In any profession, there are lines between ethical and unethical activities. Sometimes these lines are concrete and defined, while at other times they are massive grey areas that no one can agree upon. The first are the easiest to stay away from, while the others must be carefully judged and dealt with.
Teaching is no exception to this concept. There are lot of ethical issues in my line of work, and most of them are quite obvious. I want to talk about the most important one. You know, the concern that everyone thinks of when dealing with kids:
Do I teach them bad words or not?
No, this is not a ridiculous, silly question. I’m serious! Not being trained as a teacher, the reason I have my position is because of my natural knowledge of the English language and the way it should be used. There’s a lot more to it than just commas and spelling.
Think about it for a second. A kid spends his or her entire school career studying English to prepare for interacting with people, and they learn all the details of it. However, the teachers think it’s inappropriate to teach/allow swearing in the classroom. Only grammar and punctuation.
In modern society, kids are creative – or at least resourceful – and technology allows the possibility of plenty of exposure to curse words. They will hear the words, and once they know them, they’ll want to use them. You can call it self-study.
The problem is that even though South Park can increase your vocabulary, it doesn’t necessarily teach you the proper meaning and usage. That’s where I come in. I’m constantly asked when I’ll teach them the bad stuff, and my standard answer is “later”. I mean it, if they earn it, I’ll teach them someday.
Without really knowing how to use these words, they’re likely to make huge fools of themselves. They’ll learn them and whisper them to each other when teachers aren’t listening. That will make them feel prepared enough to use them when they’re in an English speaking country. But, it’s a huge risk that they’ll misuse them and cause an embarrassing or offensive situation that could get them into serious trouble.
That’s why it’s such a big dilemma. My job is to teach them English, and English has bad words. What’s a teacher to do?
Anyway, this pertains to a recent event. The word “Wiener” came up (as something relating to Vienna), and I had deemed it necessary to explain why they should be a cautious because of the possibility of double meanings that it might imply (as relating to the slang word for a male body part).
Shortly after, I caught a kid saying a sentence with the big F-word, but he blanked it out like a radio show would. In a moment of temporary stupidity, we talked about fudge – you know, the delicious chocolate stuff. I told them how an American kid would finish with that word if he found himself halfway through the bad one in an inappropriate place. It seemed to be a useful trick that would help them stay out of trouble.
It wasn’t. They took it as a green light to say “fudge” in nearly every sentence. I’ll never teach another class about it, but I know it’ll will travel along via their dirty little mouths – even if the words are now sugar coated.
What the fu… dge was I thinking teaching them that?
Hungarian word of the day:
Pronounced “Bay-ch” (similar to beach), and it’s the Hungarian name for Vienna. It’s rather unfortunate because it doesn’t leave any room for wiener jokes. Oh well, life goes on.