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The Daily WORD is FLEER

To laugh in a disrespectful or jeering manner

School starts this week, and I begin my fourth year as a guest teacher.  Mark Twain said “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”  “Substitute” is the right word, just as “used car” is correct, not “pre-owned” and “fired” speaks to reality, not “down sized,” “right sized” or the latest newspeak, which has fallen out of my head. I have no more brain cells to fritter away on Orwellian language.

“Guest teacher” expresses delusions that students will respond to the word “guest” in an appropriate manner. Or, administrators aspire to impress the school board and community with unrealistic expectations – or to conceal their fears that this may be the year a guest teacher is hung by the neck until dead by a remedial science class. But how can that happen now that the word “remedial” may not be spoken within 500 yards of any educational facility?

The majority of the students are well-mannered – home training certainly shows up in the classroom. Others FLEER. And, there is much to fleer about when a substitute appears. It begins with roll call. In our diverse community, Latino names are becoming easier to decipher and pronounce. Asian and Arabic names, unless Chan or Ching, do not create much fleer as the students are accustomed to patiently helping Anglos learn to articulate unfamiliar sounds. The fleer hits the fan when I try to wrap my mouth around Jai’breon, IllishaImelda, and Zyshonne. Using various translation programs, the closest I can come to Jai’breon is “I have hair,” which usually includes the entire class.

And so, the fleer goes on until I hit “send” and the attendance goes on its electronic way to the attendance officer, formerly known as secretary. More fleer ensues as the tardies bound in with excuses that include “I got lost in my locker.” (It happens). Once attendance is re-submitted (often several times) to change the absentees to tardies, the class will either settle down and do assigned work or apply themselves assiduously to finding things to fleer about.

Seasoned substitutes have learned the floccinaucinihilipilification of fleering. It has no value, serves no purpose. Whether students study or fleer, the substitute gets paid the same and never, ever serves a detention.



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