Usually I hate attending quarterly parents-teachers meetings at my daughter’s school. Besides collecting her answer sheets, I find the event meaningless. However, my daughter likes to attend them as she gets a chance to be with me inside her school and in particular, her classroom. Recently, I told my daughter that I would quickly go on my own and collect her half-yearly exams’ answer sheets. She wasn’t happy.
“I want you to meet my English teacher,” she said.
I knew that English was the only subject in which she had not done as great as she normally does but I wondered why she wanted me to meet the teacher.
“She marked my one correct answer wrong,” my daughter said.
Question: What is the antonym of heaven?
“What did you write?” I asked her (and many friends later on, who all answered what is perhaps, the same answer as you, my dear reader, have in mind..)
But no, my daughter didn’t write ‘hell’.
I had known from before that she considered this word blasphemous (don’t know how it began but she has her own understanding of taboos!) but I didn’t know that she could go to such a length of not writing it even in her exam! She ended up writing ‘underworld’. (Her vocabulary is pretty good)
Upon asking the teacher as to why she had crossed out the answer (I had not forgotten to include in my introduction with her that I held a master’s degree in English literature and also, that I had Googled on credible websites and found ‘underworld’ was indeed one of the antonyms of ‘heaven’!), I couldn’t believe my ears of what I heard next!
“Because I was expecting her to write ‘hell’, just like the other students,” the teacher answered.
And at this point, I could tell that my blood was beginning to simmer.
I don’t know what response/justification I was expecting from a grade seventh teacher, but definitely not this!
Was she not aware that there were many and more of many synonyms and antonyms of one single word?
Also, why should all students be copies of each other and write the same answer, unless of course it is a factual question?
“So you don’t want her vocabulary to expand?” I asked her, stone faced.
“You are taking this in the wrong direction,” she said.
“And you want her to be dumbed down and be an average student?” I said trying to appear cool.
Looking at other parents and students who were beginning to trickle in the classroom (luckily, till now we were the only ones in the classroom), she said that she would discuss this topic with my daughter later in the week and also, this was not the ‘forum’ to discuss such a subject. I wanted to tell her that this was indeed the place and time to discuss it as why else would the school be distributing answer sheets during the parents teachers meeting! It was a question right out of the answer sheet!
I didn’t see a point in discussing this any further. I got up saying that I was extremely disappointed.
I was fuming all the way back home but my daughter seemed somehow satisfied.
The only thing I felt good about this whole exercise was that I stood up for my daughter, who knew that she had written the right answer. I didn’t shrug the matter off in the first place by telling my daughter that we should just skip meeting the teacher, after all it was only one mark!
Going forward, I hope the teacher stops and thinks every time she comes across the word ‘hell’ and/or ‘underworld’. Hopefully, she has realised that she was indeed wrong and that she should encourage her students to be different and not get stuck in a rut. I sincerely hope this happens though I will never know.
post addendum: A week later, my daughter told me that her teacher had discussed the subject with her and said that she had crossed out her answer because the opposite of ‘underworld’ is ‘real world’!
Oh, well! 😐