by mrs. sabraw
On the first day of my grammar class this summer, twelve young people—ages 12-14—entered the room with the combined energy of twelve dead sloths.
I told them a story about the Nerdy 7th Grade Girl whose teacher, Mrs. Whooton, threw an eraser at her in 1962 because she didn’t “know a subject from a hole in the wall.” I used every trick I know about humoring the humorless.
A couple of girls smiled.
Now you will understand that I do not give up easily. Undaunted by snotty looks and unafraid of teenage judgment (no matter how uninformed or immature it is), I proceeded forward toward my goal: to lead this little band of computer gamers and hormonal secret-keepers to the Land of Grammar, a place where one knows the difference between a phrase and a clause, among other things.
This summer, the first day of class was painful.
My new students didn’t like my stories or my jokes or my clever ways to remember grammatical terms.
When students don’t play with me, I do what any self-respecting kid would do on the playground when rejected: I plot my revenge and recalibrate my strategy.
See you Thursday, I said, after the 1.5 hours of jungle heat and alpha-female chest thumping. Don’t forget to do your homework!
That night, I went home. Judge Blah was on a fishing trip, out of range. I had no one to talk to but the dog.
I decided to check my blog to see if anyone had commented. Paul had sent me some observations about Jung, Mary Jane had predicted failure in Labrador Retriever training, Jenny had expressed sympathy for my Lithuanian relatives, Andreas had wondered what Eva Brann really thought of his article on Socrates, and Richard had reminded me to take care of myself. All good.
I poured myself a glass of wine and checked my WordPress statistics. And then I saw it.
Someone had reached my blog by doing a Google Search with the following words:
i hate mrs. sabraw
Whew. I didn’t think I was that mean.
Yesterday, the same group of diffident teens entered my room.
Again, I told them a story, this time about the Nerdy 8th Grade girl and how she became popular helping the cool kids with their grammar, even though she didn’t wear a bra or shave her legs at that point in her life.
The word bra did liven a few boys up for a moment, but the feeling faded and they slumped back in their chairs.
The lesson commenced.
Every sentence is like a human body. What makes up a human body? I asked.
No one volunteered an answer to this question with obvious answers.
Oh, come on. Surely, someone here can venture a guess.
Jennifer felt my pain and answered, Blood?
And so it went.
Finding the main verb and then its subject is the first thing to do when taking a sentence apart. The main verb and its subject are the skeleton of the sentence. The bones!
And so it went.
Before the class finished, I told them I had another story to tell, a sad one.
I shared my blog story. I made a sad face, shocked that someone in the world would type i hate mrs. sabraw in the Google Search box.
This group has the resiliency of a pile of rubber tires. No one blinked, so I taught them all about verbals: gerunds, infinitives, and participles.
Last night, I came home with their messy papers, poured myself a glass of chardonnay, and checked my blog.
There, in the Google Search terms was the following sentence: