It’s called The Curse of Knowledge. When you have known something for so long that it’s automatic, it’s difficult to imagine somebody not knowing it automatically. This is one of the big things to remember and avoid when one is teaching junior high, and I think I do a pretty good job of it most of the time. But I do still have trouble remembering that kids of this age will misinterpret or misunderstand directions 40% of the time.

“Do we have to copy the warm up?”

“#*$#@*! Did you read the directions? What does ‘Copy’ mean?”

“I was just asking.”

I’m thinking it’s really more about inattention. But that might just be cranky ol’ me.

Anyway, today I had a first. Never could I shed the Curse of Knowledge enough to anticipate the question I got today from one of my li’l scholars.

We are reading The Midwife’s Apprentice right now.  The kids and I love this book. It has the word fart right in the first couple of pages. Plus, I have lost count of how many giggles I have had to shut down because there’s somebody named Dick. I also can’t believe we haven’t seen a movie made out of this one. Alyce is such a great female character and the secondary characters are great too.

This book also fits in nicely with our new Common Corporate standards that decree more non-fiction. There are plenty of great non-fiction sources to bring in to show what the middle ages were really like.

(Aside #1: One of my fave lines during this time is when we talk about the child mortality rate. More than 1/3 of kids didn’t live past age five. “That’s why they had so many kids back then: they needed lots of back-ups.” Even my principal laughed at that one.)

Anyway, we were at the part of the book where Alyce runs away from the village because she failed in delivering a baby. She ends up at an inn, where she starts working for food and a place to sleep. There’s a line that says something like, “Alyce lived mostly on bread, beans and Jenet’s bad beer.”

So, like I usually do, I stop and say,

“Ummm. If that were all you ate, you would have so much gas…”

And then I pause for the three or four seconds it takes for that to sink in, and for them to realize that I mean farting. Then there is general laughter.

This time, one girl’s hand goes up.

(Aside #2: Now before I reveal her question, I have to say that earlier in the period, this girl said something that probably requires a whole post by itself. I’ll rein myself in and keep it short this time though. I was munching on a cookie while they did the warm up, and “Lydia” asked why she couldn’t eat during class too.  I give her my standard response–after “Because you guys are pigs”:

“Only I get to eat in here.” She says,  “But I’m your cute little evil sidekick right?”)

Ok, now back to her question…

“Did people fart back then?”

There was slight pause. The tiniest bit of silence. And then…

Cacophony. (vocab/spelling/roots word: “jumbled or chaotic sound”)

I couldn’t resist.

“Well, I THINK they invented that not too long after this book takes place. I think they figured their lives weren’t stinky enough already–what with the no bathing and no toilet thing and all–so they came up with a new concept: farting.”