I was just reading through some old blog posts, and I couldn’t believe I left this anecdote out of the Controversy piece.
I was teaching Beginning way back in my library learning center days, and we were making a list of vegetables. I was writing quickly, leading, listening, and encouraging more answers… and in my distraction, I didn’t write pea. I wrote pee.
I quick erased the error and fixed it, but not fast enough. Someone noticed. If I remember right, I think whoever it was knew what pee meant and thought it was a funny mistake. I agreed both then and now. But not everyone knew what it meant, and they asked, and I had the sort of uncomfortable task of explaining it.
Then a student asked, “What’s the other one?”
I asked her what she meant. Even years later as I write this, I recall feeling embarrassed and desperately hoping against all hope that my vegetable lesson wasn’t devolving into fecal matter.
She explained that she was at the store one time, and she went to the bathroom and there wasn’t pee on the floor, but the other one. She needed to report this but she didn’t know the word.
And I thought that was a really good reason to spend a few minutes of class talking about excrement. It was a legitimate vocabulary question that clearly related to surviving and thriving in an English-speaking country. Why would I cajole the class into naming vegetables they may or may not use, but refuse to name something with universal relevancy and serious health implications?
My embarrassment evaporated, and that was the night I wrote poop on the board.