09 December 2006

The Trials and Pimpulations of Teaching

I'm finding that nothing creates such an appreciation for teachers as being a teacher yourself. As a student, the teacher is just a figure, a concept made real that serves as a repository for whatever feelings you may have toward adults, authority, knowledge, etc... If you want to rebel, this is the perfect person to rebel against. If you are intellectually curious, this is the ideal person to whom you can pose your most challenging questions. Perhaps because of the subject I teach and the inherent communication barrier between myself and my students I haven't had too many difficult questions. Until this exchange following a class on Thursday...

"What does 'pimpass' mean?"

"I'm sorry, what does what mean?"

"'Pimpass,' what does it mean?"

With understanding came laughter. This didn't seem to offer much explanation to the student. "What? Is it funny?" she asked. "No, no, it's not funny," I said, trying to think about how I could explain it. "Well, to begin with, it's an adjective, a positive adjective, it means that something is cool. Like 'awesome' or 'great.' But not really... Do you know what a pimp is?"

As soon as I asked this question I realized that I had just opened up a much bigger can of worms than I wanted to. Of course the response came, "No."

So I began, "Well, you remember when we studied the song by NaS, 'I Can'? Remember when I explained what is a 'ho' as in 'ganstas and hoes'? Remember, it was a prostitute, right? Prostituée in French. Well, the pimp is the guy who takes the money from the prostitutes. He is a bad man but he has a lot of money. So when something is 'pimp' it means that it's cool. And, well, 'ass,' you know what that is right? Right, that. So you have the two words, you put them together and you have 'pimpass.' Do you understand?"

Obviously there was little hope for their understanding. When they looked at me more confused than before I quickly realized that I wasn't going to be able to explain this one too easily. I just repeated that it was an adjective, it meant that something was good or cool and wished them a good day.

Who thought teaching would be this hard?

Note: After some internet research and from what I overheard from the girls asking the question, they had heard a song by Damian Marley (son of Bob) which they thought was called "Pimpass Paradise." In fact, I've found that it is actually "Pimpa's Paradise." So, rather than an adjective, it is a possessive noun. This means that even my most basic explanation will only leave them more confused in the context of the song.

To quote Brandt, "That's marvelous."

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