Monday, September 22, 2008

Pants, Pants & Pants: The story of a confused Canadian Teacher in London


It was my first week of teaching in London, and I knew that the word "pants" means "underwear" in England, but hadn't really used it yet.

So, I told my year 5 students to get changed for Physical Education. Most schools have the children just get changed in their classroom, which I found to be bizarre on 2 fronts:

1) Why do primary aged children get changed for P.E.?

2) Since they get changed for P.E. shouldn't there be change rooms like in secondary school?

One of the British teachers explained to me that getting changed together wasn't a big deal and that's the way it's always been so the children are just used to it. It still felt very stressful to me to ask them to get changed in one room together.

So, back to my story. I told the class to get changed for P.E. and one boy (let's call him Sammy) told me he didn't have any P.E. clothes, so he went to get some from the office.

When he returned, I advised him to "Go on then, take off your pants."

I had a really tough class and my eyes were darting all around the room to make sure no major fights were breaking out. I didn't even notice that Sammy left the room, until I heard the Deputy Head Teacher yelling at him in the hallway.

"What are you doing out here? Why aren't you in your class?!"

"Uhhh...the teacher told me to take off my pants so I went to the toilets to get changed out of my pants," Sammy explained.

"You know not to take off your pants in school!"

"But the teacher told me to," Sammy missed a lot of school because of his home circumstances and was very used to being told off. This time it was my fault though and I felt horrible. Poor kid!

That was the day I learned about pants, pants & more pants. See, pants means 3 different things:

1. Pants are underwear in the UK.
2. Pants are pants in North America (aka "trousers")
3. Pants can also be used as a negative, like "My day was really pants!" or "This food is pants!"

If you're thinking about teaching in London, or anywhere in the UK, you should know these words & practice using them. Please don't make the same mistake I did!

Check out this list of important words for Canadians to know. Watch British tv, or Teachers TV and learn the lingo. Use the British words & get used to them so you won't tell some poor child to "take off your pants!"

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Thanks for sharing your two pence!

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