A couple of weeks ago in my grade ten class, we were working on grammar and reading comprehension. One of the chosen pieces has to do with making career choices and the importance of choosing well. There are several figures of speech used in the passage that proved challenging. Among them: ‘your career is your passport to life’, ‘it [your career] will provide you with your bread and butter’, and ‘[university studies] is not the alpha and the omega’.
In the comprehension part, students were asked to explain what these sayings meant in the context of the passage. (On an aside, am unsure what it is an indicator of that I was not aware what alpha and omega meant. Thankfully another teacher was kind enough to explain that it meant the beginning and the end, and that it was from the bible. Gotcha.)
Students had difficulty with these definitions, and we spent a great deal of time discussing them and their meanings. Following this, they were given 10 questions based on the passage to answer in class, and I then collected their books and marked them.
In doing so, am not sure what struck me more – the poor level of grammar, or the fact that more often than not, the question about ‘it is your bread and butter’ was answered literally. As in: ‘it means that you will have bread and butter on the table’, ‘that you have to work hard so your family can eat bread and butter’, or ‘without a career there will be nothing to eat’.
I have always known that social location plays a prominent role in a person’s education, perception, and interpretation in and of the world around them. Seeing this exemplified through the eyes of my students however, has allowed me an even clearer understanding of this reality.