Male english teacher reading inappropriate book out loud to class

(43 Posts)
geranium68 Sat 06-Jun-15 12:58:42

My daughter is in the Canadian equivalent of year 9 (age 14). For the past couple of weeks, her male teacher has been reading out loud a book called "Word Nerd" by Susin Neilson. It has some very inappropriate passages, referring to girls' body parts and clothing, and boys' reactions to them. This has made some of the girls feel uncomfortable, and I think the teacher sensed this because he said something to the effect that, stop complaining, the book is written by a woman after all! I would really like to make the Principal of the school aware of what is going on, but term finishes in a couple of weeks over here and my daughter doesn't want me to make a fuss. I am going to get a copy of the book out of the library today and read it for myself, then decide what to do. Do you think I should let it go, or does this man need a good telling off? Of all the beautiful literature they could have been reading...

fourchetteoff Sat 06-Jun-15 13:02:01

"A good telling off"? That sounds enormously patronising OP.

Perhaps read the book first, so you have a properly informed opinion on it. Then go to him and have a mature discussion with him and bring up the girls discomfort. Going in with guns blazing to the principal first without calmly discussing it directly with the teacher is doing him a disservice - IMO.

ImperialBlether Sat 06-Jun-15 13:04:55

It's not exactly a classic novel, is it? I've looked on amazon.com and even there it's only got a few reviews, not all good, either.

I would complain. I'm all for letting children read a wide variety of books, but if the teacher insists on reading aloud a book which refers to shagging, boners and fucking (from one review) then I can see why the child is embarrassed.

He sounds like an idiot, frankly. And yes, it's written by a woman, "Susin" ffs. So what?

Walnutpie Sat 06-Jun-15 13:06:19

Is he expecting too much maturity from them?

A male tutor at Uni, in four years time, would expect them to be objective and dispassionate about this type of content.

I suppose at A level, age 16, they would also be expected to remain objective and dispassionate about mildly explicit content.

BertrandRussell Sat 06-Jun-15 13:08:12

It's aimed at 9-12 year olds. Does it really talk about fucking?

I woild wonder why he was reading it to 14 year olds, frankly if it's aimed at a much younger age group. Do you know what work he intends to do with them about it when they've finished it?

Dumpylump Sat 06-Jun-15 13:08:19

I've had a look online at the book. It's aimed at 9-12 year olds, is by an award winning author and it's main character is a young boy, bullied by his peers and raised by a single mum, who is befriended by an older boy and taken to scrabble club by him where they meet a girl, and the three form an unlikely alliance.
It sounds like exactly the kind of book I'd be more than happy for my dsd and my ds, both aged 14 to read.
I really don't understand your concern, although it appears to be coming from a place of no information about the book other than what your daughter has said - who decided "passages were inappropriate"?

ImperialBlether Sat 06-Jun-15 13:12:09

I was basing it on one of the reviews which said:

This was a good story, but the language and themes are definitely more appropriate for middle school students. It is rated for age 9 and up, but pedophilia (with graphic description of what this could involve), the words "boner", "f____ing" and "sh___" (written like this, not in full), as well as more than one passing references to breasts and arousal, are not what I would expect to see in elementary school novels. The specific nature of the less desirable aspects of this book distracted me from the well-constructed story. It should be rated for 11 or 12 and up.

fourchetteoff Sat 06-Jun-15 13:13:53

On the Canadian Amazon website there is a positive review from the School Library Journal and also The Globe and Mail (one of our big newspapers), so I don't necessarily think that it should not be read by that age group because of its content.

But a calm discussion about whether you are happy about the words being read out is a fair enough thing to do. It just makes me uncomfortable to think that the teacher is being penalised for reading things out because he happens to be a man. If content is making children uncomfortable, then that should be the reason for a discussion, not the gender of the teacher.

MissMillament Sat 06-Jun-15 13:15:51

It doesn't sound in any way inappropriate for 14 year olds to me. You don't know why the teacher has chosen that particular book to read, but I imagine the themes and content tie in with the planning for whatever unit they are working on - none of your business to suggest alternative texts quite frankly.
If your daughter has a particular issue with the language, then maybe you need to explain to the teacher how she is feeling about it, but not in any 'telling off' sort of way - that would be ridiculous.

geranium68 Sat 06-Jun-15 13:16:48

Thanks for comments everyone. I think this teacher's objective all year has been to appear "cool" and it seems to me that this is one of those books written with an aim to "get the boys reading". According to my daughter, it is rubbishy anyway - yet has received prizes over here in Canada.
The book is about competitive scrabble (Oh how intellectual) so that seems to make it OK in the teachers eyes. I think, but am not sure, that each chapter starts with an anagram and the teacher gleefully wrote the word Boob up on the board last week (amazing clever answer to anagram). Makes me sad

KoalaDownUnder Sat 06-Jun-15 13:20:48

Don't they have an actual curriculum? Is this book on it (or is it just something the teacher has decided to use)?

KoalaDownUnder Sat 06-Jun-15 13:21:39

Eh, just saw update. Sounds daft, I think I agree with you.

fourchetteoff Sat 06-Jun-15 13:22:13

Sorry Geranium - but your last post had me laughing.

It's your DDs perception that the teacher wants to be 'cool', and the book is 'rubbishy'. She might be very astute, but it seems you've based everything on what she says, without investigating the book yourself

The book is probably NOT 'about' Scrabble, it's using Scrabble as a way of explaining relationships. (Actually, Scrabble can be very intellectual - knowing lots of words and the configuration is complex).

It's a well known fact that boys are turned off by reading in the past, so the teachers effort to make books which may interest ALL of the class is laudable. There are many Canadian YA books which have won prizes and they are wonderfully written, insightful and often edgy. This sounds like it could be one of them.

fourchetteoff Sat 06-Jun-15 13:23:02

In fact, I'm off to order it for my DD10 now.

MissMillament Sat 06-Jun-15 13:24:39

I can't speak for Canada, but we certainly don't have prescribed texts in for year 9 here in Britain, Koala. As trained teachers, we are considered capable of using our own judgement when choosing texts for our classes. As I imagine the OP's daughter's teacher will be too.

undermythumb Sat 06-Jun-15 13:25:16

Reading the precis it sounds as though it is about considerably more than competitive scrabble. Maybe your daughter could listen with bit more of an open mind?

Twelve-year-old Ambrose is a glass-half-full kind of guy. A self-described “friendless nerd,” he moves from place to place every couple of years with his overprotective mother, Irene. When some bullies at his new school almost kill him by slipping a peanut into his sandwich — even though they know he has a deathly allergy — Ambrose is philosophical. Irene, however, is not and decides that Ambrose will be home-schooled.

Alone in the evenings when Irene goes to work, Ambrose pesters Cosmo, the twenty-five-year-old son of the Greek landlords who live upstairs. Cosmo has just been released from jail for breaking and entering to support a drug habit. Quite by accident, Ambrose discovers that they share a love of Scrabble and coerces Cosmo into taking him to the West Side Scrabble Club, where Cosmo falls for Amanda, the club director. Posing as Ambrose’s Big Brother to impress her, Cosmo is motivated to take Ambrose to the weekly meetings and to give him lessons in self-defense. Cosmo, Amanda, and Ambrose soon form an unlikely alliance and, for the first time in his life, Ambrose blossoms. The characters at the Scrabble Club come to embrace Ambrose for who he is and for their shared love of words. There’s only one problem: Irene has no idea what Ambrose is up to.

In this brilliantly observed novel, author Susin Nielsen transports the reader to the world of competitive Scrabble as seen from the honest yet funny viewpoint of a boy who’s searching for acceptance and for a place to call home

kickassangel Sat 06-Jun-15 13:25:31

I can see why teenage girls would be really uncomfortable with that. It will make them feel like te boy are looking at them and thinking of them like that. And who, at that age, wants any adult authority to be talking about fucking? Normally I would say that the sec of the teacher isn't too important, but he appears to have been immensely insensitive to how this girls must feel.

Can you email? Point out that many teens like privacy and not to have their emerging bodies and feelings being made public like that? If the book were being used for sex Ed in single sex settings I can see it being appropriate. I would also imagine that many boys don't want all the girls thinking about whether they get erections, how often etc.

I know teens think about this stuff a lit, but it doesn't mean they want to think about it and talk about it with their teachers.

I teach that age group btw.

Dumpylump Sat 06-Jun-15 13:25:42

So your daughters opinion overrules the fact that it has own literary prizes?
Ok, she may not be particularly enjoying this particular book, but that doesn't make it "rubbishy".
I'm not overly keen on your implying that boys are less intellectual and require specially written stuff to "get them reading" either.

SaulGood Sat 06-Jun-15 13:26:19

Why don't you try talking to the teacher? Ask why the book is being used. If you dd is embarrassed by you doing this in person, telephone or email. Find out what's actually happening and then act if necessary.

geranium68 Sat 06-Jun-15 13:26:29

Just something the teacher has decided to use. Reading aloud takes ages too, this has been going on for at least two weeks now. They haven't had to write or discuss or do any activity on the book yet BertrandRussell, not sure if they will because we only have another week of actual lessons over here.

BertrandRussell Sat 06-Jun-15 13:34:46

They are reading Macbeth in my ds's class. Loads of embarrassing stuff in Shakespeare...........

BertrandRussell Sat 06-Jun-15 13:37:16

"I'm not overly keen on your implying that boys are less intellectual and require specially written stuff to "get them reading" either."

Not sure about "less intellectual" but boys certainly need stuff to "get them reading"..........it's a serious issue in education.

SaulGood Sat 06-Jun-15 13:41:15

This helps explain some of the current issues around boys and reading.

geranium68 Sat 06-Jun-15 13:45:22

Thanks everyone for your comments, got more reaction than I expected, it's lovely to see some good lively (British) debate going on - that's one of the reasons we're returning to Uk this summer after 12 years here.
I'll read the book this weekend and talk to my daughter again before deciding what to do. Incidentally, daughter did mention that some boys in the class have gone uncharacteristically quiet and appear to be extremely embarrassed by the book.

Walnutpie Sat 06-Jun-15 13:51:30

It sounds as though the teacher is taking them to the edge. Education has to do that. It's a growth point. It's how you extend your boundaries, by widening your comfort zone.

'Broad minded' means just that....very extended edges!

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