Molesworth 2

Nigel Molesworth, the subversive pupil, the bane of all of educators returns to the educational institution of St Custard’s.

Today, during lunch, I asked two of my students  for help in explaining to teachers the steps you go through when exploring a word. Foolishly, I thought this wouldn’t take long- I’m presenting a brief workshop to a small group of teachers on Friday. Yet what became apparent really quickly was that there isn’t a ‘map’  to be pulled out and followed each time you examine a word: first here, then onto the next rung, then the next rung and so on up the ladder to a certain “truth” where we all rest happy at the end of our destination. Uncovering the meaning, peeling away elements to identify the base or digging through the layers of time to locate the root is not like rungs on a ladder. It all depends on the word, on what you know and what you think you know and then perhaps to begin again, to ask lots of questions, to ask for proof in the face of another’s certainty and to be patient and persistent when perplexed. Exploring a word is not a recipe to be meticulously followed but what is gleaned on the way, can be applied to many words. What is at the beginning perceived to be a destination, may when you ‘reach it’  , provide a clearer view of the road ahead and new paths to be explored. And so with an end to the mixing of way too many metaphors- follow the girls’ ‘journey’ into the exploration of ‘education’.



A clearer version from Online Etymology Dictionary

educate (v.) mid-15c., “bring up (children), train,” from Latin educatus, pp. of educare “bring up, rear, educate,” which is related to educere “bring out, lead forth,” from ex- “out” (see ex-) + ducere “to lead” (see duke (n.)). Meaning “provide schooling” is first attested 1580s. Related: Educatededucating.’




We definitely need to explore the grammatical clues suffixes give. We need to ask what makes a noun a noun and to consider how a word like ‘produce’  can be both a noun and a verb and how can you tell.  I wish the battery on the camera had not gone flat at the very moment Oluwadara recognized that she had found a ‘twin’ base element! I feel so privileged to bear witness to those moments of realization, to see the pleasure and joy in discovery. Later Oluwadara asked “Did you know what the base element was.? Did you know about the root?” I admitted I did know, but not about  the connection to ‘duke’ and certainly not the route they would take to discover this. It was a new journey for me.

And just a few minutes ago Oluwadara sent me her video for another class, Global Issues, where she has been researching an area of interest, the Millennium Development Goal of universal education. She had edited her imovie when she got home to incorporate her understanding from her lunchtime exploration. Look at the last few slides. Next… to explore the difference between education, teaching, tutoring, indoctrination, instruction.



Image by the incomparable Ronald Serle . Molesworth a reluctant pupil, but astute observer of school life offered his own educational advice to students in:Down with Skool! A Guide to School Life for Tiny Pupils and their Parents (1953) ,How to be Topp: A Guide to Sukcess for Tiny Pupils, Including All There is to Kno about Space (1954),Whizz for Atomms: A Guide to Survival in the 20th Century for Fellow Pupils, their Doting Maters, Pompous Paters and Any Others who are Interested (1956),Back in the Jug Agane (1959). I am thankful not to be working at St. Custards, although Nigel would certainly benefit from some of the teaching themes available from Real Spelling.