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Teacher Jargon Is Hard to Disencumber

I have been teaching mathematics in an Australian High School since 1982, and I am a contributing author to mathematics text books.


After a hard day of work the goal is to go home, shed thoughts of the workplace and assume the role of husband, wife, father, partner or simply carry out the duties of someone who cares for their pets. However, this dichotomy between home and office may be illusory. The language of your daily profession may unwittingly take over, peppering your conversations with jargon and blurring the distinction between “job” work and “home” work.

Consider the following three scenarios whereby a student has been implicated in the theft of answers to a test. In each case, the teacher involved retreats to the sanctuary of his home and relates the incident to an understanding wife.


A teacher of Legal Studies

Wife: “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?”

Husband: “I do.”

Wife: “You may sit down. How was your day?”

Husband: “A juvenile offender was placed on a good behaviour bond.”

Wife: “Why?”

Husband: “A prima facie case of student misbehaviour. The defendant stated categorically that there were mitigating circumstances for the alleged charge of aiding and abetting. He swore under oath that he was not cognisant of the fact that answers he was given to the test were the proceeds of crime committed by perpetrators effecting a forced entry into the teacher’s drawer.”

Wife: “What else did he say?”

Husband: “The aforementioned had the temerity to submit a charge of entrapment and contributory negligence, with a counter-claim of mea culpa, adding that it was my fault for having placed the answers in the drawer in full view of the class, with the drawer left unlocked.”

Wife: “It all sounds complicated to me. Go on.”

Husband: “The appellant subsequently signed an affidavit and petitioned for an adjournment to allow witnesses to be summoned, who will provide hearsay evidence that he is of good character. But the presiding school principal brought down a decree nisi and dismissed the appeal.”

Wife: “What happens now?”

Husband: “The judgement is for a period of penal incarceration, to be served in the classroom each morning during recess. With good behaviour, he will be eligible for parole once his test grade is at least a B.”

Wife: “And thus the case rests. Now eat your dinner of bread and water.”


A teacher of Mathematics and Physics

Wife: “Hi, dear. Rest your mass in the chair, drink your wine until you reach a state of equilibrium and tell me how your day has been.”

Husband: “A case of positive plus negative cancelling each other. I caught a student with answers to a test. We argued for an hour and got nowhere.”

Wife: “What started the conflict?”

Husband: “I was following a linear path with constant velocity on a bearing of N250W along the tessellated corridor floor. In my inertial frame of reference, I identified a student leaning against the wall at an angle of elevation of 150 to the vertical. He was not moving because the net forces on his symmetrical body balanced all frictional forces and air resistance. Using Pythagoras’ theorem, I estimated his height to be approximately 175.2 cm tall, correct to 2 significant figures. He was reading my oblong shaped notebook containing solutions to tests.”


Wife: “So what did you do?”

Husband: “When he saw me he ran with uniform acceleration, but from an estimate of his speed and my distance from him, I determined the required speed and trajectory that allowed me to catch up to him.”

Wife: “You were always a good runner. What happened next?”

Husband: “I rotated my arm about its centre of mass, and with maximum angular momentum snatched the notebook from him with a force of 10 Newtons. He then followed me on a monotonically increasing circuit to the principal’s office.”

Wife: “What happened there?”

Husband: “The student used proof by contradiction and the null law to try to convince the principal that he did nothing wrong. He conjectured that based on the normal probability distribution curve, my margin of error in observing him doing the deed fell outside the acceptable limits.”

Wife: “Was he right?”

Husband: “No. That line of reasoning was nothing short of a tautology. He then used proof by induction to state that because I didn’t see him looking at my notebook yesterday, I didn’t see him do it today, and that I will not see him do it tomorrow, or the day after that, and so on.”

Wife: “What did the principal do?”

Husband: “He called the student nasty names such as asymptote and son of an inch, and threatened to inform the parents of their son’s radical behaviour. In replying, the student called him a trochoid and stated that he was a perfect example of standard deviation.

As punishment, the principal assigned him the task of memorising the first 200 prime numbers, which will be recited in the presence of an Abelian group of students.”

Wife: “Well, at least it’s sorted out. Will you be ready later to walk over the Konigsberg bridge?”


A teacher of Accountancy

Wife: “Now that you’ve taken exactly 40 minutes to shower and rest, next on your agenda is to tell me how your day has been.”

Husband: “You know me. When my class ended, I counted my pencils, organised the chairs, turned off lights and locked the door. Then I should have taken precisely 55 seconds to walk directly to my next class, but on this occasion, fate intervened.”

Wife: “What elapsed, dear?”

Husband: “Standing in the corner was one of my students. He had Diary No. 6 in his hands.”

Wife: “Isn’t that the one –?”

Husband: “Indeed. My Diary No. 6 is from a set of 11. This one is particularly important because it not only contains solutions to each test I give throughout the year, but it balances the entire set. There are 5 diaries on either side of No. 6, you see.”

Wife: “Yes, I can see how important that aspect of it is. What happened next?”

Husband: “I was so incensed that I undid my bow tie and took off my sweater vest. I wanted him to know I meant business. Then I took out the biggest of the six pencils I had in my shirt pocket and carefully removed my A5 sized daily organiser from my bag. I intended to record every detail of what was to transpire.”

Wife: “Wow. Loose tie and no sweater vest. The student had no chance.”

Husband: “Quite so. And for that extra bit of motivation, I recited some premiums pertaining to actuarial superannuation funds. I now felt more powerful than the Commissioner of Taxation who has just gleaned millions in back taxes from recalcitrant companies.”

Wife: “I hope you didn’t do anything you now regret.”

Husband: “I did what had to be done. As I approached, with my index finger pointed directly at him, his face turned ashen in the best tradition of a bank teller caught with his hand in the till. There was a noticeable deflation in his features.

His protestations fell on deaf ears. He sheepishly handed me Diary N0. 6 and asked for forgiveness. Next, he begged for 30 minutes grace to go to the bank to withdraw funds with which to line my pockets in exchange for leniency.”

Wife: “Yes, do go on.”

Husband: “It was all to no avail. I reminded him of the level of accrued debt, measured in units of discretionary trust, his action created. I reminded him of CPAs, hard-working book keepers and finance people who daily sweat over debits and credits, ledger entries and economies of scale. They do not take the easy way out, as he had done.”

Wife: “Such power. I wish I could have been there. What happened then?”

Husband: “I escorted him to the office and informed the Principal. He became unhappy, telling him he has no redemption or salvage value and how he would like to liquidate his assets.”

Wife: “Gosh. Did you say anything?”


Husband: “I suggested a short-term agreement whereby his transgression will commence at 100 “sin units” and will be amortised at the prevailing market rate, compounded quarterly and made to correspond to the school calendar. “

Wife: “That was a generous gesture.”

Husband: “I remembered the adage, ‘You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar’. On balance, I reckoned that erring on the generous side will mean this student will appreciate his mistakes and do the right thing in future. Besides, my actuarial tables place this on the 85% percentile, which is a very attractive probability statistic.”

Wife: “A good day’s work in the numbers racket. Do you want to make this a Bingo night?”

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