Through Thru Threw

depressed young lady shutting ears sitting on chair

More often than not, students are told they are wrong even when they are applying logic. This is not the fault of the student yet the blame falls in their laps. Many students simply have never been taught how to learn and/or how to study by teachers who were gifted with these skill sets from day one.

I remember subbing for the French teacher. I walked in and greeted the class. “Bonjour. Cava?” and was met with blank eyes. A student that I had taught English too the previous year raised her hand and said that they had not been taught this yet. It was an 8th grade class at a school in which all kids are required to take a foreign language other than English from grade 6. 

I was dumbfounded by this. I worked my butt off to help students get better at English so that, if they wanted to, they could use it as a tool to help increase their revenue and salaries in the future. I spent a lot of time helping the most hesitant students by trying to get them to understand that language is no more or less than a tool.

That’s what it is, a tool. The alternative is a lifetime of playing charades and hoping for the best. So we have agreed upon certain parameters about how language works. The problem isn’t the difficulty of language. The problem is that those who do well at primary school playing charades become teachers. Many are not qualified even though they have a license and a degree. 

Read the first paragraph again. Almost all classes have a few students who fall into the category of not knowing and the teachers put the blame on the student.

I call BullShit. A student who tries and then is told they are wrong by the teacher begins to hate school at that moment. Why? Because they tried. And then to have that reinforced class after class and year after year creates a person who fails. Not because they weren’t capable of learning. The proof there is that very few classrooms smell like literal shit, but because teachers weren’t capable of teaching.

More often than not, we blame the student for failing. They didn’t study enough or read enough or try hard enough. I don’t think that is the case at all. I think the problem is that many, if not most, teachers are the students who were able to learn from the start. So they think, and it’s reinforced, that what worked for them will work for others.

It’s not the case. We spend so much time rewarding those who can regurgitate information to pass exams while ostracizing those that can actually think.

Take these three sentences:

  1. I ran through the field.
  2. I ran thru the field.
  3. I ran threw the field.

Do you think one is right and the others wrong? Sure, at a certain age level, probably 11th grade, there is a correct answer. But up until then, all use the language tools available to the student, to create the best answer possible. As a linguist and student of the brain, I would argue that number 2 is the best answer. It gets us from A to B with the least amount of work. Four letters that phonetically work compared to the correct answer which logically should be understood as Throuf. 

I don’t chime in regularly in the Education Debate. I can’t handle arguing with a teacher who teaches paragraph one, of which there are many. But I will say this, it is time to put thinking back in the curriculum and if that means repurposing a bunch of teachers because they can only see the world of education thru the lenz of write and rong, then so be it.

Shakespeare introduced two thousand words to the English language. He was a student that was limited by what was viewed as right and wrong and we admire him. Yet, when a student under the age of 17 tries by using all the tools in their lexicon to make the teacher happy and still fails, the fault is with the teacher, not the student.

So I’ll end on this note. I recently went back into the classroom as a tutor. I have worked with some students young and old and it is clear that some students, no matter the age, have never been taught how to learn. 

When I discuss this with my adult students, they are grateful and the light goes on. With the younger ones, it’s more difficult. They are still in the phase of hating anything Skool.

Let’s try to catch some students who don’t know how to learn by looking at the teachers. Some are great and effective, but some are teachers because they succeeded and loved school and therefore think the student is to blame for a skillset that they were born with.  


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