All I wanted to do was teacher subject-verb agreement. I prefaced it by telling them that besides for being important in writing, this lesson can be applied to their speech as well. Naturally, they’d rather argue the validity of the importance of the lesson than the actual lesson itself.
“Why do we have to speak properly, everyone speaks incorrectly anyway.”
“No, one knows the difference.”
“I can understand someone when they speak incorrectly, so who cares.”
I fought back.
“If all your friends jump off a cliff, will you jump too?”
“I know the difference.”
“You understand when you cleaning lady says ‘I clean floor’, would you like to sound like her too?”
They weren’t really swayed by my argument, (partially, or maybe mostly because they just wanted to avoid learning grammar, so disagreeing with me would delay the torture) Most girls simply couldn’t get past the concept that everyone they know speaks a certain way, so why should they be different?
The cleaning lady example, or black dialect, didn’t work, these people were too distant from them, and they couldn’t relate. My students spoke a decent English, the others had blatant disregard for the rules.
And then I told them about my sister, and her job. She’s a nurse in a office with a VERY large Chassidish clientele. Too often, she’d call me up and tell about the slaughter of the English language she witnessed that day, including gems like:
My son was fevering
He got a cold this night
I was vominating
My students roared with laughter, some of them eagerly raising their hands to tell me their funny chassidish story.
“You think it’s funny?” I asked them. They nodded vigorously. “Well, you’re probably someone else’s fool.” It was pretty cool to see how fast their expressions changed from derisive laughter, to dumbfounded and slightly embarrassed.
So I won the battle today. And they learned all about the different conditions of subject-verb agreement. Don’t think they’re not gonna pull the same shtick with their next year’s teacher.
It’s not about the answer, but the quality of the banter.