February 2010


Part of my personal philosophy on teaching and learning is that they are somewhat interchangeable: most of the time, I will teach and students learn, but the opposite should also happen frequently as well. And although I want to provide models, sometimes it’s nice to explore with them.

In my writing elective, we’re studying short fiction, and I wanted my students to write some microfiction pieces, 200 words or less. I gave some examples from a blog that is run by some friends of mine (it’s good stuff) and let the students go, joining them in writing a couple of microfiction pieces as well. The ones that the students shared were quite good: some funny, others serious, with some other variations as well.

But for a moment, I’m going to take the spotlight and share my own writing. Keep in mind that these pieces are unedited from the original writing – and I wanted to keep them that way. (more…)

And actually, not because of this.

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…a mask and a cape. (No, not like these guys…)

We’ll be in day 2 of talking about Hawthorne’s short story “The Minister’s Black Veil,” and instead of going with a traditional veil (which I think might be somewhat awkward on a guy – but I could be wrong, since Mr. Hooper is the veil-wearer in the story), I decided to do a mask for the de-facing effect. I actually somewhat wish I could have found a Darth Vader mask in time since I sometimes refer to the anti-transcendentalists as the “dark side of the Force” (I also compare the Over-Soul to the Force when we talk about transcendentalism), but for today, a simple black mask that covers most of my eyes and my nose will do.

The cape, of course, is flair. It also has a hood, but I haven’t decided whether to wear it or not since it’s a little small. (The whole deal was homemade but not quite custom-made.)

As always, circumspection is required before getting hopes up about possible success, but I’m not worried about that so much – I just want to shake things up a bit. We’ll see if I at least do that.

I started losing my voice yesterday from some inexplicable illness, and I have prefaced all of my classes so far with that fact in order to perhaps elicit some sympathy. (Hey, it worked once during student teaching.) It did make something of a difference, actually, except for…

Mr. B: I’m losing my voice today–

Student: Good! That means we won’t have to do anything.

Just FYI, students out there, your teacher losing his/her voice doesn’t mean you get off the hook; it just means that there will be some modification, and when teachers can’t talk, that modification is generally reading or writing.

[Addendum: This is my 200th post. I wish it were more and that I posted more frequently, but hooray for 200!]

That’s one of the most debated questions in terms of language, in my experience. It’s an important question because there is at least a general consensus that there is good language and bad language – acceptable and unacceptable language – and a common question because everyone seems to have an opinion on the subject, although they tend not to be exceptionally informed opinions. It’s also important because there are plenty of people – some who have knowledge of language and some who really don’t – who have decided at some point that they are the arbiters of what is good and true and what is not and dispense advice (often unsolicited) or make disparaging comments about language use, be it word usage, grammar, mechanics, or style.

I don’t consider myself an expert on language use by any means, but I think my interest in language is perhaps greater than the average layperson: I have studied writing theory, I have read grammar texts critically for personal edification, I regularly read blogs about language and try to keep up with what people are talking about regarding language, and I’m a certified English language teacher. I don’t claim that my advice on language is gospel, and I stress to my students that comments on written language especially are mostly tentative (even though I think it would be prudent for them to take my advice). Generally, I think I know what I’m talking about, but I’m open to correction from people who know more about the subject, primarily linguists.

This in mind, I’m pretty used to people making comments about language when they lack relevant training, like that old proscription against terminating prepositions. But I still confess that it puzzles me when I see people who are qualified in the area of the English language railing against things about which they really should know better.

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Since today was officially declared a snow day about 10 minutes ago for me, and I’m already up, here’s a rant for you on movies and books. (WARNING: SPOILER ALERT)

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This is take #2, due to a stupid browser and WP failing to auto-save properly.

My sincerest apologies to faithful readers – or perhaps in this case, wait-ers – for the absence; things have gotten a little more complicated this semester, and that’s the best excuse I can offer for my weeks-long blog silence.

One such complication – in a good way – is my own doing: getting our school involved in the national Poetry Out Loud poetry recitation competition, which I was fortunate to experience when student teaching last spring. I’m taking six students in total this week to our regional competition, three who were involved in the school contest and three other students who I’m hoping will be inspired by seeing the contest play out in person. I’m excited about going, in part because I’ll get to see my former co-op, who I have certainly missed, and perhaps (I hope) some of my former students.

This experience has allowed me to learn some important lessons about setting up extracurriculars that I will certainly remember for the next time (and certainly for POL next year, especially the importance of starting earlier). I just hope that the experience is useful for the students, that they will see the point in it. (I keep thinking of Marianne Moore’s great poem on the subject.)

Maybe eventually I’ll get back into a routine of writing; I would greatly enjoy that. For now, I’ll keep trying to get caught up and simply – to use an old cliché – keep on keeping on.