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Spelling Is Important, But Calm Down, Maybe

, , , , , , | Learning | November 24, 2020

I am a middle school librarian in the days before widespread Internet access. One day, a group of students comes rushing into the library.

Kids: “Mr. [My Name], Mr. [My Name]! What does ‘impotent’ mean?”

Me: “Um… weak and powerless. Why?”

The kids didn’t believe me and rushed for the dictionaries. It took me a while to figure out what was going on, but eventually, I got the story. 

A kid had accidentally written “impotent” instead of “important” on an assignment. The English teacher apparently had an absolute fit, publicly berating the kid for using bad language and making him repeatedly copy the definition of “important.”

So, instead of blowing off a simple spelling error, this teacher had a bunch of seventh graders convinced that “impotent” must be the filthiest word in the English language and determined to find out what it meant.

This story is part of our Best Of November 2020 roundup!

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