Friday, December 2, 2011


This is a  story from the country I'm currently working as a teacher. Here the student prepare for the Cambridge IGCSE. They have a Reading and Writing paper and also a Listening paper.

One day I was doing a writing task with them.   The task was to write on, the topic, 'If your house is on fire what item would you rescue.' 

So I repeated the question to orientate them.

"My underwear, sir" a joker said. These dudes were really obsessed with underwear. And he managed to get some laughter.

"Okay, it's the most important item to you." I let it ride. Everybody won't be risking their lives to save the underwear I hope. Okay, now Adams, Remember you can't rescue many things. The fire is spreading rapidly and it's out of control. You can't make many trips into the burning house. And your family is also safely outside, by this time. What would you rescue Adams?" I narrowed down the task.

"The gas cylinder, sir."

"Oh, damn!" I muttered under my breath in exasperation.

"Why, the gas cylinder out of all the other things? Is that the most important thing to you in the whole house?"

"No sir, it could explode."

"Okay Adams, there you gotta point there.  There is some sense to it. Still that's not what the person who composed this task had in mind..." 

now I'm telling the whole class.

"When you get a writing task, just try to guess what the person who wrote that question really expects. Here he created a situation..a house on fire..what is the thing you would rescue? What do you think you are expected to write?"

I didn't get many responses. 
Finally I said, "Think about the things you can't recover, even if you get the insurance money. Will you rescue your TV?"

Some said yes.

"No dudes, TV is something you can buy again. Yes. it costs money, but you can earn money.
Will You try to rescue the fridge?"

"No" many voices in unison.

"Why not?"

"Because you can buy it again."

"Good. and also it's too heavy."

"So , what is it you would rescue?"

"Sir you tell."

"Okay dudes, Can you get your certificates, medals and such things you have won even if you have money? 
Can you replace that love letter or a present you got from your loves one? 
Think along those lines. Things that are irreplaceable, no matter how much money you have."
Now the faces began to show understanding at last.

Okay. I turned to the bespectacled geek in the class.

"Sheriff, what would you rescue?"

"Sir, my spectacles."

I wanted to scream.

"Sheriff, Weren't you listening to anything I was saying all this time?"

"I was. Sir, to find all those certificates and love letters and things you said,I need my glasses. I'm blind like a bat without them."

OH MAN!!!!