Anyway, we were doing a quick homework check, so I said something like, “You’ve got the answers in your book, so just ask me any questions you have about vocabulary or whatever, but make it snappy, we’ve got a lot of material to get through today.” Now advance lazy teachers like myself rarely actually go through the workbooks to see everything the students have toiled long and hard over. So a student asks me, “What does “balaclava” mean? Now I very much hate to admit this, but I’ve never heard this term before and was in fact half wondering if she was taking the piss out of me as the Brits so charmingly say. But she was serious. And I was in trouble.
Now as an advanced teacher this is not the first time I’ve been faced with a baffling query whilst facing a class full of students eagerly awaiting my enlightening words. I tried to maintain a facade of composure, but I think they must have sensed my befuddlement when I stammered, “Uh…what?!!” But luckily this timid girl meekly said, “I looked it up. It means “pasamontaña” in Spanish.”
Saved by the brainy girl! And of course! When asked a question like that, you should look sternly at your students and say, “Does anybody know?” If nobody does, you look at them as if it were their fault for not looking it up, give the offending student a dictionary (happily available in all the classrooms where I work) and demand she look it up.
Dictionaries are great: they’re my friend. I wish I had an electronic one for my private classes, but alas they’re too dear for my pocketbook, at least the good ones are. Maybe one day the God of English teachers will deign to bestow one upon me.