Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Better Pay Attention in Hottentot Class

A colleague of mine, Ms. Bright*, told me an interesting story today. She was wondering why her student had not shown up for a few days. She got up and called the father, who speaks only Hottentot*. Fortunately, she's a Hottentot teacher, and speaks Hottentot fluently.

"Hello, Mr. Indifferent*" she began. I'm Ms. Bright, Highly's Hottentot teacher. I'm calling from Spiro Agnew High School*. Where is Highly today?"

"He's sleeping right in front of me in this very room."

She was surprised. "He's supposed to be in school," she told him.

"What school does my son go to?" asked Mr. Indifferent.

"Spiro Agnew High School," answered Ms. Bright.

"How do you say that in Hottentot?" he asked.

"You can't," she told him. "It's a proper name. Can you come to school to talk to me about Highly?"

"Does anyone there speak Hottentot?"

"Sure, lots of us speak Hottentot. His guidance counselor speaks it fluently, as a matter of fact."

"Where is the school?" asked Mr. Indifferent.

"It's right on the corner of 57th and Martha Mitchell*. You can't miss it. Are you driving?"

"No, I don't have a car. How can I get there?"

"Well, I guess you could take the bus," she said.

At this point five or six students began shouting directions, which Ms. Bright shared with Mr. Indifferent.

When Highly came to class the following day, he was very angry with my colleague.

"My father screamed at me for thirty minutes. Before that, he hadn't spoken to me for six months."

She smiled. "I have great news for you. Every time you're absent, or even late, I'm going to call your father. I'm also going to let him know how you're doing in this class on a regular basis. I'm very happy to be able to bring your family a little closer."

*Names and languages have been changed to protect the innocent. Thanks to Ms. Bright for the story.
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