Response to Eh? What? Huh? – Please Don’t Use Sarcasm With My Students

via Eh? What? Huh?: Please Don’t Use Sarcasm With My Students.

The original poster started a very interesting discussion about using language that might be misunderstood by children, and I am reposting my comment because I would like to share my viewpoint with my readers.

I wrote:

I can appreciate your concern for your students, (e, but I agree with MM. Although some ways of communicating may be confusing, I believe they should be taught rather than avoided. Each instance of misunderstood sarcasm can be a teaching moment for a second language learner. Sarcasm and other elements of second language, which English is for most deaf and hard-of-hearing people, have to be explicitly taught.

I sometimes have to reverse myself when I begin to — forgive the expression — “dumb down” my writing with deaf people. With certain people, things must be greatly simplified, but with many people I think one should be oneself and let the person figure it out. Most deaf people certainly don’t dumb down their ASL for me or slow down their signing for me. I am an interpreter, and they just expect me to understand them and interpret what they are saying. I learn new bits of visual language all the time because of deaf people’s being themselves and signing naturally. Don’t I owe them the same genuineness of myself? Perhaps the more I write English or — with the appropriate person — sign English or fingerspell unusual turns of phrase, the more I express who I am and give them the opportunity to learn how a hearing person speaks and writes.

It’s not that my place is to teach; it’s just that everyone–hearing and deaf alike–can learn more about each other and each other’s language when we speak naturally. I thank every French-speaking, Spanish-speaking, and ASL-speaking person who has ever spoken to me in their natural way, because that is how I have learned their languages.






4 responses to “Response to Eh? What? Huh? – Please Don’t Use Sarcasm With My Students”

  1. David Avatar

    I will repeat my belated response to (e because I do not see that anyone has recognized the abusive aspect of negative, biting sarcasm from a more powerful individual directed to a powerless individual:

    In my opinion, sarcasm among peers is normal and to be expected. *However* that changes once the power relationship changes. Sarcasm from a person of lesser power toward one of greater power can be taken as insubordination. Negative or biting sarcasm from one of greater power toward one of lesser power quickly becomes a form of abuse. A teacher should not use negative or biting sarcasm toward a student and if he or she does, he or she is an abuser. I tried never to use negative or biting sarcasm toward any employee or anyone who reported to me.

    Also, once students get to college and post-graduate level, abusive sarcasm results in an enormous loss of respect for the professor or lecturer. I cannot remember when that might have started in high school. MM, in college and post-graduate work, when we had visiting faculty who used biting sarcasm toward us (they were often British) I saw my fellow students lose respect and faith in that faculty member. His or her lectures were dismissed and not believed until a real person or another reliable source had confirmed the information. I suspect this might have lead to negative performance reviews. The British faculty who stayed rarely used negative or biting sarcasm toward students.



    1. Daniel Greene Avatar

      Thanks for commenting, David. I agree with what you are saying, but I think I interpreted the post differently. I didn’t assume that teachers and staff were using negative sarcasm toward or against students; I merely read that the blogger deprecated the use of sarcasm (in general) with students. She didn’t add the word “negative” until after I and others commented; later, she said she would add “negative” for clarification. All I am saying is that sarcasm is an element of natural language the should be taught rather than avoided.


  2. (e Avatar

    I did not realize that this blog posting about sarcasm would spark several interesting discussions about language. This is why I love to blog. 🙂


    1. Daniel Greene Avatar

      I admire how regularly you blog, (e. You did a good job of writing a provocative title for the post in question! That’s what caught my interest. 🙂


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