Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I love teaching Teresa Cha's Dictee - it's so tough and challenging, and yet one can get a long way very fast with it. But it struck me in class on Monday that dictation was really not something that most students do in school any more - and when I asked, to be sure, almost the only people who'd sat in class and written down word for word, punctuation mark after punctuation mark, what their teacher said had done so when studying a foreign language. Back when I was seven, though, we were dutifully writing down all kinds of socially normative maxims.

I couldn't, alas, lay my hands this evening on my first two dictations: "I live in a house with a garden" and "I have a mother and father who love me" - which struck me, even at that age, as being potentially exclusionist and unfair to certain girls in my class. But here, five or six months later (and I love juxtaposing this with today's electronic tools that clutter my desk) I was writing, to cue, "Our concert will take place on Friday." "In the play I am a fairy." "On Monday I bought a ticket for mother." "On Saturday morning I help mother." "The shops close early every Wednesday afternoon." This is all patent falsehood ... we didn't exactly have school concerts when I was that age; our early closing day (remember them? was, I believe, Thursday - but actually, I find myself dithering as I type that up - am I sure?); and I was most certainly never, ever, a fairy. Indeed, I had really dull casting - the narrator in the class Nativity play, because I could memorize gospel verses - but unlike Mary (Caroline Gunn) or Joseph (Susan Brooks) or the shepherds, I didn't have a costume (that still rankles). And I was the narrator in *Wind in the Willows,* too - Penny Ottey was Toad, Elizabeth Scott Mole, Patricia Duval Badger - but what IS this? I can't remember emails that I should have answered when they've slid a few places down my inbox, and I can recollect who played what role in bad school plays when I was seven or eight ...

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