Monday, October 31, 2005

out of the mouths of babes

When we lived on kibbutz, I held a number of jobs. I worked in the refet, the olive & pickle factory and I held a number of jobs in the chadar ochel. One other job that I had part time was teaching English to the children of native English speakers in the elementary school. Although I’d taught in the past, I never studied education, so my classes were always somewhat … experimental (read “improvised”.) We’d mostly play games, often discussing popular culture (one of the students, I think in 5th grade, was the child of Israelis, but had learned all his English watching The Simpsons. He actually had the highest level English in the class.)

Anyway, this Shabbat I saw one of the kids who I taught, and it reminded me of a story about him. I was trying to teach some of the younger kids (second and third grades.) This kid felt that being with the younger kids was a bit babyish, and was trying to “play it cool.” He wasn’t interested in any of the games that I suggested. I asked him what he liked to play, and he said soccer. So I invented some kind of game on the blackboard, where if a kid would name an animal in English, he could score a goal. He was into it, while still attempting to remain cool.

When it was his term, this cool kid, came up with the following animals - “horsey, doggie, piggy…” I had a hard time not laughing!

That certainly made me think about the risks of talking in “baby-talk” to our children.

But I guess I got my comeuppance for my attitude a couple of months ago.

I work in an area of Jerusalem where the mounted police patrol regularly. They also use our parking lot as a place to park their horses when they want to come in for lunch.

One day when I was leaving work with an English-speaking friend from my neighborhood, I noticed that one of the mounted policemen leaving the parking lot was also from our town. I innocently said, “Hey, look! There’s Dudu” (the cop’s name, a common Israeli nickname for David). However, my friend: a) didn’t know the cop, and b) noticed one of the natural functions that the horse was performing at the time, and therefore replied to me “Well, that’s what horses do!”

I was pretty embarrassed. Not only did it seem that I had some bizarre need to point out the horse’s defecatory behavior, but I sounded like a four year old saying it!