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Volume 3 • #13 • Dec. 2004


Years ago when I was working in a junior high school and going back and forth to the guidance office to make up my teaching schedule for the fall, I noticed a dilapidated waif who was sitting in the hall day after day, just sitting. So I stopped, smiled at him and remarked that they were going to charge him rent if he stayed there much longer. He said that they were trying to put him in the retarded class and he wouldn’t go. With my antenna waving in the breeze, I asked him which was his right hand. He leaned over, pulled up the cuff of his trouser, took a quick look and held up his right hand!

“Wow,” I said. “What did you do, have it tatooed someplace?” He giggled and said no, that he had a scar on his right ankle so he could always tell.

Naturally I smelled dyslexia and got him into my class. He was my devoted slave after this dramatic rescue and a bright and hard-working student.

But one day he came in and fidgeted and twisted and squirmed and obviously couldn’t concentrate. I asked him what was the matter. He told me he needed a nicotine fix, and could he please go to the bathroom?

So then what do you say?

Emphasizing the words yes, he could go to the bathroom, I added not to take forever about it, either. One minute later he came back, sat down quietly and started on his work again.

“Well, that was the fastest cigarette I ever heard of,” I couldn’t help remarking.

“Oh, I didn’t smoke a whole one. There was another kid there who was smoking, so I just took a drag off his and now I’m fine.”

This 13 year old lived alone in serious poverty with his largely disabled father. His mom had apparently died a couple of years previously. The boy took care of his dad and did most of the housework. I couldn’t help noticng that the considerable clutter in the tiny house included a lot of books which the father read to the boy. Apparently the man had been rather an American history buff, which accounted for the fact that the kid knew all kinds of stuff about this country that had constantly surprised me before I made that home visit. The two nicest things in this boy’s life were the soothing feel of a cigarette and being read to by his father.

I think of Dave every time a see one of those obnoxious ads by Philip Morris touting their financial support of ballet companies and their campaigns to help kids stop smoking. Hypocrisy inspires the most unladylike language in me. Everybody knows that the tobacco companies are making a fortune developing a market for their products in young Chinese children while pretending to be a real asset to America.

Dave deserved a better anodyne than a cigarette.

Teaching tip:

When you are teaching a spelling rule, make the student repeat it verbatim.

You: How do you spell /k/?
Student: with a C.
You: Right. Any exceptions?
Student: Sometimes K
You: When do you use a K?
The answer to this one is “at the end of a one syllable word”. Verbatim. Nothing else.
You: Right. Any other exceptions?
Student: Sometimes CK
You: When do you use CK?
Student: After a short vowel at the end of a one syllable word.

Exactly those words. No others. Verbatim. It will pay off in the end.
(The voice of experience.)

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Archives (2001 files in .doc format):

April 2004 - Vol. 3 #6 November 2002 - Vol. 2, #3
March 2004 - Vol. 3 #5 October 2002 - Vol. 2, #2
February 2004 - Vol. 3, #4 September 2002 - Vol. 2, #1
December 2003 - Vol. 3, #3 August 2002 - Vol. 1, #11
October/November 2003 - Vol. 3, #2 July 2002 - Vol. 1, #10
September 2003 - Vol. 3, #1 May 2002 - Vol. 1, #9
August 2003 - Vol 2, # 12 March 2002 - Vol. 1, #8
July 2003 - Vol. 2, #11 February 2002 - Vol. 1, #7
June 2003 - Vol. 2, #10 January 2002 - Vol. 1, #6
May 2003 - Vol. 2, #9 December 2001 - Vol. 1, #5
April 2003 - Vol. 2, #8 November 2001 - Vol. 1, #4
March 2003 - Vol. 2 #7 October 2001 - Vol. 1, #3
January 2003 - Vol. 2, #5 September 2001 - Vol. 1, #2
December 2002 - Vol. 2, #4 August 2001 - Vol. 1, #1



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