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The Meaning of Words

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by howitcouldabeen, Nov 20, 2018.

  1. howitcouldabeen

    howitcouldabeen New commenter

    I have received a telling off for using a word to reprimand a child for bad behaviour that they did not understand. The child thought I was calling them names. I was not. I have been told not to use words a child does not understand. I am at a loss as to how I should know in advance which words they might be. Is there anywhere any research with reading age and expected vocabulary? I thought conveying the meaning of new words was what I was meant to do, all the time. I have certainly reprimanded pupils in the past using far stronger language (not swearing or name calling, but certainly things like 'doing X is completely idiotic.' I know I need to think harder about what they might know, but my subject is by definition rather vocab intensive, so I do it instinctively. I teach 14-19.
    agathamorse likes this.
  2. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    I feel your pain.
    I once had to "have a word" with a Year 11 princessy student who had not done her HWK repeatedly and was behind in her course work. I asked her not to bring such a high falutin attitude into the room with her, and !!KABLOOIE!! two days later a parental complaint that I had called he a "drug addict". Eh?

    I would'nt take the advice from your seniors too literally. On this occasion the child claimed not to understand your words, so it is eminently rational to say "don't say words they don't understand". It's not very knowing though, is it?
    i suppose it's just a point to reflect on, that how you say things can be construed in all sorts of ways.
    You knew that!
    But they had to say it so they could also say they'd dealt with it.
    I guess just reflect with your own expertise why the situation arose. You're a professional. They don't need to tell you how to talk to the children, (unless it happens loads) but you do need to reflect when these things happen. That's all. Check your language if you have to.
    bajan likes this.
  3. hs9981

    hs9981 Lead commenter

    'Billy mastication, is not allowed in my classroom. Please stop it!'
    Nanny Ogg and Northern_Miss like this.
  4. modgepodge

    modgepodge Established commenter

    I once told a (primary) child to ‘stop telling tales’. The mother came in and complained to the head I’d accused him of lying! He wasn’t; I’m sure what he was telling me (and the 5 other members of staff he’d told already) was true but it was inconsequential, already dealt with and he was just trying to get someone else in to trouble which I can’t bear. It was an EAL family and the mother knew ‘tales’ meant stories and misinterpreted. Luckily the head backed me on that one.

    Why on earth didn’t the child ask what the word meant?! I’d take it with a pinch of salt. Surely the child got the gist, if not the exact meaning of the word.
    pepper5 likes this.
  5. hs9981

    hs9981 Lead commenter

    You seem well suited to teaching EAL students ;)
    pepper5, Pomza and sbkrobson like this.
  6. saluki

    saluki Lead commenter

    I was once hauled in for telling a class that they were apathetic. They reported me for telling them that they were pathetic. 17 years old. The person who hauled me in didn't know the difference between apathetic and pathetic either. I threw pathetic fallacy into the mix just to confuse things even more.:D
    I once called a girl mendacious hoping that her vocabulary wouldn't stretch that far and I would have the upper hand. She understood what it meant. Obviously lots of other teachers had also used the term with her.
    p.s. 14-19 ? FE? Functional skills? Many of these students will only have the vocabulary of KS2/KS3 students.
  7. varcolac

    varcolac Occasional commenter

    A former of colleague of mine took it upon himself to teach his year group a new pejorative adjective every week in assembly. They'd shuffle in to class Period 1 with a face full of a mixture of shame, wonder, and amusement.

    "Okay, I'll bite. What did he call you now?"
    "He said that the way we lined up for the exam was shambolic, Sir."
    "Good choice. Now, shuffle your way to your seat and sluggishly get your exercise book out please, Captain Lethargy."
  8. sadscientist

    sadscientist Senior commenter

    Lightbulb moment. How bizarre. I can't believe I've got to this age without realising that "sluggish" means "like a slug".
  9. BertieBassett2

    BertieBassett2 Star commenter

    I once told a boy (Year 4) to tuck his shirt in so he didn't look like a 'scruffy herbert'. Bless him, at the end of the day he told his mum I'd called him a 'Pervert'! (I got on well with both child and mum) You have to be so careful these days with what you say.
  10. Summerhols6

    Summerhols6 Occasional commenter

    That's funny.
  11. gruoch

    gruoch Established commenter

    If we only ever used words that children understand they'd have a vocabulary of under 100 words.
    By 14, let alone 19, even terminally unambitious children have a passive vocabulary of at least 10,000. Most at least 14,000 (and that's not the bright ones).
  12. Sanz1981

    Sanz1981 Occasional commenter

    It’s pathetic. Soon, if not already, it will come under safeguarding.
    Dyathinkhesaurus and agathamorse like this.
  13. nomad

    nomad Star commenter

    You mean the pupil had reached the age of 14 to 19 and had never heard or used the word contumacious? :eek:
  14. howitcouldabeen

    howitcouldabeen New commenter

    The word was 'inept.'
  15. varcolac

    varcolac Occasional commenter

    It's a perfectly cromulent word that embiggens your vocabulistics.
  16. nomad

    nomad Star commenter

    Context is everything.

    "Don't be so bloody inept, boy!" would not be understood , whereas "So you're like being an inept Ronka, Bro/Dude/Blood!" would be.
  17. Jolly_Roger15

    Jolly_Roger15 Star commenter

    Not to mention adding verisimilitude to your contention.
    Dyathinkhesaurus and nomad like this.
  18. Shedman

    Shedman Star commenter

    Students would look a bit puzzled when I described their behaviour as cretinously imbecilic, puerile and moronically inane but I think they got my gist by my venomously scornful delivery.
  19. Piranha

    Piranha Star commenter

    I recall a US academic being fired by his university for using a racist word with a colleague. When they were shown what the word really meant (being careful with the cash), the punishment was changed to a reprimand for using a word the colleague did not understand.
    agathamorse likes this.
  20. ATfan

    ATfan Star commenter

    There is nothing wrong with using that word to tell off a 14-19 year old. Even many of my international (non native English speaking students) would know what that word means! :) Sounds like the person who told you off is also inept. Hearing your comment to the student must have hit a raw nerve in this person. In Freudian terms, this person is projecting onto you. :)
    agathamorse and Dyathinkhesaurus like this.

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