Friday, January 28, 2011

A great summary of my position on pejorative epithets

Of course we don't allow students to use pejorative epithets in school.  (The original title of this post was "The real problem with epithets."  Then I remembered that epithets are a literary device commonly found in epic poetry.)  I fancy myself an intellectual, so until recently, when a student said, "What's wrong with calling someone 'gay'?", I would tell them in excruciating detail.  For the student, it probably sounded like: "Because when you zzzzz...."

Then I tried overcompensating the other way.  "Because I said not to.  It's my classroom, and I don't want to hear that kind of language.  When you have your own classroom, you can use whatever language your morals and your lawyers decide is acceptable."  "But..." "We can talk about it further in detention tomorrow evening, if you'd like.  But I'm done talking about it now."

But Ta-Nehisi Coates, an actual intellectual, one who writes quite intelligibly about the complicated state of race relations in the US, and in the meantime has a lot to say about language and how it's shaped by (and shapes) our thinking, has the perfect sentence.  It encapsulates both the ethics of my lecture, and the brevity of my discipline-based approach.  (It's even better, because it's shorter.)

"[...I]t's always wrong to treat individuals as a 'collection of others.'"

I think I'll get it on a T-shirt.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

NEA blogs!

That's the National Education Association, not the National Endowment for the Arts.

True story: My artist wife and her artist friends and I spent years casually dropping the NEA acronym in conversation, never realizing that one of us was talking about a completely different institution.

Anyway, as a faithful pawn of the Teachers' Union Uprising, I thought I should pass the word on.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Big ideas/little ideas

Big ideas:
  • Teamwork
  • Literature circles
  • Effective research
  • Cross-curricular writing portfolios (which also include spoken or visual presentations)
  • Communication as a tool for self-fulfillment, self-expression, self-reflection, and self-improvement
  • Communication as a tool for connecting and creating individuals and communities

Little ideas:
  • Non-academic vocabulary (50-cent words)
  • Grammar lessons
  • Responding to teacher-generated questions
  • Right and wrong answers in literature

I'm not saying that what I've labeled as "little ideas" are unimportant.  But I think they should build towards the big ideas.  The problem is that I spend all of my time thinking big ideas and acting little ideas.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

How to teach English

I tried embedding this into the blog itself, but it's not fitting. So instead, you get a link. My entire job, summarized in 7 panels.

h/t Jamie