My first instinct was to think back to the list of words I'd been testing my students on, words taken directly from the text we are reading. 'Really?' I asked, bewildered. 'Really,' she said. 'I read a LOT. I even called a friend who has a college degree. And SHE didn't even know half of those words.'
As a teacher, I must provide justification for what I do in the classroom. I have always considered myself fairly adept at this, and I think it's one of the best ways of reaching an indifferent high school student. Why do we have to learn the five paragraph essay? Because when you entreat your boss for a raise when you go into the workforce, he or she will be appalled if you can't provide evidence supporting why you deserve it.
So it was a little disconcerting that this parent would assume that I was teaching these words on a whim. However, a woman in her thirties thinks about things from other people's points of view. Perhaps these really were difficult vocabulary words. Perhaps she is not enticed to use a large profusion of vocabulary to express herself. I tried to understand her anguish, and assured her that the more vocabulary her daughter could learn with me, the better.
No matter how useless the vocabulary was.
There is no doubt that we are in a dire state when it comes to education in this country. It is easy for a student to succumb to peer pressure, and for a parent to feel overwhelmed watching their savings account dwindle as they help their child through college. But at the end of the day, I believe that the high school experience is about opening doors. My quest as a teacher is to work every day to help each student make that happen. It is a ponderous burden, and ultimately one of the most important jobs in the world.
But here's the thing: even the wiliest teacher can't do it herself. She needs the support of the parent community. She needs to open the doors of communication and be able to take constructive criticism. And maybe this woman had a point. Who was I to look upon her with disdain? Perhaps I have been locked in my own bubble of academia for too long. Perhaps I am the vile teacher I never wanted to be, teaching my students words that will be of no use to them in their lives.
It's hard to know for sure, but upon considerable reflection I have come to the realization that I need to stand by my teaching. Call me crazy, but I think the words I've been teaching these kids come up in daily life. Maybe not in the 'LOLs' and 'WTFs' of Facebook, but in other ways.
I can't think of them right now, but I'm sure I will eventually.
In the meantime, I'll leave you with a picture of my formidable belly, in words I hope will be intelligible to the masses:
37 weeks tomorrow- OMFG!!