Tuesday, 8 November 2016

If At First You Don't Succeed....

It was English class, half an hour before home time. Six pairs of learners were poised with their pens, ready to bid points in our English review. The third question of the night pertained to a language point I had explained several times over the last few classes: the past tense of the word "drink" vs the state of inebriation.

My instructions were, "Write a sentence with the word 'drunk'."

They all knew exactly where the trick was. They had me repeat the word several times and discussed with their partner whether I was saying "drank" or "drunk", but all remained uncertain, so in the end I spelled it for them.


Each pair wrote a sentence on their paper and bid a hefty number of points to accompany it.

The number of scoring teams?


Everybody wrote something along the lines of "I drank water last night."

After erasing their points from the scoreboard, much to their horror, and amid their cries of "But, Teacher, you said "DRUNK"!" I confirmed that I had, indeed, said "drunk", and that they all used "drank" beautifully.

I put both words on the board, reviewed their respective pronunciations, and wrote:

DRUNK - too much alcohol
DRANK - past tense of "drink"

"Oh, yeah, yeah," they said approvingly, nodding their heads.

"Got it now?" I asked.

"Oh, yeah, yeah," they replied.

"The next question is.... Write a sentence with the word 'drunk'."

They looked at each other in confusion. I repeated my instructions. Eventually, someone timidly ventured, "Teacher... same question?"

"Yes," I said. "Nobody got it right the first time, so we're doing it again. Write a sentence with the word 'drunk'."

"Oh, yeah!" they exclaimed, happy for the second chance.

All the pairs wrote their second sentences and bid big points again, knowing this time they could make up for their former loss.

No good. Without fail, everybody wrote something along the lines of "Yesterday I drunk beer."

I'm not a monster. I didn't have the heart to majorly dock everyone a second time, so I declared it a non-scoring round.

Amid their protestations that they HAD fixed the problem, I reiterated that "drunk" is an adjective, and "drank" is a verb. I wrote example sentences on the board:


"Yeah, yeah, oh yeah," they all nodded with certainty. This was, after all, something we had gone over before.

I erased the example sentences. "Ready for the next question?" I asked.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," they chirped.

"Write a sentence with the word, 'drunk'," I said.

They looked at each other in confusion.

"Teacher... same question... again?" they inquired.

"Still, no one got it right, so yes, same question," I confirmed.

"Right, yeah," they replied, mildly less excited this time.

They all wrote their sentences, being less extravagant with their points.

Which is good. Because only two of the six teams scored. Everyone else wrote something like, "He was drunk wine."


Sometimes, you just have to move on.

"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no point in being a damn fool about it." W.C. Fields