Correcting the Teacher

Last updated: November 27, 2017 at 23:08 pm

teacher photoTeachers are not gods, not by a far stretch of the imagination. For centuries, too much has been expected of teachers. They are supposed to be role models on one hand and omniscient on the other.

In the classroom, the teacher is supposed to be a symbol of confidence and wisdom. And would a student dare to correct the teacher? At least the need shouldn’t arise if the teacher properly plans the lesson!

But what if a random question pops up? Or a discussion emerges which goes out to sea, so to speak? And then what happens if the teacher becomes befuddled and the student needs to teach him or her something?

The fact is, most teachers would feel embarrassed, perhaps as much or even more than the student would feel exalted, if he or she were to be corrected by a student. But this shouldn’t be the case. While teachers are supposed to the masters of their areas of expertise, they certainly don’t know everything, and they should make that clear to the students.

Recently, I received an English lesson via email from one of America’s most popular book editors. I didn’t really learn much from the lesson, but I found a grammatical error in one of its sentences. So I wrote back to the sender as follows:

Hi Karen,
I didn’t grasp the gist of what you were saying. Nevertheless, I should point out that the following sentence contains a grammatical error:
Such bad habits can be the death knell for our craft, if we’re not careful.
You only separate a principal clause from subordinate clause with a comma if the subordinate clause comes first.
For example:
If we’re not careful, such bad habits can be the death knell for our craft.
Such bad habits can be the death knell for our craft if we’re not careful. (no comma needed)
So you see, even an amateur can teach us something.
When I was in Brazil, some of my Brazilian students of English taught me the correct pronunciations of some English words.
I guess we all get shot down on own forts sometimes. As one girl quoted, “never be afraid to challenge the pros in their own backyards.”
Later on, I’ll tell you the story of “Andressa,” the Brazilian woman who traveled 300 miles to whip my ass in my favorite game.
Now it’s your turn to teach me something.

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