Friday, March 27, 2009

The Evils of the Disintegration of the English Language as Brought About by Texting

Thx. G2G. LOL. ROTFL. OMG. Don't you hate texting lingo? Call me old-school, but I do. I can understand it (I knew every single one that I listed, for instance), but that doesn't mean that I have to agree with it. As they say, know your enemy.

What's wrong with abbreviating words to save time, some ask? It's more than abbreviating words to save time, in my opinion. It's slowly chipping away at the very foundations of the English language.

Besides, any one who has enough time to type out thousands of text messages a month--and "For a teenager to send thousands of text messages a month is not unusual," said John Johnson, a spokesman for Verizon Wireless (Washington Post)--could be spending their time more constructively, by volunteering at a soup kitchen or finishing homework.

For someone who doesn't even have a cell phone, I might seem a little too zealous about getting people to stop using text lingo. Why am I so fired up? It's all about writing. Teens are beginning to slip text lingo into their formal writing assignments. According to the USA Today, "two-thirds of teens admit in a survey that emoticons and other informal styles have crept in." Not only is this annoying to teachers, who have to decipher it, it's not conducive to their education. I was teaching a professional development session recently and a teacher who taught high school criminal justice mentioned that many of her students use texting lingo in their cases, which is worrying, not just because they're in school, but also because that's not something you can do in a court of law.

Some people say that text lingo is a shortcut. There are no shortcuts in life. Eventually, using text lingo will catch up with you and you'll have to take the long way home. But that's enough for now.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

On Teaching and Learning

By teaching, I think that I have cultivated a deeper awareness of learning. As I say at the end of my "kid's eye view of the classroom" professional development sessions for teachers, "Only when we know how we learn can we really know how to teach."

I see manifestations of this when I teach writing; I remember that I learned through imaginative, creative exercises, not a list of boring instructions. As a result, I try to apply the same principles--the importance of using creative exercises to teach a seemingly boring concept. One example of a typical type of persuasive test prompt is "During independent working time, your English teacher frequently plays soft, calming music which you would like to change. Write to convince your English teacher to play the kind of music you prefer as background for independent working time." Some argue that a "realistic" prompt is good practice for kids to use persuasive writing for something practical. But my argument is that, if you want to get kids excited about something like persuasive writing, you should not be focusing so much on practicality but rather on creativity. So when I'm teaching persuasive writing (and also how to speak to your audience's interests) I use prompts like "Aliens have decided to destroy Planet Earth. You have to persuade them to save your planet. P.S. They like chocolate, soccer, and sunny weather." This encourages kids to have a fun time, trying to think from the perspective of an alien, etc., so that they think less about how dumb persuasive writing is (not that it is!) and more about using persuasive writing techniques--and that will help them pass state tests.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Discrimination Against Short-Statured Persons in Public Places

Discrimination Against Short-Statured Persons in Public Places
(as experienced by the author)

Recently I have had my rights compromised. The unfortunate event occurred at Costco in Kirkland, WA. Being in close proximity to our house, Costco is one of many food-shopping destinations that we patronize. One of our favorite parts is getting samples from the many tables set up around the store. Actually, that’s what my sister and I spend the majority of our time in Costco doing. Sadly, Costco seems to enforce a hideous rule which does not allow children to get samples without parental accompaniment. I thought originally that this rule was created perhaps because the Costco administration was worried about allergies, but I suppose not, for when I went to get a sample of sweet potato French fries from a table, the grouchy lady (who, my sister noted with obvious glee, was of Asian descent) handing out samples said, “You need your parents!” I said that I didn’t have any allergies. She responded, “I don’t care if you have no allergies, you get your parents!” Needless to say, I did not return to that table.

Such a thing happened again later that hour. I was about to get a sample of an energy drink when the lady (who was considerably nicer about it) told me that I would need my parents. However, I was made doubly angry about this because my older sister, who is only 13 and thus still not an adult, was allowed to get the same drink without so much as a “wait a second.” It made my blood boil. So I dragged my mother over there and managed to get the sample.

This is yet another example of shameless discrimination against those of us who happen to be shorter than the general adult population, and one that I was determined not to just let go by. As a result, I wrote this blog post, and I hope that you will record any instances of similar things happening to you or others.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Poem Written with Videoconferencing Students in Pennsylvania

Here's a poem I wrote with videoconferencing students in Pennsylvania. I'd like to thank Carol, who pointed out that I originally spelled Pennsylvania incorrectly.

The poem below was inspired by the Plato quote (yes, they were smart kids to choose Plato!) "It is a common saying, and in everybody's mouth, that life is but a sojourn."


Life is a journey
On a very bumpy road
There's nature--trees and flowers
Rushing rivers and deer
Exploring, sometimes with fear.

Your guide is very trusty
(Made up of your dreams)
You may try new things along the way
Such as elephant polo
And a food like yogo.