13 February 2020, The Tablet

Being an English teacher, my pedantic nature could sometimes get the better of me


Being an English teacher, my pedantic nature could sometimes get the better of me
 

When I was teaching in our Australian Jesuit high schools, I could be a bit of a tyrant. Nothing happened in any of my classes without students saying “please” and “thank you”. These days we have parents who do not instil thoughtfulness and good manners into their children as a matter of course. Heartbreaking.

Being an English teacher as well as a teacher of religious education, my pedantic nature could sometimes get the better of me. One day a boy put his hand up in my Year 10 RE class and asked: “Can I go to the toilet?” I replied: “Jeremy, I have so many problems with your question, I’m not sure where I’m going to begin, but let me have a go. I assume your bladder is working, so, yes, you can go to the toilet. But you’re asking for permission to go to the toilet, so the correct word is, may I go to the toilet? Furthermore, you never said ‘please’, and, I am very old-fashioned, you never used my title, so, until you say: ‘May I go to the toilet please, Father?’, you can soil your pants as far as I am concerned.”

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