover improbable distances.
    What is more, teachers know you're not prepared to take the issue up yourself, and are entirely free to track down the unruly chair mover and make them and their families pay for what they have done.

  • What is the French for 'va-va-voom'?
    It is incroyable, my dear. Patently.

Spot the originator:
Friend in the pub, head of english teaching, secondary school headteacher, supply teacher, school librarian, Dwain aged fifteen.
[NB. Interesting that only one question is from an actual student.]