English evil

If I ever pry open my wallet to buy a vanity license plate, it would read WRDSRWRD  – Words are weird. Well, at least the English ones.

Over years of teaching language I’ve discovered something very important. That English is evil. Not English people as per se, but the English language as a whole, is evil.

It kind of rolled off the tongue one day while I was teaching when a student asked, “What kind of language would have 3 words mean something different, vary in spelling, but all sound the same?” I blurted out, “English, because English is evil.” The class lost it.

Imagine the propensity towards evil that exists in a language that can muddle up 26 letters to create an ex-con, lexicon of over 175 000 words with such reckless abdomen, abandon. And it’s still groaning, growing.

I love my classes spend time on the simplest words that then lead to so many interesting conversations. I love investing time into re-mixing and dissecting words with students. We even create our own words. I am presentating my ideas about language to you.

You heard correctly, I said presentating in the hope that the verb presentate in all of its awkward etymological glory will legitimately be included into the Oxford English Dictionary. 10 years ago, I started using it with the goal of being able to use a grammatical aberration and have it accepted as a part of our language, by first misusing it in the classroom.

No wonder my students get in trouble the following years when using presentate amidst less receptive instructors. I’ve had colleagues challenge my motive to add the verb presentate, but it is all in good fun.

When we learn like this, we invite laughter and oral communication skills into our space. This helps turn a difficult lesson into a powerful learning opportunity that is often unscripted, responsive, and accessible for all.

Knowing the value that exercises like these play in my teaching, has become a huge part of my instructional competency. I love it when students are able to turn their minds loose and then listen for the chuckles when words are captured, tamed, and then set them free again. This past year we shared a 40 minute discussion about Illuminati Grilled Cheese. We were in tears from laughing so hard.

What happened in that time was far more valuable to their education than any lesson found in a text.They were present for something spontaneously created by them. We play with words, sounds, and letters and let the conversations carry us towards creativity and critical thinking. We became closer as a classroom and community. My students felt safe and because of that, we were able to do some deep learning.

Every year, I share this reminder with educators and students because things become really confusing, really fast when a language which is still evolving gets mixed up, misunderstood or misused. I want everyone to know the power that waits within the language they are using. I want everyone to become comfortable with words and to own a rich vocabulary whether they are learners, teachers, writers, speakers or witty conversationalists.

To me the more we all interact with language, at any level, the richer our learning experiences will become. 

This summer, take some time to have fun with the language you experience. Use language like your communicating with an alien. Play with the letters, sounds, and words as if you’re inside of a VR game of puns, poetic devices, and crunchy axioms. Wishing ewe awl well. 

Note:

I am currently working through a TED Ed Innovative Educator Talk and initially wrote this part into my message. It was pulled from the final draft in the interest of time and in order to stay closer to my through line as it relates to peculiarities in our language and goals for education. I hope to be able to share it someday soon.

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To the brother I have bothered

Tim, Mom, and writer.

He is 7 years 2 months and 2 days older than me.

He is 5 feet 9 inches, but I have have looked up to him ever since I could crawl across the floor or stick my head out my bunk bed cage to look at him up top.

At age 3, I followed him through a northern BC forest to school so I could play like he did. I am sure he would have been happier to cover me in syrup and leave me for the bears.

I wrecked his Beatles albums, his books, and his toys. Actions that I still regret to this day. He had nice things.

He is the brother that I have bothered for 52 of his 59 years on this planet. He has the patience of Job, the wit of a stand-up comedian, the generosity of a saint, and a golf swing like a rusty gate. Yet, he holds the record for most Ugly Jacket Golf Tour wins in our family.

When I was 8 he gave me money to buy candy before going off to day camp. He helped me sneak out the basement window of our house so I could run down the street and be back before anyone else knew what happened. I was instantly popular at camp that year.

He took me places. Sometimes willingly.

He was cool. He swam. I swam.
He worked. I worked.

He defended our sister from my tyrannous middle child ways. No one’s perfect.
He went away and I was sad. He came home and then we moved away.
He stayed. That was 40 years ago.

We still talk, laugh too much, and never forget to say I love you.

He will always be my favourite brother to bother.

Happy birthday Tim.

 

w1sdom

While hunting for some wisdom and humour in the classroom a while back, I asked a group of grade one students to tell me about what they wanted to buy when they were adults and could spend their own money? I asked the question this way because, asking children what they want to be when they grow up has become a clichéd default question from adults. Also, I really hated that question as a child, teen, and twenty-something.

Once asked, students’ eyes lit up with excitement and they responded with an understandable amount of youthful exuberance and predictability; Lamborghini’s, mansions, dessert at every meal, exotic pets, and toys galore.

You get the drift.

There were others, however, who appeared almost to have an answer which seemed as if they’d thought of this question beforehand. One responded with a desire to own a castle and an army of monkeys. Another talked about becoming a Transformer. Almost lost in all of the sharing were the few students who wanted to share how they would help people less fortunate than themselves when they were older. Almost.

As a grade one student, it would have been a toss-up between the monkeys and being a transformer for me, but these students chose kindness first. It is these voices that are often overlooked amongst the silliness and somewhat selfish desires. However, thoughts like these must be honoured and nurtured in all of our learners.

My goal as an educator each year is not to deliver a curriculum, but to instill thoughtfulness, kindness, and otherliness through life lessons in all subject areas. If I do not achieve that first, but only succeed in teaching the content, then I have failed my learners.

Maybe, once I grow up, my army of monkeys can be trained to do good things?

Flu id

flu·id

noun
1. a substance that has no fixed shape and yields easily to external pressure; a gas or (especially) a liquid.  “We all need several glasses of fluid a day”

adjective
1. (of a substance) able to flow easily. “the paint is more fluid than tube watercolors”
Fluid seems like a pretty harmless word, but when you break it into two words, you get nothing but trouble. What if fluid really meant a selfish virus – flu id: These two words from within a word mean something very different apart than when the space between them is gone.
If something is fluid, it moves in harmony about and around the forms and forces acting upon it. In Science, it is generally considered a state of matter. In the Arts, the dancers were fluid in their movements as they leaped across the stage. In baseball, a hitter may have a very fluid swing.*
Fluids are observable, measurable, and useful. Whether it’s a litre of stock, a cup of  cream, or a spoon of olive oil, together or apart, each contributes to a delicious recipe.
In life, situations can be fluid too. Often they change or are changeable with little to no control or resistance. Come to think about it, the flu is pretty good at being fluid as it evolves into new and virulent forms in order to thrive from year to year. It’s id saying. “catch me if you can.”

 The flu morphs and hides in the nearest convenient host. The id is like the GPS for our psychological and physiological existence. Like the flu, the id is always seeking ways to get what it wants and needs to survive.

The Flu virus floats around like a plastic bag in a breeze and lands on anything with a warm surface. It proceeds to take up residence in the heads and lungs of its victims. Like the id, the flu wants what it wants. Once inside, it becomes the house guest from hell, turns the heat up on its new hosts, and rejects anything that gets eaten. Not wanting to stop there, the flu and its id are even more happy to move on to a new residence with a sneeze, forgetful touch (doorknob, remote, phone) by an unwashed hand, or a nose wipe.

As a teacher, there will always be students, parents, and or colleagues battling the flu and its id on a regular basis from October to March each school year. Fevers, coughs, phlegm, dizziness and vomiting are all part of the suffering unleashed by this selfish super bug. I was down for a whole day and half this year because of it.

And what does the world tell us to do when it hits us? Get some rest, and drink plenty of fluids. SMH.

* This is the opposite to a hole in their swing as I shared in What are holes made of? Pt 2 Language

The right words

I have the right words to say, but the lump in my throat won’t allow them out. These puffs of air that attempt to pass over my vocal cords do so without a peep.

I have the right words to say, but they’ve all been shared before. As if they are reserved only for the times when madness takes its toll.

Hurt
Broken
Asking why
But not shocked
Witness to despair
Slowly coming to grips
A nation that has lost itself
Reliving senseless hatred again.

We have the right words to say, but thoughts and prayers are not enough. Words won’t heal the destruction done by a damaged mind sowing seeds of their madness with a gun.

We have the right words, but maybe it’s time to listen instead?