Posted on November 17, 2010
Posted by John Scalzi
My daughter had to serve detention today.
Her crime: Being sarcastic to a teacher.
This is, you can imagine, a bittersweet moment for me.
The Teacher most likely deserved it
They grow snide so fast.
Hard to blame the kid. Between nature and nurture, she’s pretty much fated to sarcasm, no?
I’m shocked, just shocked ….
To be clear, we informed our daughter there was a time and place for sarcasm, and the ones she chose were not they. Even so.
It tells me more about the teacher than the kid. Sigh.
Good Lord, wherever did she learn sarcasm?
I kid. My son (4th grade) has the same snide tendencies – apple, tree, etc. – though thankfully it’s only been at home so far, where he feels most comfortable. I think it’s only a matter of time, however, before he simply cannot help himself.
Alice B, et al:
I don’t want to be blaming the teacher, actually. All her teachers this year are pretty good. And the daughter does in fact need to learn to modulate her sarcasm output. Of course, I’m still working on that one myself.
Given Athena’s most excellent retort involving a certain four-eyed someone, I am truly curious about the details of this bout of sarcasm.
Then again, it’s none of my beeswax. Really, it’s not. And I’m going to keep saying that to myself until it rings true. :twitch:
Tough one. If she was asked to stop chatting with a classmate during class, that’s one thing. If she was responding to the teachers refusal to correct an errant fact of history or math…she gets dinner at her choice of restaurant?
That’s what a weblog (possibly friends-locked) is for: unleashing all the witty snark you refrained from using in person.
But was the detention imposed because the teacher realized she was being sarcastic? Or because the teacher didn’t?
Inquiring minds and all that…
Sarcasm? Just sarcasm? Heck, I got called in to the principal’s office because my daughter had gotten into an argument with her middle-school history teacher. History teacher insisted that the Rock of Gibraltar was solid rock, and my daughter insisted that no, it had been hollowed out in places; there was a great big gallery in it, originally hollowed out as a dining room for a formal reception to welcome US Grant on a grand visit – and she had been there on a tour of it, when we were stationed in Spain.
“So, teach – who do you expect me to believe? You or the evidence of my own lying eyes?”
That’s when I got called.
Funny, mine got OUT of detention by being sarcastic to the teacher. He said, “thank you sir, may I have another?” and the teacher was laughing so hard he tore up the slip. I wouldn’t suggest Athena try this, though. ;-)
(And no, I wouldn’t have believed it if the teacher hadn’t told me.)
Don’t you hate it when you have to put on your serious face for your kid, and you really just want to burst out laughing or, possibly, clap?
Man, that takes me back.
All that trouble I got into for no good reason…
Still, I haven’t had a job interview yet that asked me how often I had to stay after school in 8th grade, so no harm no foul.
“She used sarcasm. She knew all the tricks; dramatic irony, metaphor, bathos, puns, parody, litotes and satire.”
I’ve already had to tell my kids “Yes, but I’m a grown up. And sometime it gets me in trouble, too.”
You know, I managed to bring out my sarcasm in a test. I scored a 5, which in Germany is the first fail grade. I even got an official written reprimand. My father inquired what exactly I wrote onto the test, and afterwards told me how proud of me he is.
Sure, there are inapropriate moments and places, and I have since managed to moderate my use of sarcasm, but do not pass to stern a judgment on her. She may have picked it up somewhere around… you?
I suppose that it’s better she learn this lesson in school than at places where sexual assault as a response to sarcasm is legal *cough* airport *cough*.
My oldest daughter got detention on the very first day of 2nd grade, way back when. The teacher went with the old “Let’s go around the room and everybody tell the class something about your summer” icebreaker. When it got to my daughter’s turn, she stood up and said “This is stupid! I won’t do this!” The whole year of second grade was a lot like that. And no, it wasn’t the teacher’s fault.
Oh, teachers hate sarcasm from kids. If I remember right, the teachers who hate it most are the ones who use sarcasm on students. (Though from your comment, I assume that doesn’t apply to this one.)
Decades later, I still remember getting ripped by a teacher for being sarcastic, despite the fact that (I swear!) I wasn’t being sarcastic at the time. Of course, he was probably the second-most sarcastic teacher at school. The guy in first place was a Latin/English teacher whose sarcasm was such high art that half the time only a few of us caught it.
It was beautiful.
Ah, memories. Fifth grade, got into an argument with Mrs. Hill about things in space. Was told to listen to authority until I was old enough to know better. Sat down, shut up. Went home, wrote to the seven astronauts (yes, that long ago) and got an answer from them. Authority 1, Mrs. Hill 0.
Only hint for sarcasm is to aim it so high the teacher doesn’t notice it’s there, and hope your friends are quiet.
That you share this on your wildly successful blog entitled “Whatever” must make this all the more…complex…an experience.
Speaking as a young adult librarian, I find that after a long day of dealing with sarcastic children I have to modulate my output with adults.
The lesson? Children are dangerous.
It worked perfectly well to make sure the kids showed their teachers respect at all times. That is, until the kids realized they earned respect just as much as the teachers did. So, as soon as the kids proved their teachers didn’t deserve their respect things got a lot harder.
Good luck John! You’ve just entered (if you hadn’t been there yet) a wonderful stage in child development. I have told my children that if they are going to be disrespectful it has to be in a way that has intelligent snark so that they are likely to make the person they are disrespecting laugh.
“That you share this on your wildly successful blog entitled ‘Whatever’ must make this all the more…complex…an experience.”
Well, the “Whatever” is understood to be “whatever I’m thinking about,” not the sarcastic dismissal. But yes.
That’s a hard lesson to learn, when to unleash the inner snark. But then, that’s what childhood is for, to make the mistakes.
Learning your child mouthed off to a teacher: embarrassing.
Explaining to your child that she can’t do that to just anyone, no matter how much they deserve it: difficult.
Knowing you won’t have to worry because your kid can stand up for herself: priceless.
#26 by Steve Buchheit:
That’s a hard lesson to learn, when to unleash the inner snark. But then, that’s what childhood is for, to make the mistakes.
That’s what life is for. Either that, or I’m doing it wrong.
Argh! I WANT MY PREVIEW BUTTON!
Man, I was at least this evil as a kid.
Only all my teachers were awesome, so I used to pass other kids with crappy teachers crib notes on how to snap-talk back at them.
That eventually back-fired, when one of said kids was forced to hand in his notes to an angry teacher.IIRC, my defense amounted to “So it’s not Ok for me to write things down?”, which, oddly enough, worked well enough to get me out of trouble.
#27 by Dave H
Knowing you won’t have to worry because your kid can stand up for herself: priceless.
I’m not a parent, but I’m guessing that it just changes what you worry about. There are worse responses to sarcasm than detention.
It makes me so proud, knowing that my sons inherited my oddball sense of humor and sarcastic streak.. . ***sniff**** I’m sure you must feel similarly.
Thank you. You are indeed made of awesome.
(I still want my damn Preview button.)
Bearpaw@32: You’re right, the list of worries changes over time. But knowing my kids had the gumption to speak up in their own defense was a big one. Once they demonstrated that ability it became our job to teach them the right way to do it.
My family spoke Sarcasm as our primary language. When we kids were all in our teens the younger ones had some serious Teen Issues that required individual and family therapy. By the second family session the shrink was flummoxed about what to do with us – both parents and kids ranging from 12-18. He impatiently explained that we were going to have to spend all week communicating WITHOUT SARCASM! Without missing a beat, my kid sister snorted and announced “Yeah, like that’s going to work!” I don’t even think she recognized it as sarcasm.
I was grossly offended that he would tell us the way our family had related to each other for 18 years was wrong. My parents must have agreed because that was our last family session.
Yeah, the trick for adolescents is learning the difference between types of sarcasm.
Wit = good.
Teenage snot-nose attitude = bad.
Not that Athena did that. But sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference until the kids learn the slight modulation in tone.
I tell myself now with a 3 Year Old that I would never let such a detention stand…guess we will see how that goes in 2-15 years.
That said I’ve bring my daughter up with a healthy disrespect for authority that matches my own. I intend to continue to do so, only those who earn respect should get it. Teachers specifically DO NOT get respect from day one, they absolutely have to earn it and keep up re-earning it.
But this is from the guy who failed english lit in college because he refused to go along with the professors classical explanations of parts of Gulliver’s Travels, and hounded the professor about it for weeks on end. At one point I said something to the professor along the lines of calling him an antiquated a-hole. After that no matter the brilliance of my work I got a fail. So I suppose the source must be considered.
I wish I could claim this story, but it was a college friend’s. His senior English teacher asked a rhetorical question. My friend, being a smartass, answered it. The teacher gave him THAT LOOK and said, “That was a rhetorical question, [Friend]. It wasn’t meant to be answered.” My friend took his life in his hands by further replying, “That was a rhetorical answer. It wasn’t meant to be questioned.”
I don’t know whether he actually got in trouble, but I do know that there was at least one phone call home.
I tell myself now with a 3 Year Old that I would never let such a detention stand…
I don’t think our host has given us enough information to make that call. Disrespecting someone who hasn’t earned disrespect isn’t OK.
And sometimes, even if you think the kid might not have been wrong, you let them face their music because that’s a life lesson, too, and an hour of boredom is an extremely cheap way to learn it.
(Proud father of a sarcastic, but so far mostly well-tempered, eight-year-old.)
I didn’t find the detention objectionable. The daughter needs to learn to judge when sarcasm is called for and when it’s best to keep it holstered. As georgmi notes, an after-school detention is a fairly cheap lesson on that score.
I know there is a time and place for it, but I secretly hope my future students will amuse me with their sarcasm/wit/humour daily ;)
Ah. Apple. Tree. Short distance. As you point out, part of growing up is figuring the right time & place. I’m glad you backed up the teacher. Being descended and related to a number of teachers, it is nice to see parents and teachers working together. So many times it’s always the teacher’s fault in the parent’s eye. That’s not to excuse bad teachers, but there’s some stories teachers tell that’ll curl your hair.
#38 by Haplo Peart: But this is from the guy who failed english lit in college because he refused to go along with the professors classical explanations of parts of Gulliver’s Travels, and hounded the professor about it for weeks on end.
I suspect that your failing grade had less to do with your refusal to go along with the prof’s ideas and more to do with the fact that you hounded him about it for weeks on end.
At one point I said something to the professor along the lines of calling him an antiquated a-hole.
Oh yeah, and that too.
All I can say is, welcome to my world. Two daughters, 11 and 13. We could teach a class in sarcasm. And funny voices. And sarcasm IN funny voices. :)
I’m sorry, but that is actually made of awesome.
Yes, she needs to learn when and where.
But the fact that it’s in her toolbox? I think you may be one of my favorite fathers right now. Go you, John. And go your awesome wife. You’ve got a good one there.
Aaaahhhh, brings back fond memories of attending Catholic grade school and driving the nuns and priests absolutely crazy with my wit and unsolicited wisdom…. of course, in those days they still believed in corporal punishment and I spent many a day unable to sit or with bleeding knuckles… man, those nuns could really heave an eraser a long distance… and with such phenomenal accuracy (I often thought they were somehow guided by the gods) !! Needless to say, they were unable to curb my enthusiasm (to the great dismay of my parents)… and although I’ve paid a heavy price throughout my life for my “independent thought”, I wouldn’t trade the results for anything… so there, stick that in your pipe and smoke it…
Words to live by:
I skated out through school into college before anyone realized how much of a troublemaker I’d been.
*laugh* Can’t imagine where she gets THAT from!
But yeah, with a parent like you, I imagine she’ll need to learn that the world mostly does not love a smart-ass. Or at least, people in authority don’t. Learning to code-switch when talking with mundanes is a useful skill. :-)
Good for her, too smart for the teach. Clearly she slipped up somehow. Witnesses? You need to work with her on that. Never leave a witness.
Generally speaking, it’s always better to be a smartass than a dumbass, I always say.
Sarcasm is a tool that, properly used, can be used to create truly artistic uses of the language. Athena just needs to learn its proper use. She’s how old? 12? Plenty of time.
Back in the day… I had business cards. I used to hand them out to each teacher during the Fall “meet and greet” with the comment that I was available anytime to discuss any issues that they had with my kids. I made sure the kids heard me. I never got a call.
#39 Andrew Hackard: I think I love you (or, at the very least, your friend)!
When I was a kid, my teachers used to just clobber us. Sometimes with objects. Detention doesn’t sound so bad.
Haplo @38: as a parent who also tends to the ‘authority? THIS for your authority’ side of things, and whose kids have had MANY referrals for sassin; the teacher: please stop. There is a big difference between teaching a kid to stand up for herself, to use sarcasm when appropriate, and to question authority, and teaching a kid to be an asshole. Whether your child respects the teacher or not has nothing to do with how your child should behave toward the teacher, which is to say, with civility.
Or, a lesson I think is finally getting through to my kids, you’re much more able to deal with assholes if you come off as the totally reasonable one.
Love the pic. She is looking quite a lot like her mother these days. I hope she doesn’t have to go to detention again. :-)
Interesting how a lot of people in this thread rush to blame the teacher. I am willing to bet that most of those doing that have never set foot in a classroom, and for all the complaining they do about teachers, would never dream of doing the job themselves. (Disclosure: I did teach high school for a time, and the common pattern was not so much the bratty kids as the parents who thought their “little angels” could do no wrong). Good for Mr. Scalzi for teaching her kid that there is a time and a place.
Best, and keep on blogging.
Angel @57: I suspect that most of the people you’re complaining about are calling on their own experiences dealing with less-than-stellar teachers who got away with being bad at what they did simply because they were authority figures. I do actually agree with you that there are a lot of parents who think their kids are always right – but as a high school teacher you’ve likely also had colleagues who were jackasses.
Thanks Angel, you got to it before me. I am a High School teacher. I will say that when a bright kid is sarcastic there are times when you have to punish in order to maintain classroom decorum or lose the class for a bit. A snot nosed kid then thinks they can mouth off without trouble. It is such a shame that when a kid demonstrates their intellect they sometimes have to be scolded for the way they do it.The bright kid can often be talked to and everything works out. The hard headed ones usually don’t understand or don’t care.
Mythago: Absolutely. I am not claiming all teachers are perfect. Far from it. I witnessed a few very bad asshats in my tenure (including a principal), but I have observed over time people, especially parents, are more than ready to blame a teacher when their “little snowflake” acts out or does something they are not supposed to do (sometimes until they find out what the snowflake actually did).
Joshua: Yep, usually the brilliant ones (to use the label conveniently) knew what was up and a small talk after class fixed it. Kids like that know when they did something wrong, and the good ones take their responsibility for it. It’s the snot nosed ones that were the real problem.
I’m wondering what kind of detention it was. I mean, were the kids allowed to read? Write? Do homework? Oh, the humanity.
Geez, if we made our students serve detention for being sarcastic to a teacher all 575 of them would be staying after. If we could catch them, that is. Just during one class period (high school) I had about 5 students tell me to shut up, stop talking, or interrupt me with their gossiping or just complaining while I was trying to teach the lesson. We have such bad problems that offenses like that are ignored. Administrators today were busy with a student who smuggled in a XXX porn video and showed it to other students, another student who was selling pot, during class, to other kids, and some kids who were caught having sex down a blind hallway, along with the usual fights, kids skipping class, and smoking in the rest rooms.
I would actually welcome a little bit of intelligent sarcasm over the crap I get daily from my students.
Most awesome! Sarcasm is so underrated.
So far the Truck Gene Boys have evaded that particular cause of detention. Failure to do their homework. Disturbing the class. Crawling under the desk and whining? Those they get.
I almost wish it were sarcasm.
How does after school detention work in a rural area? It didn’t exist in my schools. The buses left about 10 minutes after the last class ended and most kids couldn’t walk home.
I never did anything worthy of being awarded detention or I charmed all the teachers. I nearly came close to getting it for tardiness when my father was driving me to school and not getting up early enough. That really annoyed me.
I don’t know what I’d say to my teachers if it wasn’t sarcasm.
Uh, yeah, raise your kid to be disrespectful to her teachers. That’ll really get her ahead.
Of COURSE teachers should “earn” respect like everyone else. But here’s a news flash–you’re talking about a KID, and in the vast majority of cases (spoken by someone who was once a member of the child species) she actually will have a more limited perspective than the presumed worthless sap who is trying to teach her. Giving her delusions of grandeur by leading her to think otherwise is not going to help her one whit.
Chem_Is_Try, what grade do you teach, and in which demilitarized zone?!?
A parent of a second grader who is suddenly terrified of the future.
Of the things a child could have detention for, this is the best. Because she has the ABILITY to commit the offense (good) but did it inappropriately (bad).
See, if she’d gotten detention for correcting the teacher’s facts about general relativity or the publishing industry (and she was factually correct), that would cause concern about the school. And if she were detained for, I don’t know, bullying…that would cause serious concern about Athena herself.
Current situation: optimal.
In ninth grade, I was caught – again – reading during health class. I could seriously have slept through that class and gotten an A, but the teacher nevertheless demanded I hand over the book. Since it was a friend’s book, I refused. Chaos ensued, the Apocalypse happened, and Mom ordered me to write a letter of apology to the teacher. Naturally, I wasn’t feeling particularly apologetic. So I made up a completely bullshit letter about how I had a medical condition that made me need a book in my hand at all times. Complete with an ultrasound drawn in Paint. I spent more time on that thing than the teacher really deserved, but she laughed, and it defused the situation.
Good times. Athena’s following a proud tradition. (I’m still not sorry about reading in class. Much better use of my time.)
A first grader acquaintance of mine got a “written warning” yesterday. Seems the little boy at the next desk was picking on her. She told him to knock it off of she’d “kick his butt” He complained to the teacher. She got warned. If she “bullies” him or anyone else again, she gets suspended.
My son, in first grade, had a note home telling me to “call right away.” I called. The teacher was very angry about his “smart mouth.”
I asked what happened. She said that rather than do the math, he came up with smart-alec answers. (My son, up to this point, would sometimes say odd things, but he never really said anything malicious.) I asked what the question was.
“What is two apples plus three oranges?”
I said, “Two apples and three oranges.”
“Well, he said, ‘A fruit salad!’ The answer, as you well know is ‘five.'”
I tried to explain to her common units of measurement, and that fruit salad seemed perfectly acceptable to me as an answer. She huffed something about seeing where he got it from.
@38, That sounds like a silly reason to fail a lit class. I hope you found the investment of time and money worthwhile despite the lack of credit.
Athena is making the exact same face I make when I think about keeping students for detention. The kid was so delightful in class, I must insist that they intrude on my after school planning time! Think of the fun we will have!
I hope Athena and her teacher had a lovely chat whilst mutually detained, and that they have better days ahead of them.
Angel @60: oh, sure. and you can see why the kid turned out that way. But I’ve run into more than a few teachers in my time who have serious insecurity problems, and think any kid who doesn’t behave with perfect obedience and deference is “snot-nosed”.
Man, this is a great thread… I just love all these anecdotes and I’m having all kinds of flashbacks…. it brings up a quote I heard once:
“sarcasm is the preferred weapon of the intelligent”….
Okay, mimiheart’s kid, ftw.
Wait – sarcasm is *bad*?!
I find it interesting that in reading through the comments so many people seem to have differnt definitions of “sarcasm” and being “sarcastic”
Sarcasm –noun. 1. harsh or bitter derision or irony. 2. a sharply ironical taunt; sneering or cutting remark
telling a teacher to “shut up” (@37), calling a professor an “antiquated a-hole”, questioning authority, being disrespectful, etc. are not the same as being sarcastic. All those things (I would define) as ” being disruptive” or “insubordinate”. (or what some generally refer to as ‘snot-nosed remarks’). Snark/sarcasm has a time and a place. Parody and humor can be a powerful communication tools. Derision, disruption, insubordination (in my experience, in this context) are almost always have no redeeming qualities, and is behavior that should be corrected.
That some teachers can’t tell the difference either, is sad
not related to my previous comment
I just wanted to crow about my daughter’s crowning moment of awesome
related to me (as praise, not critisism- props to the teacher) at parent/teacher conferences (1st grade)
Teacher:” Bats and birds are different – bats are mammals, they have fur, mothers make milk, they don’t ley eggs – just like every other mammal”
Emily: “not every other mammal – what about platipusses?”
Sarcasm ? From a Scalzi ?! No! ;->
Please, please tell me the teacher was delighted with that. I teach, and when kids know some far off, above grade level thing and catch me out on it, I usually applaud.
Sometimes I bow in deference.
I hate it when teachers can’t see beyond the lesson / grade level and assume that input like that is disruptive, snot-nosed, etc….
Consider yourself a super parent if this is the worst thing she does at school. She could be beating-up the other kids for their lunch money, or smoking the the boys room, or carrying your pistol in her backpack, or whatever significant problems kids have these days.
Ah, sarcasm as a teachable moment. I think most middle school kids are experimenting with the power of their words, and the use of sarcasm can be a tricky thing. Sometimes it helps students figure it out if they make a distinction between verbal irony as wit (sarcasm) or wounding (scarcasm) under the guise of humor. Another thing they can ask themselves if they are feeling frustrated, is the comment going to be helpful to them, get where they want to go, or should they phrase it a different way to get what they need. I personally chose not to use sarcasm in the classroom as a way to effect change, as it never won my ideas more respect.
PS Does the wrinkle on Athena’s nose looks like it could be a super hero’s emblem?
Oh, man. I think the day that happens with Lil’ Chang I’m picking her up, lecturing her and then taking her to Starbucks.
Athena? Being sarcastic? I can’t believe it!
As a teacher who left school at 7:00 pm to go home for the evening, I found it very hard to read all of the negatives comments about teachers. I realize that Jon probably meant to post something lighthearted and also show that his daughter is growing up to be like him. It’s not his post that I find disturbing. It’s all those who basically said that it is perfectly acceptable for students to show disrespect for teachers. Our job is hard enough without parents undermining and second guessing our discipline in the classroom. I grealty appreicate those parents who work with me to help their child improve either academically or behaviorally.
Joel (83) – oh yes – the teacher was tickled – she had to go and look up spiny echidnas too (she said she couldn’t rememberthe name of the other extant monotreme) – the danger of teaching the generalities and overlooking the exceptions
Excellent! Teacher who are comfortable learning from their students mmd :)
My wife (Margene, co-chair of ConQuesT 40 & 41 [and we’d love to have you back any time, John], not Paula) has a grandson whose talent for bringing up Things the Teacher Didn’t Want to Deal With began in 2nd grade, when the teacher told the students that “you can subtract 4 from 7, but not 7 from 4,” at which point Connor said “Sure you can, you get a negative number!” The fact that his mother (Margene’s daughter) was a math teacher at the same school helped defuse the situation, but he continues to confound the edcuational establishment without trying. And, having just turned 12, the sarcasm switch has been flipped.
@ #88 Gayle – I’m sure you must have noticed the incompetence of many of your coworkers, unless you teach an a very exceptional school indeed. I grew up as an above average bookworm in a school full of mostly ignorant poor kids(and teachers who were largely likewise). Out of the ~45 teachers I had in my public school education, around 8 or 9 were competent, and knew the material they were teaching, and treated the kids like human beings. Two were actually phsycially abusive, and 4 were actually good instructors who cared and tried their best to engage students. I spent a regular part of my public education correcting teachers on mistakes and educating myself(and yes, even getting in trouble for reading other books in class when I’d already finished reading every textbook we had). You need to look on your own profession with a more realistic eye, and realize that you are obviously an exception, because you care enough to spend extra time, when in many schools, most of the teachers would not, and do not.
Ah, memories of the principal looking from the students who were fighting, smoking etc, to me, and sending the Honor’s student who read too much and knew some Geography and Science back to class. More power to the intelligent sarcastic students of the world. May they all learn to use their power wisely.
I am going to choose to not get upset over your comments about most teachers being incompetent. I feel that I teach at a very typical school. Everyone works hard.( I will agree that most don’t put in the hours that I do.) In fact we have greatly increased our scores on our state assessment through much hard work over the past 5 years. And yes in the current enviroment, of NCLB teaching to the test is what it’s all about. That is our present reality, partly because of the attitude of people like you towards teachers. I am going to enjoy the current good feeling that I have from the IEP conference that I had today. It was with a parent who had great difficulty accepting and understanding her child’s disability. She now is quite pleased with the progress that her child has made. These are the moments that dedicated teachers savor. And I choose to believe that there are more good teacher than bad. You and I will just have to respectfully disagree with each other.
@92, I’m surprised you don’t see the bias there (and the bias a lot of us have on this site). You were the above average bookworm, as were probably many of us, and yes we generally all had our experiences with some teacher or other who blustered when challenged or refused to engage with students on an intellectual level. But the teacher has more responsibilities than to just you. You were reading textbooks under your desk; who else was going to take that as encouragement to read Vogue or Sports Illustrated under their desk? You corrected the teacher, probably in public and disrespectfully, and didn’t drop the issue for later discussion after class; who else was going to take that as a reason to tune out everything the teacher said, even the well-founded parts? There is a good reason to be concerned about such things and for your teachers to want generally enforceable rules. Beyond that, teaching, i.e. knowledge transmission, is not the sole job of a teacher – they’re also required to manage a classroom full of students, many of whom don’t want to be there, and it’s hard to know what will be the straw that makes a classroom uncontrollable.
In my younger days I was proud of my clever comebacks that ‘showed up’ teachers or subverted their rhetorical questions. I’m proud to have become a bit more compassionate on that front.
(Also, your school might have actually had a really high percentage of legitimately incompetent teachers; certainly the physical abuse points that way. I doubt John Scalzi, responsible parent, well-to-do individual &c.&c., would keep his daughter in a school that matched that description.)
What the hell, let’s necropost. Here’s the problem I have with the blame-the-teacher crowd: I’ve been teaching for ten years, and the number of times I’ve directly witnessed a kid doing something, called him out on it, and then been told that he hadn’t done what I’d just SEEN HIM DO is beyond counting. I’ve had kids tell me they weren’t writing notes to their friends when I had just a) seen them writing it, b) taken it off their desk, and c) had it in my hand. I’ve had kids with bright blue gum in their mouths tell me they weren’t chewing gum.
Kids lie. All the time. Not all of them, and not every time, but I get lied to multiple times a day every day and it’s been consistent across multiple schools at multiple economic levels. Kids lie about completely obvious, bald-faced, there-is-no-dispute-you-are-absolutely-lying-to-me stuff. I have a kid in my class who, in his head, has never, ever, not once been talking in class. Amazingly, whenever he’s not in the room, or he gets in trouble and starts pouting, all those other kids who are magically making talking sounds with his mouth stop doing it.
Every single day. He has never once actually done anything wrong. As far as he’s concerned, I pick on him because I hate him. Which is not remotely true. Not even a tiny little bit.
And then those kids turn into adults, and those adults post on blogs about how none of their teachers cared about them and how they picked on them all the time for not doing anything.
It makes me a wee bit skeptical, that’s all.
(Incidentally, John, if you see this after this weekend, I love you: “Yes, my kid screwed up, let her serve her time.” I appreciate it.)
Heh. Reminds me of when my step-son got in trouble with his teacher for swearing. The word he dared to utter? “Butt”.
Love the pic, and I’d love to know what she said.
I was in one of those small schools where most of the kids weren’t that bright, and frequently neither were the teachers. I have three memories of horrid teachers…
My kindergarden teacher slapped my hand with a ruler and called my parents because I could read in Kindergarden, but I wasn’t doing it the way she wanted me to and I wouldn’t stop. (She was teaching phonic reading and I was borderline dyslexic and phonics didn’t make a lot of sense to me). That was pretty much the end of me really liking school sadly.
My fourth grade teacher tried to kick me back to the special needs class (which I shouldn’t have been in to begin with) less than a week into school because she didn’t want to deal with my getting ‘b’ and ‘d’ turned around. I think that was honestly the only time my mother actually sided with me in my presence against a teacher.
In sixth grade (and this is why I cringe when I heard about ‘test scores’) my math teacher was so concerned about teaching for the ITBS no one realised I didn’t understand fractions until we actually took the test. I failed and ended up a year behind in math for the rest of my school career despite getting a b in her class outside the test.
I could add the alcoholic hs chem teacher, but he was actually strangely funny, and not a horrid teacher. For those three, I can’t begin to describe the teacher’s who were wonderful. Who gently explained to me that being right didn’t get me out of trouble if I was rude about it. That I had to do things even if I didn’t agree. Teacher’s have a horrid job trying to keep children in line and teach them to think for themselves at the same time.
My crowning moment of under-age irony? In hs we were taking a ski-trip with the church and a woman my mother’s age who was with us told an extremely long story about these teenagers stuffing her off to the side on the mountain and how horrible they were and how the ski resort wasn’t…blah blah blah. Anyway, I opened my mouth and out came ‘you’re not bitter or anything, are you?’ Thankfully everyone got it and she wasn’t insulted, but it probably wasn’t the smartest thing I’ve ever said.
You know, in that photo, Athena looks a little bit like a Romulan/Bajoran hybrid.
Apart from the concept of time and place for sarcasm, you may want to mention that originality in sarcasm scores points too. A worn-out cliche just smells of stale cigarettes and old fast food wrappers, while a great sarcastic comeback has that carcinogenic new-car smell.
Are you or your wife part German or east -european? Your daughter has deep set/squinty Tartar eyes.
So do I, which is why I noticed ;)
is Scalzi an Italian name?
Taunting the tauntable since 1998
John Scalzi, proprietor – JS
Athena Scalzi, editor/writer -AMS
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