Saturday, January 26, 2008

Goose fur

Almost 10 years ago, as I was grading papers from my ESL 097 class, I found myself writing something out of the ordinary on a student's paper. In fact, it was so out of the ordinary that I have remembered it much more clearly than I remember most of the corrections and comments I've scribbled on students' papers over the past several years. 

The assignment was to write a review and commentary on a newspaper article. (I handed out the articles, so I had some measure of control over the content.) The article that "Nguyen" had received was about the hunting of geese. 

His commentary included something to the effect of the following:  "If it is for meat, it is OK. But I do not believe people should hunt geese just for their fur and feathers."

The oddness didn't really hit me until my red pen was almost done writing this sentence: "Geese don't have fur." 

We teach so very much in ESL classes, but at that time I didn't expect to have to include any aspect (however minimal) of bird biology. 

Now -- nearly 10 years later -- I know better. Lots and lots better.  ESL teachers teach much more than grammar, vocabulary and sentence structure. We teach the world about the world. And just how does one prepare to do that??