Showing posts with label style. Show all posts
Showing posts with label style. Show all posts


May Teacher Journal: Teacher Gonna Teach Animated GIF

Year in Review
This year has been a pretty good year (at least in terms of my own professional development, what we (meaning my students and I) accomplished in the classroom, the environment we created to spend the year together, and the relationships we fostered).
Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Higher Education, Adult Education, Homeschooler, Not Grade Specific -
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In September, I started the year with a teaching schedule that was different from any teaching schedule I had ever been handed. I taught a Middle and High School Ethics class (a first for me), and I conducted a Research and Computer-based class with Sixth Graders - that on top of my regular duties as an English Language teacher. I also worked as an inclusion teacher, helping content-area teachers break down concepts so English Language Learners can more easily digest them (and learn them). I also took on the task of editing my school's weekly newsletter (which teachers contribute to, and I put together into a beautiful, sendable PDF document). Kids also roped me into performing in a play they wrote, and my school's Model United Nations club invited me to go with them to the Model UN conference at Cornell. I also got to chaperone a Spring Break fun trip to Nantucket Island in the great state of Massachusetts. Whew. It was a whirlwind of a year.
NEH Summer Scholar at Amherst College
This Summer, I will be a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Scholar - I am joining a cohort of fifteen or so other educators for a month at Amherst College. We're going to study the concept of reward and punishment, combing through several texts of acclaimed World Literature. I am so excited! Teachers often don't get a chance to read carefully important texts; nor, do we get a chance to discuss texts with other teachers in a professional environment (outside of our own classrooms). Be sure to check back here to learn about the program. 
The Year is Not Finished (YET)
I am not entirely finished the year - YET. We still have this week and next week for classes, and then we have a week of final exams, and later a week of end-of-the-year meetings. But I can see the finish line. One of my colleagues has a countdown in her classroom. Everyone is ready for the Summer - kids included. This is the month where kids get sick of each other, call each other awful names, and get into altercations. What is it about May and kids not getting along with each other? I am sure there must be a research study on this topic.

Are you a teacher? How has your month been going? I'd love to hear what is going on with you. Leave us a message in the comments.


On Realism and Strunk and White: Rule 16 On Writing

I write about, in this post, the famous book the Elements of Style - one of the few editorial style books to make it to the bestseller list.
I live by this rule of writing:
Rule 16: "Prefer the specific to the general, the definite to the vague, the concrete to the abstract" (pg. 21).
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Sad to say that I never once owned a copy of Strunk and White, the famed Elements of Style that completes the shelf of any writer (worth his salt).

Most of my adult life I lived amidst the company of other people's books. Now that I am free from the prescriptions of communal living I find myself purchasing books that I never in the past had to own. Strunk and White is one such book.


Why Clichés Are So Horrifying (with apologies to Paul Coker, Jr.)

In this post, I write about the use of clichés and how Mad Magazine illustrator Paul Poker pokes fun at them in back issues of the magazine.
What is a cliché?
A cliché is an overwrought phrase, like "it's raining cats and dogs" or "scared to death." At one time those phrases were unique and original but over time, well, they lost their original luster, and people just kinda keep using 'em. Clichés are the spam of language. Spam. Spam. Spam.
Why do we use clichés?
I could be cute and populate this post with overwrought clichés, but I am not. We use clichés, or stock phrases because we don't know what else to say. Instead of thinking through how we want to say something, we pull from the storehouse of ready-made phrases.

Clichés are like Hallmark cards for languages. Instead of coming up with a clever way to say good morning, we use a hallmark cliché, "What's up?"

Two decent examples
When was the last time you used the expression, "it's raining cats and dogs"? Did you notice when you said it you probably had no idea to why or how the expression "cats and dogs" has anything to do with rain? If you don't know the logic behind an expression then it's a sure sign it's cliché. She flew out of the office like a "bat out of hell" would be a nice simile if it hadn't been used ad infinitum since the first bat actually did fly out of hell - whenever that was.

Why Are Clichés So Horrifying?
Because clichés enervate language. That's why.

Cliché as Euphemism
At a funeral, we might use a form of cliché called euphemism (worn-out phrases used to mollify a situation or thought) say, "She's in heaven now," or "I'm sorry for your loss" instead of saying something poignantly creative, we use stock phrases so we don't have to think or feel. "Euphemism" is from the Greek for "good word" but I'd say, the best word is the one you articulate yourself, no matter how hokey.

Mad Magazine and Cliché
Growing up, I learned about clichés not from a grammar teacher, but from Mad Magazine. Paul Coker occasionally did a column for MAD called "Horrifying Clichés."

He would take a couple of stock phrases and draw what they would look like as monsters.

It was one of those MAD columns that were funny but educated in some weird MAD way. I'm sure the Usual Gang of Idiots approved because I think the column became popular. There are several anthologies of his work, like this one, The Mad Monster Book of Horrifying Clichés
image credit: "Trying to get rid of the sniffles" by Paul Coker, Jr.