If you are not a teacher I must insist you desist from reading this post. In this post I share some trade secrets. I understand that it is tempting; an opportunity to understand how a teacher thinks, to peek behind the magician’s curtain is tantalising, but magic is better when it’s unexplained. So avoid spoiling things for yourself and stop reading.
Okay; now that it’s just us I shall proceed.
Dear fellow pedagogues, I invite you to picture a scene. You are coming to the end of a long day. You are teaching adults. One of your students is fuelled up on coffee and has taken it upon himself to learn everything there is to learn about the English language in one lesson. He is literally slapping you around the room with questions.
‘When do you use raise instead of rise?’
‘Why is –ed pronounced /id/ in wanted and /t/ in kicked?’
‘Is it ‘insisted on-‘ or ‘insisted that’?
Experienced teachers will kill such queries in seconds. For others though, these questions are like mine-fields. As soon as you offer an explanation, a pesky exception pops up. It’s embarrassing. You don’t even know your own language. Said student is enjoying watching you squirm.
‘Hey teacher! Give me an example of an unreal past conditional right now!’
‘Listen Pal. I don’t come to your place of work and bombard you with questions. Do I? Huh?’
‘But you are my teacher. It’s the nature of our relationship. I ask questions; you answer them.’
It’s a salient point. The fact he’s right makes you madder and in desperation you slap him in the face. You literally slap him in the face. Now, the last time I used the words literally and slap in a sentence I was being metaphorical; but this time it’s for real.
Pretty soon your sorry ass is sitting in a bar, crying into a beer;
‘If only I had answered the question correctly, I wouldn’t have got fired,’ you sob.
Then you think;
‘Shit. That’s a pretty good example of an unreal past conditional.’
Let’s take things back a few beats.
Back to the point where the student is firing questions at you. At that moment in time a list of responses enter your head. Allow me to guide you towards best practise.
Try to avoid:
‘’Cos it sounds right.’
‘’Cos it just is.’
The word ‘Cos.’
‘Look. I don’t come into your place of work and bombard you with questions. Do I? Huh! Do I?’
‘That’s a good question pal. But we are not dealing with that today. We are focusing on phrasal verbs – and if I try to explain something else I will get….mixed up. Get it?’
The beauty of this is, it’s so funny that he will instantly forget his question because he will be thinking about what an absolutely hilarious bastard you are. *
*Disclaimer; only use if you are actually teaching phrasal verbs.