Three E’s: A Teacher’s Dilemma

In the classroom one strives to maximize excellence, efficiency, and education.

 “Today I’m going to tell you about an excellent resource that will enlighten all your writing assignments and expand your vocabulary,” she beamed holding up a three-inch-thick tome. Paging to glad students jaws dropped, amazed at the forty-three options: enraptured, transported, felicitous, gleeful, congenial, ecstatic, cloudless, painless, and on and on. Grins grew as Johnny read: blessed, blissful, content, overjoyed, entranced, delight, satisfaction.

The assignment was then to find three new adjectives to describe a cake, a shoe, and a book. Let’s just say a thesaurus is not efficient, neither is learning to use a thesaurus efficient, albeit more so than learning to use a dictionary. The second hand ticked. The minute hand tocked. Language period rushed to an end. Fascinated, fourth graders stilled pored over the thesaurus. But they had concocted delectable cakes, read medieval books, and wore antiquated shoes. The teacher glowed.

A few weeks later she described another writing project. The students had exactly twenty-five minutes to be traumatized, to dramatize, or create. The minute hand ticked and the second hand tocked. Pencils clicked and erasers scratched.  Then Johnny’s hand waved. “May I use a thesaurus?”

“Absolutely.” She swallowed her chagrin. True to pattern –three descriptive sentences an hour later Johnny’s hand waved again.

When striving for efficient education, do not whisper thesaurus.

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