When a slug is not a slug

The Wee ‘Un’s weekly homework for primary school includes a list of words that he’s to practice using a number of strategies.

One of the strategies is to look the words up in a dictionary, then write a definition into his jotter.

Last week’s words included neighbour, grub, reindeer, weight, children, eight, eighty and slug.

When the Wee ‘Un looked up slug, he was excited to find several definitions and decided to go with:

slug: a bullet, usually made of lead.

The Wee ‘Un handed his jotter in for marking on Friday, bringing it home again this afternoon.

His definition of slug was corrected with the note: “a creature you find in the garden”. No credit was given for him having shown the intelligence and skill to find alternative meanings. Instead, he was pushed down the path of the obvious.

I was not impressed.

On the bottom of the page, I wrote a note for his teacher: “The Wee ‘Un does know this! He’s been gardening for years. He put an alternative definition as he actually used a dictionary and was excited to find several different definitions. He was showing intelligence and skill in writing an alternative definition, not making an oversight or mistake”.

Teacher’s “corrections” along the lines of “there’s only one answer and it’s the obvious one” wind me up.

Oh, and the Wee ‘Un also had to write five sentences using some of his words. As he often does, he chose to write a story:

I was mucking out the reindeer when a strange spaceship landed. An eighty kilogram slug slithered out. “Take me to your neighbour,” the slug said. “He has grown giant lettuces that my children want to eat.” “You’re too late,” I said, “the Martian grub got them first.”

From that, it seems clear to me that he does know what a slug is when it’s not a lump of metal. Rant over.

29 Responses to “When a slug is not a slug”

  1. I would have been really cross too.

    Normally very supportive of teachers but this suggests either they didnt know his definition and couldnt be bothered to check it as he had bothered to (bad)….OR they did know but only wanted ‘their’ answer, even though to set an ambiguous question as they did, required them to accept all correct answers or else set questions with more care.

    I’m not sure which is the case but neither is acceptable and I reckon the enquiring mind of your offspring will set them in better stead :-))

    • I try to be supprtive of teachers, too. Not least because the OH is a teacher and would box my ears if I didn’t! However, dogma, inflexible thinking and narrow horizons irritate me, particularly when they projected by people whose jobs should aim to encourage open, enquiring minds. Hence today’s rant.

  2. Good for you.
    I’d have growled at the teacher as well: there’s no excuse for that sort of ‘One answer is all’ nonsense.
    I’m increasingly coming to the conclusion that the system of schooling (not the teachers, but the system) we have now is there essentially to make compliant and useful workers for industry. We recently realised that schools here get very quiet sponsorship from corporations to teach what they want, for example a local school has ‘grants’ from a large corporation that has interests in Spain and Portugal -on the understanding that Spanish and Portugese are the main third languages offered.
    Seth Godin has just produced a free E-Book about this called ‘Stop stealing dreams’ where he argues passionately that children need to be taught to think and have initiative, not make into future workers.

    • We went to a parents’ evening for our local secondary a couple of weeks ago. The event was to introduce the parents of the next intake to the school. It was a shambles: badly organised, poorly communicated and many of the key teachers were very reluctant to answer questions. We didn’t even get to meet the heads of several departments, including Science, English, PE and what they now calling Engineering Studies. The head did go on a lot about meeting the needs of business and stakeholders, though, plus a lovely picture he’s going to hang on the wall of his office. I was tempted to rant at length, but decided to be discreet. And this is about as discreet as I can get!

  3. I wouldn’t ‘slug’ the teacher or put a ‘slug’ in her, or ‘slug’ back a beer, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t definitions of the word! Some teachers seem to know less than the kids they instruct!

  4. Wow! What an awesome five sentence story!!! Love it.. :)

    • The pupils are supposed to write five sentences. There’s no requirement to write a story, but the Wee ‘Un generally prefers to use the word list to come up with a story. It’s usually fairly off the wall, too. :D

      He might share a few more is asked nicely.

      • I remember doing that in grade school. It was one of my favorite things to do.. I was a reading/writing geek.

        I humbly request that he share a few more.. ;)

        • A previous week’s words:

          fist, best, occasion, division, revision, invasion, explosion, television, fraction, estimate.

          The Wee ‘Un’s story:

          My birthday was a very special occasion. As I was cutting the cake, Mum screamed, “There’s an alien invasion!” I estimate there were 5550 two-headed, blue-skinned micro aliens. They tried to steal the television. I squished them with my fist. Each one POPPED in a tiny explosion of alien goop. It was the best birthday ever.

        • Brilliant story – he reminds me of so many other members of this family!! Bright as a button and doing his own thing!!!

  5. Mark Robertson Reply 5 March, 2012 at 21:03

    The problem is dim teachers. Maybe I am getting old(50), but I had intellgent teachers when I was young, where have they gone?

  6. Mark Robertson Reply 5 March, 2012 at 21:03

    Excuse the typo

  7. When many moons ago in another life, I taught prospective teachers, I was always at pains to stress to them that just having made it into a position of ‘teacher’ didn’t mean that they now knew everything about everything. I wanted them to be very aware that they were likely to come across young people who were far more intelligent than they themselves were…and with sometimes very different ways of approaching things… and that these differences were to be celebrated, not chastised! If I thought you needed support in your rant, I’d be right there behind you….. But I know of old that you are perfectly capable of ranting for yourself!

  8. I had a teacher like that in Ireland (in the ’60s, so this isn’t just a new phenomenon). I came into the Irish system after having been to primary school in the US. There are subtle differences in the way handwriting (cursive) is taught in each country, and she didn’t like the way I wrote. Not WHAT I wrote, mind you, but the forms of the letters that I made. And she marked accordingly. I worked very hard to learn the nuances of how to write to please her – and, on the last paper written before returning home, I made a point of writing “American”, just to make her work with her red pencil. After that I changed the way I wrote entirely, and don’t follow the rules of either school system anymore.

  9. More stories from the Wee ‘Un please. He has great imagination.

    • From a previous week:

      must, stuck, nation, station, relation, action, fiction, dictionary, minute, second

      The Wee ‘Un’s story:

      One day I found myself stuck at the station. Hmm, I thought, what could I do while waiting for my relation? I know, I could write a piece of fiction. First, I need a second to check my minute dictionary to learn the meaning of ‘nation’. It’s the only word left after I spring into action.

      I liked the alternative use and pronunciation of minute.

  10. Teresa Silverthorn Reply 5 March, 2012 at 23:20

    I figured out, in college, that the “right” answer is what the teacher thinks. In effect, if you can parrot back to the teacher their own opinion, you get an “A”.

    Thinking for yourself is rarely encouraged in the educational process. Conformity “is” the educational process.

    The only way to do it, is play along and get the good grades. Then, when you graduate, start expressing your own individuality – if you have any left.
    ;)

  11. I totally agree. As a librarian I always had to ensure that I found out exactly what a client was after, before heading for the shelves. Otherwise, when asked for books on Wales, they could end up with one on Whales. That teacher needs to be aware of her own ambiguities before marking children’s work!!

    • You might like this one then. The word list:

      film, kept, hare, care, share, scare, square, nightmare, millilitre, litre.

      The story:

      Once upon a time, there was a hare who had no cares. That is, until he had a scare! He found his carrots had all turned square. What a nightmare!

  12. What a narrow minded or lazy teacher. Speaking as an ex-English teacher, I would have been delighted if a pupil had show the initiative to look in a dictionary for alternative meanings – well done to the We’un.

    Am new to your blog and love it. We are just in the process of buying a house, steadings and 6 acres, five miles west of Elgin, so are really interested to read of your experiences as a smallholder in N.E Scotland. Our plans are to start a small flock of Shetland sheep and raise some weaner pigs in the woods to start with. Thanks for the blog – it’s great.

  13. unbelievable, yet sadly believable.
    Good for the Wee’Un!!

  14. Ain’t life like this, you show a spark and the powers that be attempt to extinguish it.
    The wee ‘un will need to learn from this rebuff and if he has the spirit to hang in there he will rise above it.
    Looks like dad is on his side but the lad will need to fight his own corner, sounds like he will.
    And well, teachers have their place. I like the quote from one of Gary Lineker’s teachers.
    It goes something like this…….
    “If Gary doesn’t pay more attention to his studies and less to football, he will never get anywhere”
    Teachers are a cross section, a bit like crofters, some good, some bad, some indifferent. The wee ‘un will learn from this experience, that’s what intelligence is.
    Resilience is built around conflict. Let him resent.

  15. Bravo Stonehead and son! You make a good team.

    • We brainstorm his words into a story. I ask questions, for example what’s his favourite word from the list? What sort of story is it? Who is it about? He considers the questions while looking over his list. As he “makes a story” I make notes of the key points. When he’s done, I give him the notes and he writes his story. It’s important that I make notes as he’s learning new words, constructing a story and learning cursive writing. He can manage two of the three at once but isn’t yet up to three. I doubt it will be long before he can manage all three simultaneously, though.

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