My students who were brought up in neglected families evidently find it thorny and complex to understand certain words or conceptions in English which are beyond their range of familiarity. Hence, they have misconceptions about few English nursery rhymes. To give one example, this line ‘since Jack was remiss enough to break his crown’, was easily misunderstood by the students who thought he and Jill were king and queen before I elucidated otherwise.
The poem Humpy Dumpty is of course not at all practical, being a completely imaginary, fun nursery rhyme for kids. But to my students, this was an example of a suspicious impression because obviously, no one can be an egg person. This doubt of his being genuine ended up creating concern to an extent. Sadly, if Humpty Dumpty would ever arrive in our class, the students will be left petrified instead of being amused seeing this hilarious character comes to life.
Nonetheless, nursery rhymes are attractive and helpful ‘teaching tools’. They help with the basic discussions about the splendid rhymes with curious questions like ‘who the poem is about ‘etc. My students who are daughters coming from families of cooks, tailors and other low-class backgrounds have a difficult, essential mission to get permission for studying and to tolerate the risk of breaking their crowns in their family lives.
One of my students, Zareena, has to always come to school with her father’s threat of ending her school life, if she shows any initiative of cooking in the neighbor’s while there is no gas at home.
Again, there’s Maria who gets beaten up regularly by her sister while her sister and mother are also victims of the same situation. Alas, the only reason that she is permitted to get an education is to malice her paternal aunt whose children were not allowed the same facility from their father. In this blistering hot temperature, Maria still wears a scarf and black cloak.
Actually, one tries to cause no disturbance because awareness is literally invisible in Zareena and Maria’s community. Sadly, it takes only one step to cause that consciousness.
I believed I had all the basics covered: Jack and Jill being aberrant without any faith could unreservedly climb, fall or break their crowns. But the subject matter of how they came down with a daughter must of course not be conferred in the class.
I considered without little piggy.
After we reached the stage of despising the different ‘Tenses’, it was high time to progress towards singular and plural.
Given that the Urdu poem about a time when there lived a king and queen who died and the tale ended wasn’t obliging and besides, being an English teacher, I decided to use five piggies for progressing my teaching class.
It was pretty useful to help the students to come up with answers of which of piggy went to the store or how many they were in total. Also, it was used during asking how many loaves were bought considering one pig eating one loaf.
It seemed like the class suddenly withered away. It’s because of the high temperature, I assume. It was a really hot day, indeed. The girls wearing coats and scarves were completely silent and rather confused and heated up. Then I drank water, taking a sip from the glass.
“The first piggy went to the market. So how many pigs were there in total?”
Silence everywhere. The stillness was blatant.
Come on children, try! Look at the board. Now, tell me how many pigs were there altogether?
However, the girls stayed oddly imperceptive. I wasn’t aware of it until Zareena’s father appear in the school. This time, he didn’t come with any issue regarding his daughter but instead it was about something else.
From the discussion with the director, I came to know that animals were differentiated between two groups, one being ‘Halal’ and the other being completely forbidden or ‘Haram’. To tell the truth, I came to know that pigs belonged to the second group which was completely prohibited, and in no way should be mentioned.
Ever since that, the girls have gradually learnt singular and plural English using down-to-earth cats though I’d planned to use Mikey for the next batch.
To my surprise, issues like this can even affect Zareena’s education whether or not she can study in school. Girls like Zareena have lives dependant on dreadful issues like this in the Pakistani schools.
Do you think the use of words like ‘pigs’ is inappropriate in the classrooms of Pakistan?
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