Showing posts with label education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label education. Show all posts

5.1.24

Things in My Type ‘B’ Classroom that just Makes Sense

Welcome to 'Things in My Type ‘B’ Classroom that Just Makes Sense,' a unique exploration of the unconventional yet harmonious world of a Type B classroom. In this post, we delve into the charmingly unorganized library, the intriguing 'Random Bowls,' and the essential first aid kit, each element artfully contributing to the distinctiveness of our learning environment. 
Discover how these seemingly haphazard items are not merely decorative but integral to our educational fabric, fostering an atmosphere of discovery and engagement. Join us as we celebrate the eclectic and purposeful arrangement that defines the spirit of a Type B classroom, where every item has a story and every corner a lesson.

In my Type Two classroom, a charmingly unorganized library coexists with a ‘Random Bowl’ and a first aid kit, nestled beside another ‘Random Bowl.’ Each element, though appearing haphazard, subtly underscores the distinctiveness of a Type B classroom. Here, an assorted collection of items isn’t just decorative; they’re integral, seamlessly weaving into the fabric of our learning space. This arrangement fosters an atmosphere where eclectic, unconventional elements find harmony and purpose, enhancing the sense of discovery and engagement in our educational journey.

2.10.23

Day 16 of 180: Acknowledging I'm #TeacherTired While Asking Students to Go Deeper in Their Writing

Day 16 in the classroom and, yes, #TeacherTired is real, but doing okay! I’m committed to helping my students dig deeper in their writing. It’s not just about putting words on a page; it’s about exploring layers of thought, emotion, and expression.
Teachers of Writing: How do you manage your students' writing? How do you beckon writers to go a bit deeper?

29.8.23

Prudence, Wisdom, and Self-Care: The Uncommon Story of Zeus and Metis

We've all heard of Zeus, the King of the Gods, known for his godly escapades and tumultuous love affairs. However, little is spotlighted about Metis, Zeus’s first wife and the Greek personification of prudence. Often sidelined by mainstream mythological tales, the story of Zeus and Metis carries essential lessons on prudence, wisdom, and self-care—virtues that have seemingly fallen by the wayside in today's fast-paced world.

A drawing of the face of the Oceanid Titaness Metis
The Writer's Imagining of Metis
as Drawn on an Ancient Greek Vase.

The Misunderstanding of Prudence

Unfortunately, prudence often suffers from a negative connotation, easily confused with being a prude or overly cautious. Yet, the virtue signifies the art of making thoughtful and balanced decisions that bring the least harm and greatest good. A case in point is Prudential, one of America’s leading insurance companies, built on the very tenets of safeguarding and caution. 

The Transformative Tale of Zeus and Metis

In Greek mythology, Metis embodies the virtue of prudence. Pursued by Zeus, she transforms into various animals to escape his advances—a common trope in Greek mythology. Zeus, afraid that Metis would bear a child more powerful than him, swallows her whole. While this may seem like the end for Metis, she continues to live within Zeus, imparting wisdom and prudential advice.

Wisdom Versus Prudence

The child born from this unique union is Athena, the goddess of wisdom. However, it's suggested that Athena lacks the maternal warmth that defined Metis. Herein lies the nuanced difference between wisdom and prudence: wisdom often focuses on knowledge and rational decisions, while prudence adds an emotional layer, emphasizing care for oneself and others.

The Self-Care Connection

Prudence is not just about minimizing risks; it's a form of self-care. It requires a delicate balance of wisdom and empathy to make decisions that are beneficial not only to oneself but also to those we care about. This often involves taking a step back, evaluating the situation, and then proceeding with caution and consideration.

The Living Legacy of Metis

While Metis might have met an unfortunate end, her essence lived on, both in Zeus’s wisdom and Athena’s intellect. This eternal legacy serves as a lesson that prudence, wisdom, and self-care are deeply intertwined virtues, worth much more than their misunderstood reputations. 

Through the tale of Zeus and Metis, we find a treasure trove of life lessons waiting to be applied in our own lives. Far from being forgotten, their story teaches us that prudence is not a constraint.

Find Mythology Content and More! On the Stones of Erasmus Store

26.4.23

Celebrating 1,000 Posts: Reflecting on My Blogging Journey on Stones of Erasmus (Is it a Milestone Worth Celebrating? Yes! I Think it Is.)

Celebrating 1,000 posts on Stones of Erasmus! From poetry to lesson plans, join me in reflecting on my journey as a writer and educator.

1,000 Blog Posts Later
Writing my 1,000th post for my blog, Stones of Erasmus, is a milestone that I find challenging to write about. I started this blog when I was still a Benedictine monk, and it has stayed with me through various life changes, including my stint as a high school English teacher in New Orleans, my time at the New School for Social Research, and my New York City sojourn.

Initially, my blog was a mishmash of embarrassing pieces of poetry and ersatz literary criticism, sprinkled in with some theology and movie reviews. Over time, my blog has evolved and become more focused. Although it still includes some of those early elements, such as movie reviews and records of my visits to random art museums, it now features a lot of educational content related to my teaching career.

One of my earliest obsessions was making things up, and my journey as a teacher has allowed me to indulge that passion. I create digital educational resources such as clip art and lesson plans that I share on my blog. I also write about my creations, sharing my experiences with my readers.

A Writer's Blog As An Excuse To Journal
Writing on my blog has also allowed me to indulge in another childhood obsession: keeping a journal. I still have my first spiral notebook, which contains my first journal entries from the end of my fifth-grade year through the monotony of sixth grade. As an adult, I have only read it once. However, I am considering adding it to my blog, which would be a fun and nostalgic experience.

Answering Questions from My Students
Some of my high school students have asked me about my blog, such as whether I make any money. The answer is yes and no. I used to use AdWords from Google, but I stopped using it. My blog does make money, but it is minimal, around one hundred dollars a year. The income comes from people clicking on a link to one of the digital educational resources I sell, such as my popular lesson plan on teaching Plato's Allegory of the Cave to middle and high school kids.

The Future of Blogging
Another student asked me why I continue to write my blog when long-form writing appears dead. My blog is more permanent than other forms of social media, and I enjoy the idea that more people are likely to stumble upon it, whether through a Google search or a link somewhere. I am always surprised when old posts receive a resurgence, such as a post I wrote years ago about words from Greek mythology or a post I wrote about The Iliad, which has remained popular for some reason. The difference between long-form blogging and other types of content on the internet is that blog writers offer a unique perspective on things. I enjoy reading other blogs, such as those written by nannies or teachers, because they share their personal experiences, which is powerful.

As my blog has evolved, I have also learned some important lessons about writing. One of the most important lessons is to keep writing, even when I do not like it. I easily get discouraged when I get few views or comments on my blog. However, I have learned that if I keep writing, eventually, people will discover my work, and it will find an audience.

Another lesson I have learned is the importance of editing. Writing is a process that takes time to craft a well-written post. I often write several drafts before I am happy with the final version. It is also essential to proofread my work carefully, looking for spelling and grammatical errors. Reading my work out loud is helpful, as this helps me catch mistakes I might have missed otherwise.

Finally, I have learned that blogging is a community activity. Blogging is not just about writing for myself but also about connecting with others with similar interests.

Drum roll, please.
Here are my favorite selections from Stones of Erasmus (in no particular order):

1.11.19

Lesson Plan: Teaching New York City with the Musical "On the Town"

Teachers Pay Teachers Banner for "New York, New York" It's a Wonderful Town Lesson Resource"
Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Higher Education, Adult Education, Homeschooler, Not Grade Specific - TeachersPayTeachers.com
I created a fun, engaging lesson for Middle and High School students
inspired by the Broadway-turned-MGM-film-classic "Our Town."
    If you like New York City (it's where I happen to reside) and if you love musicals then you may know there is a famous musical produced in the 1940s about the Big Apple. On the Town is a fun day-in-the-life story of a trio of sailors who take a tour of the city and find love and hijinks. In 1949, MGM  made the Broadway hit into a movie.
    Inspired by the film and the song "New York," New York" I invited my students to plan a one-day itinerary to explore the Big Apple. The kids were surprised by how this old-school song is still humorous today. The lyrics are also fun: "The Bronx is up, and the Battery's down" and people "get around in a hole in the ground." I asked my students some trivia questions, too. Do you know where Grant's Tomb is located or do you know the best way to get to the Bowery?

    We then learned more about the history of New York City and then as an extended learning project created itineraries to explore the city on our own terms (in which I encouraged everyone to share their creations with their family and friends who may not know the city very well). 
    I created a lesson plan based on my classroom experience that is three days long, and I used it for my English Language Learners (ESL), but it also fits for a Humanities, English Language Arts, or Social Studies lesson.

My lesson plan includes the following features:
  • Lesson Planning Guide and Calendar
  • Cloze Passage Worksheet
  • Lecture Notes for the Teacher
  • Guided Notetaking Organizer
  • Editable Google Slide Templates
  • 2 Color NYC Landmarks Contact Sheets
  • NYC Itinerary Template
  • NYC Map Template
  • NYC Map Resource List
  • List of New York City Regional Transit Maps (including the New York City Subway)
  • *Google Classroom / App Friendly Resource*
Suggested Classroom Use:
  • Unit on New York City History
  • ESL Class for English Language Learners
  • Middle School Humanities
For other resources using maps and geography check these out:
Add my TpT store to your favorites so you can follow me on my journey. I offer original resources for teaching, writing, and all things arts and letters in the Middle and High School classroom.

15.6.19

Lesson Plans, Activities, Printables, Editables, and More that I have Created and Made Available for Teachers

Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Higher Education, Adult Education, Homeschooler, Not Grade Specific - TeachersPayTeachers.com
Most of the following lesson plans, activities, and other teacher resources are for sale on my teacher's marketplace; however, lesson plans marked with an asterisk (*) are free to use (under a creative commons non-commercial license).

Formative Assessments

Teachers often need to make sure their students are on track. This usually involves checking for understanding during class, creating discussion questions, quizzes, tests, and so on. Here are some original formative assessments I created to help you track your students' success.
Short English Language Test for ELLs - I created this assessment to assess my English Language learners in September. You can use it as a short, formal assessment of language skills. 
Long English Language Test for ELLs - I created this longer assessment to assess my students at the end of the semester. There are three versions.

Greek and Roman Mythology

Teaching Greek and Roman myths is a favorite topic among upper elementary and middle school students. Here are some resources I created that touch on some of my favorite topics.
*10 Words and Phrases Derived from Greek Mythology - From my blog, here are ten words and phrases popularly used in the English language.  
21 Frayer Model Set for Myth-related Literary Terms and Vocabulary - Are you teaching a unit on myth or mythology? Do you want your students to learn academic vocabulary related to this topic? Research shows that teaching vocabulary in context is the best practice for long term retention. Using Frayer models are a proven method to do this effectively in the classroom when teaching literature and non-fiction texts. Get your students actively engaged with vocabulary — and have them proudly display their creations!
 The Myth of Icarus: A Cautionary Tale from Ancient Greece -  Introduce your students to a fairly popular Greek moral tale about an ambitious inventor and his erstwhile son. I have created a 3-day lesson plan filled with activities to get your students thinking critically about this important mythological text. 
Mythology Series: The Ancient Greek Myth of King Tantalus -  Engage English Language Arts Students (grades 8-9) with the ancient Greek Myth of Tantalus — the deceiver who thought he was equal to the gods! 
Mythology Series: The Ancient Greek Myth of Sisyphus - The myth of Sisyphus is the original rolling stone. Kids will love tracking down the allusions to this extraordinary Greek hero tale. Aligned with Common Core Standards, this individual lesson pack prompts students to discuss the myth, to compare it to other works of art, to work in groups, and to complete a writing activity.
Ready-to-Go-Activity: 10 Everyday Words and Phrases in Greek Mythology  -  I updated my blog post on words and phrases from Greek myth and made it into a usable resource for teachers in the classroom.

Homesick: My Own Story by Jean Fritz

Jean is a ten-year-old American girl living in the British settlement in Hankow, China in the 1920s. In this autobiographical novel, Jean witnesses major events on the world stage through her own childlike perspective.  

Chapter One Lesson Plan Resource 
Chapter Two Lesson Plan Resource 
Chapter Three Lesson Plan Resource  
Chapter Four Lesson Plan Resource  
Chapter Five Lesson Plan Resource  
Chapter Six Lesson Plan Resource  
Chapter Seven Lesson Plan Resource 
Homesick: My Own Story Lesson Bundle  
Homesick: My Own Story Lesson Super Bundle + Google Forms

Maps and Geography Skills

My first paid teaching job was a Summer school gig in New Orleans, Louisiana. I taught Geography. Here are some lessons to get your students more geographically-aware.
*Printables: Blank World Map for Printing (with borders) - I like using this gratis, public-domain world map; it's easy to use, has borders, and makes for a good geography quiz template. 
Geography Skills Lesson: Ready-to-Use Worksheet with Blank World Map - I made this resource as a simple day one assessment of a student's knowledge of world geography. It's ready-to-go out of the box

Philosophy in the Classroom Series

One of my projects is teaching philosophy in the classroom. Every chance I get I introduce students to philosophical thinking. Here are some polished resources that are classroom-tested and guaranteed to get your class thinking.

Caught You! The Ring of Gyges from Plato's Republic* - A FREE lesson plan on justice. If you like it consider the bundle that comes with three self-grading Google Forms! 
Plato's Allegory of the Cave in Plain Language - A lesson plan on truth and reality 
Philosophy in the Classroom: Nietzsche and Bill Murray in Groundhog Day — A lesson on Nietzsche's concept of eternal recurrence.  
Philosophy in the Classroom: "The Parable of the Madman" by Friedrich Nietzsche The phrase "God is dead" has entered into the zeitgeist. But what does this phrase mean? And how and where does the nineteenth-century writer and philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche use it? Answer these questions with your students with Stones of Erasmus's close reading and writing lesson plan resource. 
"Discuss any Moral Dilemma!" All-in-One Lesson - A lesson plan for any moral dilemma 
Empiricism versus Rationalism - A lesson plan on how we know that we know (and why)
Task Cards for Philosophy Education - "What is Philosophy?" Task Card Set (28 Cards + 2); Freedom Discussion Task Cards (16 Card Set + 2); "The Biq Questions" 44 Task Card Set 

Quotes in the Classroom Poster Series

On Boredom (from The Hogfather by Terry Pratchett) 
On Who To Bestow Your Talents (Advice from Jesus)  
On Judging Appearances (Opposing Viewpoints Discussion)
4-Lesson Quotes Bundle for Middle and High School Classroom Discussion  
Writing Graphic Organizer: Thinking About Any Quote or Textual Evidence

Reading Comprehension Resources

Reading is essential. Here are some resources to help inject some energy into any-level reader.
Five ELL Reading Comprehension Questions ("Bobby the Math Whiz" - Nonfiction) - Use this text as a reading comprehension worksheet for English Language Learners.

William Blake and Romanticism

William Blake's poetry is mystical and beautiful - and here some lessons I have created about him and his work.

William Blake's "London": Visualizing the Industrial Revolution Through Poetry - Blake's poem is evocative of a time period in history where children worked as chimney sweeps and child labor is London was commonplace - a travesty of the first stages of the Industrial Revolution.

Follow me on TpT! 

17.1.19

Teaching: 5 Middle and High School Lesson Plans You Can Use in Your Classroom (Right Now)

Hallelujah! Look at Some New Stuff I Created: A suite of lessons in a series I am creating called Philosophy in the Classroom and some gnarly lesson plans I am making about an American Girl living in China in the 1920s - it's called Homesick: My Own Story by Jean Fritz . . .


Why I Use the word "Love" all the time

I read a long time ago (in an ancient teaching book of which I conveniently forgot the name) that educators should avoid saying "love" or "I love" to their students when discussing their work. For example, you're not supposed to say, "Hey, I love that paragraph you wrote!" Well, I disobey that rule. I love my students and because I teach Ethics and Language Arts to ELLs; so, I am always using the word love.

Check out some gnarly resources I just made:
I am building a Philosophy in the Classroom series of resources so teachers can introduce their students to philosophical thinking even if they themselves do not have a philosophy degree. I have three resources up and running (it's a work in progress - but, damn, the three things I just made are really good :-)). Do my kids love 'em? Of course. Do yours? They will!

Novel: Check out the first two chapters of Homesick: My Own Story by Jean Fritz
I just taught the novel Homesick: My Own Story by Jean Fritz to my English Language Learners (they range in grade level but most are 9th and 10th-grade Mandarin speaking ELLs. They loved the book. But this book is also amazing for Sixth graders (or advanced Fourth and Fifth graders) - however, my kiddos loved it because it was just the right reading level they needed - not too easy but challenging enough to keep them on their toes!
Let's hear from you!
I have been a teacher for ten years, and it never gets old. I love kids, and I love talking with them, discussing ideas, and seeing where a lesson will go. I am privileged to share my resources with you, kind educators. Be real. Gotta go.
My teacher's store: Stones of Erasmus
My Pinterest: Greig Roselli
Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Adult Education, Homeschooler, Not Grade Specific - TeachersPayTeachers.com

27.10.18

On a Trip to Mystic, Connecticut I Ran into Versions of American History

Crossing the Whitestone Bridge into Queens, you can faintly see the New York City skyline.
Can you see Manhattan?
     I have just returned from a sleep-away trip with Seventh graders. We went to Mystic, Connecticut — me and a couple of teachers and nineteen kids. I had never heard of Mystic — even though I saw the movie Mystic River  —which apparently has no connection to Mystic, Connecticut but there is a B-movie with Brad Pitt called Mystic Pizza - which apparently is real - the pizza. Not the story.
     So, what did we do in Mystic? We stayed at the Mystic Seaport Museum which is really a cool place - much more relaxed than any museum I have been to in a long time. It is a reconstructed nineteenth-century seaport town. It's replete with an apothecary, a maritime general store, a slew of interpreters who pamper you with their stories of sea life, whale blubber stories, and facts about forecastles, moorings, and ghosts. Our crew — including me — slept on the Joseph Conrad — which is a wooden Danish training vessel that at one point sunk — killing twenty-two boys — then resurrected from the sea — then a U.S. President salvaged it and christened it as a National Historic Landmark - so it is permanently moored at the Seaport. I like history, and I like even more how history gets told, gets packaged, and is applied to how we think about the world we live in today. 
     There is the ship Amistad moored at Mystic. It's a slave ship that was the site of a slave rebellion. Today it sits gleaming and speaks of liberty and the promise of change. However, its rewarding story belies the tragedy of the Middle Passage that claimed millions. Mystic also has a reconstructed version of the Mayflower - it is called the Mayflower II, and it is being revamped and polished for a celebration in 2020 celebrating the original ship's voyage four hundred years ago. The kids on our trip know these stories, and they see in these stories a symbol of religious freedom. However, I am confident that the Europeans who came to the New World were not as pure in their pursuit of liberty and the right to equality as we would like to paint them as in the history books. 
     You can also see a whaling ship in Mystic - and if you are a good sailor, you might get to talk to a re-enactor. We met a jolly lady who was presenting herself as an immigrant to Mystic who arrived in the 1870s. She had left Alaska after it was sold by the Russians to the United States. She spoke of her voyage, a trip from the islands of Alaska, down to Panama, through the canal, past Jamaica, and then up the Atlantic coast to Long Island Sound. I liked hanging out with the kids. They're city kids — most of the lot — so they were into running around, kicking a soccer ball on the village green - and feeling the cold October air in their face. It is kinda crazy to be chaperoning twelve-year-old kids for forty-eight hours straight, but I loved their energy. Kids that age are full of energy but no focus. It's refreshing. 
     Hey. If you know all the answers, then you're a fool, right?
Image Source: Greig Roselli © 2018

13.7.18

Review of Frederick Wiseman's "High School" (1969) and Jean-François Caissy's La Marche à Suivre (2014)

I am a teacher, so I am familiar with the strained relationship students sometimes have with authority. And most teachers - especially the best ones - are in tune with this tension between youth and adult, between power, and submission, obedience, and freedom. However, taking a psychological view, High School is also an exciting time where teenagers are becoming self-reflective, and the adults in the room have a front row seat to their pupils' on-going development. I use the word becoming on purpose. Adolescence is a messy progress.
La Marche à Suivre (2014)
High School (1969)

7.3.13

A Judgment of Beauty At West Fourth Street Station (And a Rant about Education in These United States)

     Sometimes as a teacher of college students I am ridiculed by my own students. Today I got excited about describing an aesthetic judgment of beauty I witnessed in the cavity of the West Fourth Street Station as the D train sidled into the station - I will explain what that moment was in a moment - and Olivia, a student in the front row, just flat out laughed - you know, in that one-off laugh that does not indicate joy, but rather a mean, derisive laugh (a rough form of "huh") meant to show that she could not relate to what I was saying, so her only response was not to question me why, nor to give me a chance to elaborate, but to laugh in such a way as to communicate to me and the rest of the class, "what is this man talking about?"

     Maybe there was derisive laughter from this student because beauty and the subterranean chaos of the New York City subway system did not equate in her mind with a notion of beauty, or, it seems to me, the notion of beauty, a capacity to appreciate it - albeit in the slum of the West Fourth Street Station. I felt sad and isolated in front of the class. Not because they missed my point, but I felt isolated in that way a kid feels when they have said something wrong in front of a group of adults. As if I had said the wrong thing to a group of fellow human beings - and I do not think I am over-thinking this moment. I think educators, people like me who spend lots of time in classrooms, have witnessed two critical deformations in intellectual seriousness. First, we are educated to be producers, not thinkers. What this means is that a sharing response to what is beautiful is not what we do in classrooms. Notionally, we should be doing other more important endeavors (what this other stuff is exactly I have not fully ascertained but I get the impression it is dull and prosaic). Second, in the name of entertainment, the public sphere has been dumbed down to such a point that beauty is losing its shareability. I actually had the president of the school where I work tell me and a large group of faculty members that first and foremost the students should be entertained in the classroom. Tell a joke, he said. One time during a midterm exam a student got up from her seat and gave me her test. I asked her why she had not finished it and she told me, "if you had made this class more fun I would know this stuff." I never saw her again. She dropped the class.

13.9.11

Teaching: On Whether It Matters If Students Care

Teachers do care about whether or not their students care.
I hear teachers say: "My students just don't care. They come to class late. They text in class. They just don't care."

While I certainly agree that some students chronically show up late, text, yawn, seem detached, and so on -- I don't think these facts alone demonstrate a lack of caring.

I teach at a community college in New York City. My students juggle family obligations, multiple jobs, and for some of them, court appearances and meetings with a probation officer. Most of them are looking for a second chance. In their late 20s to early 40s, they turn to community college to help them gain an "edge." It's a mixture of chance and hard work that will determine their success.

We live in a society that deems college is for the few. Community colleges want their cake and eat it too. Is it possible to offer everyone a college chance?

The problem is the concept of community college has been a conflation of "trade school" and "associate college." At one time in America, the two were distinct entities. One went to a trade school if you wanted a certificate in air conditioning repair or a plumbing license. The term is seldom used. The elevator I take every morning reveals a vestige of this past. Engraved on an inconspicuous plaque one can see the school I teach used to be a trade school. The moniker has now been mostly eradicated. We say "college" now but we remain ambiguous about what such a "college" should provide.

I teach Introduction to Philosophy. It's better suited to an associate or bachelor undergraduate program. But at my school, it's offered as an elective. The students in my classroom want to be police officers, medical assistants, pharmacist aids, or paralegals. The majority of them do not see the value of philosophy.

Does this mean they don't care?

A teacher who teaches College Algebra also complains her students don't care. "They come in late." I ask her if they see Math as important. "Nothing is important to them," she says.

I too am irked by the tardiness, the texting, the seeming lack of care. But is it lack of care or confusion about what a community college should be.

I'm not sure if you will ever need philosophy to be an effective medical assistant.

Nor will you need "system of equations" or "slope-intercept form" to be a successful police officer.

The confusion lies in what it means to be college-educated.

I'm not saying throw out Introduction to Philosophy or College Math from the community college curriculum.

But we should as teachers address the issue of "care" head-on.

I'm suspicious of teachers who claim students don't care. It's not a matter of students not caring, but more precisely it's a matter of students not knowing HOW to care.

If students don't seem to care then it suggests they were never instructed how to care.

How to teach students to care? Show you care.

Even this alone will win over a few.

The sad reality is that all our students care (this fact alone does not determine their success). They care very much (or they would have never enrolled in the first place). But care is not enough. Other things take hold of our students. Things we can't control.

So all we can do is hope. Hold fast to our expectations. Start class on time (even when only two students out of twenty are on time). Hope.

If we say, "our students don't care" then what we are saying is "I don't care either."

8.1.11

"Apparently" and "Weird": A Report on Colloquial Usage


I overheard a conversation on the subway today between two college kids: "It's weird, you know, apparently she was his girlfriend, but now it's so awkward, I'm like whatever."
The words "apparently" and "weird" have taken on a nuanced meaning in contemporary Americana. Jonathan Franzen, in his novel Freedom, first alerted me to the phenomenon of "weird." Everything Patty Berglund notices that should be contested, like her son living with the next-door neighbor, instead of in his own home, is just weird, she says. Anything Patty Berglund doesn't like, "it's weird." The neighbor flicks cigarettes from her window into the baby pool below. Patty Berglund just says, "It's weird."

"Weird" no longer means oddly strange or not normal. Weird is a catch-all phrase for anything a person doesn't understand or agree with. "It's weird," a student told me. I thought she would tell me about a strange occurrence on the way to class, but she only meant her grade. "You gave me a C-."

Instead of, confused, or give me a reason, the epithet I get is weird.
"Awkward" deserves its own post. It's like weird in that it replaces what we'd rather say about a situation or unable to say, so we say weird or awkward instead. Everything is either weird or awkward. I think Franzen is keen to the usage of words, like weird, because the word becomes a substitute for whenever we rather not say what we would like to say, so we just say it's weird or awkward. It's similar to standing in front of a painting at a museum and saying, "That's interesting." We know we like the painting. We just can't give words to what we feel. Weird works like this, but it masks a moral attitude. Patty could have said the neighbor was sociopathic, or mean, or just plain bad. But it's weird. Nothing beyond weird was in her vocabulary. She avoids placing moral blame on an action by substituting right or wrong, just or unjust, with weird.

The word has taken on a moral ambiguity that Franzen links to a propensity to choose not naming an action for what it is out of fear of being labeled weird. By taking the weird stance, I protect myself from being weird.

Anything that threatens becomes weird. Weird is the neologism that defines fear of otherness. Building a Muslim Community Center in Tribecca? That's just weird.

Then there's "apparently." This adverb is everywhere in speech patterns I've overheard. It's supposed to be a useful way to suggest an inductive conclusion based on surface knowledge. "Jorge apparently had not studied because his answer sheet was blank when he turned it in to the teacher."

If something is apparent, it means I know it to be true only at the level of appearance.
People use the word incorrectly to talk about events that are known. "The J train's not running, apparently." Is it running or not? There is no "apparent" in sight. The word insinuates suspicion of a claim on certainty when no such suspicion is necessary. It's weird!

10.9.10

Photograph: After School in Williamsburg

Boys walk on the street after school in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Satmar Hasidic Jewish schoolboys walk home after school in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn.
image credit: Greig Roselli © 2010

24.5.10

What I Eavesdropped at a Recent High School Graduation

In this post, I write about what I overheard at a high school graduation I attended.
The Author as a High School Graduate
At a recent high school graduation, an honors student receives recognition for a music and science scholarship. A parent in the row behind mine, says, "That's interesting, but, what do you do with music and science? Nothing, I guess."

If we need another example of anti-intellectualism in America - there you go.

Or, it could be just ignorance. Legitimately, maybe she did not how music and science can inter-relate.

However she sussed out the situation for herself, it was still a dim reminder to me to of how much my job is often looked at askance - or in a larger view - the often conflicted view Americans have of education.