World Teachers’ Day – how did our teachers get us interested in words?
Teaching is arguably one of the hardest jobs around. It is becoming increasingly demanding, and teachers are faced with the challenge of serving these demands with fewer and fewer resources. So on World Teachers’ Day we wanted to pay homage to the people that got us interested in words from a young age.
We asked some of the people in the office at Oxford Dictionaries to try and recall some of their favourite word-related moments that they experienced at school. Here’s what they came back with:
Dan – words can be used in any situation
I remember waiting in line to see my teacher to get feedback on a maths task we’d been set. Whilst waiting, somebody had obviously broken wind, and it smelled disgusting. Being a bit overwhelmed by the smell, I shouted “Urgh! Where did that stench come from!?” in a kind of rhetorical fashion.
My teacher said “What a fantastic word to use for something so horrible. Have a credit”.
Thank you Mrs Martin for making me realize that words can be used for any situation, regardless of how childish or smelly they may be.
Adam – there’s usually more than one option
I had a teacher in primary school who hated the words said and nice and if he saw them more than once in a creative writing piece you would lose marks. Consequently every character exclaimed, declaimed, stated, illustrated, or declared, and any description would need to be great, fantastic, pleasant, or delightful.
Thank you Mr Jackson for turning me into a human thesaurus!
Taylor – not everything is easily understood
In my seventh grade study hall, I was reading through Robert Frost’s poem ‘Directive’ when I came across the word belilaced:
“Then for the house that is no more a house,
But only a belilaced cellar hole,
Now slowly closing like a dent in dough.”
Though I read over the line several times, I couldn’t figure out what in tarnation belilaced meant. A dictionary yielded no result, so I consulted Mr. Harrington, the history teacher proctoring the study hall. The word also confounded him, so together we looked the word up online and we learned that belilaced was a construction of be + lilac + ed, as in ‘covered by lilacs’, similar to a word like bejeweled.
The experience helped me realize that – even in the Internet age – not everything is obvious or easily understood, and also the fact that language is malleable, always available for reshuffling and changing.
Katherine – unexpected Sex Ed
In Year Four we did an exercise where our teacher Mrs West gave each of us a dictionary and told us to pick a word for her to present to the class. I – completely innocently – chose a word which would have been in any lesser teacher’s ‘Top 10 Questions To Leave To The Parents’. I won’t say what the word was, but I will say that when I proudly read it out the courageous woman hesitated for only a moment before launching into a completely unplanned Sex Ed lesson in front of a class of eight-year-olds. She didn’t even blush.
Thank you Mrs West for being so composed in a very delicate situation.
Simon – a pun-ishing maths lesson
My maths class, during sixth form, consisted of two people: me and my twin brother Colin. I remember my love of words meeting my not-so-great love of maths when Mr Cooper threw a screwed-up envelope in an arc, to demonstrate (for an equation) that it was always in motion. “As you see, it’s never stationary.”
“I think you’ll find,” piped up my bro, “that it is always stationery.”
Perhaps it would be a sadness to Mr Cooper that my favourite moment from maths was a pun about a homophone, but it speaks volumes about the path I chose after school…
So from all of us at Oxford University Press, we would like to say a heartfelt “thank you” to all of our teachers. If it wasn’t for your guidance, resilience, and tenacity, we wouldn’t be where we are today.
If you would like to support teachers in the UK and US, there are a number of charities that are always looking for support:
- The Teacher Support Network provides round-the-clock support for teachers in the UK. You can contribute to a number of their causes here.
- New York-based Teaching Matters aims to raise teacher performance throughout New York and beyond, to give every child a better chance of succeeding. You can donate to them here.
Do you have any memorable moments that you shared with your teachers? We’d love to hear them, so comment below.