Monday, January 25, 2016

English Teacher Musings

- I posted a meme on FB a while back that has a bunch of words misspelled -- errors like "could of" instead of "could've," that kind of thing. One of my friends LOL'd it and commented that for me to read that must be like someone with perfect pitch listening to a tone-deaf person sing. Oh, my goodness . . . nailed it.

- Speaking of memes, my husband and I were just commenting on that word yesterday: meme. What a weird word it is. Wondering where in the world it came from. Amazed that it has suddenly become such a commonly used term when it seemed to come out of nowhere a couple years ago.

- And not only is a texting term like "LOL" common in everyday usage anymore, but I just used it as a verb. Language evolution is fascinating.

- And speaking of language evolution, I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that the word "whom" is just going to fade away in the next hundred years or so. Someday, people will read literature and documents from our time and react to the word "whom" the way we react to the word "thou." What does that mean? Why did people talk so weird back then? Old English -- pah.

- I rarely get to choose the literature I teach in my English classes, and I've decided I don't really want that responsibility. Do you know how much literature there is out there? Good, meaningful, influential, classic literature? A whole heck of a lot. Even though I'm given the curriculum to teach at my school, I get to choose what my homeschooled daughter reads for English, and sometimes it's overwhelming. I want her to read everything.

- "Theme" is one of the story elements that I teach in my literature classes, and the definition we give for it is "the statement about life that an author wants to convey in his/her story." Only that's not entirely accurate . . . because sometimes the theme isn't necessarily a statement. It's just a topic. The story addresses the theme of "conformity," but the author may not be making a clear statement about that topic as much as just wanting us to think more about it. And sometimes an author writes something with no particular "theme" in mind at all -- just writing a good story. Nevertheless, if it is a good story, we readers find a theme. Because this is one of the aspects of our being made in the image of God -- this ability and need to search for meaning.

- I emphasized (with italics) the modifier good with regards to a story. Not all stories are good. And by that, I don't mean that not all stories are entertaining or enjoyable. Those factors are a matter of personal preference, really. But I think we can come up with criteria for what makes a story good, or at least better than another. I don't know what that definition is . . . but I heard one a while back that I thought was a good start to the conversation anyway: good stories, even if they are fictional stories, are TRUE. They express truth. They show us truth. Even if that truth is the ugliness of reality.

- Good stories must have some universal appeal about them, too. Something that rings true in all people, whatever culture they come from.

- An old friend once talked about a play (and therefore, a story) having value if there is a redemptive quality to it. I like that, too.

- When I taught public school twenty-some years ago, every year, I had some smart aleck kid who would declare that literature can mean anything you want it to mean. This declaration usually came sometime in January or February, which was handy because it would be cold enough for me to have my winter coat in the classroom. I would ask my students what color my coat was. Some would say green, some blue, some greenish-blue, some blueish-green, some teal, some aqua . . . we even sometimes discussed how next to a blue wall it would look more green and next to a green wall it would look more blue. I explained to them that any of those answers could be correct, depending on your perspective, your background, your prior knowledge and vocabulary . . .

But if anyone said my coat was hot pink, that was WRONG. Just because there may be more than one acceptable answer to a question doesn't mean any answer is acceptable.

And yes, that shut the smart alecks up, believe it or not. I should've kept that coat just for those purposes. Too many smart alecks in our world need shutting up.

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