Our nephews are still providing interesting insights into the contemporary educational system. Today’s lesson was spelling.
With respect to spelling, each of them gets a word list on Monday and each day they are supposed to practice spelling the words. There is a test on Friday to make sure they have committed the words to memory.
Up until this past week, the word lists were about what you would expect for 10 and 8 year olds.
So you can imagine my surprise when Yazdy, the 10 year old, and I were going through his word list and right after ‘success’ came ‘trypanosome.’ And right after that came ‘anomy.’
“Where did these words come from?” I asked.
“From the dictionary.”
I knew that. At least I knew that with respect to trypanosome. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t so sure about anomy. As it turns out, it’s a word that, if it didn’t exist, would have to be invented in order to describe the education system.
Anyway, back to the conversation. I countered with, “Yes, but why did the teacher pick them for spelling words.”
“She didn’t. I did.”
Yes. Apparently, outsourcing has come to education. The teacher told the kids to go to the dictionary and pick out their own spelling words. Yazdy claimed that he picked out some words that looked practical but he picked trypanosome and anomy because they “looked interesting.”
I was impressed that he’d found words interesting but sceptical of the whole process. “What happens if some kid just picks out a, and, the and but?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do you know what these words mean?”
“Not really.” (Which really means “no.”)
“Well. What do you think a trypanosome is?”
“Maybe something with three of something?”
I had to give him credit for thinking of that, but clearly it was time to consult the dictionary. To the accompaniment of the customary groans and eye rolling I retrieved the Websters and we proceeded to look up the words in question.
It seemed like a good time to reinforce the learning process.
“So what are you going to do if the teacher asks you to use these words in a sentence?”
“She never does that.”
“Maybe, but this is the first time you’ve chosen your own words. Maybe she’ll want to know if you know what they mean.”
“But she wouldn’t think I’d choose a word I didn’t know.”
“But she’d be wrong, wouldn’t she?”
“No. I know what the words mean. Now.”
I found myself wondering if embodying anomy was the same as knowing what it meant. But I persevered. “OK. Use them in a sentence.”
After an indecently short interval he responded with “In the morning my brother acts like he has trypanosomes. But when he wakes up, he causes anomy.”
I’m so glad I’m not a teacher.