Posted in Education

Why English?

Personally I think English class is the most interesting and widely relevant subject taught in schools, but it can tend to get the rep of being boring and not useful. Today I tried to convince my students that English class is still useful for them even if they already speak English “correctly”. I do this discussion every year, but this year I had the added benefit of having a textbook that explicitly explains why English skills, such as analyzing literature and critical thinking, are important in a Biblical context.

Rundown of the lesson: We started with a five minute writing prompt answering the question “why study English?”. Then students read the preface to their literature book, which explained how Paul used his knowledge of literature to talk with the people who had a monument to an unknown God. Students were instructed to write what they thought was the main idea of the preface on a tiny sticky note. Next we watched a clip from John Greene’s spiel about why we read literature. He basically states that reading helps us develop empathy. Finally students reflected on how the skills from English class could help them in their future jobs.

Overall I think it got most students thinking. Hopefully it will convince them to pay just a bit of attention. An added bonus is that I got to talk with them about their aspirations.

Posted in Writing

A Drowning Language

Since I will hopefully be standing in front of an English class in the fall, the English language is on my mind quite a bit lately. The question that prevails is: Is the English language suffering or dying? Are we losing precision in our language? Will students know how to communicate properly in the coming years? My hopes are “I sure hope not,” “Hopefully it can be salvaged,” and “I sure will try to make sure they can.”

When I look back over my school days, I am thankful for the teachers I had over the years who taught me how to communicate properly and encouraged me to write. I am also thankful for my mom who shared words with me through a love of reading. I can’t say I always enjoyed those seemingly long grammar workbook assignments, nor did I enjoy giving speeches in front of the class, but both of those arduous tasks gave me skills that I hope to share with students in the future.

I have several friends who use “text talk” (thankfully most of them use it sparingly and still maintain correct spelling), and the other day I was looking at the phrase “lol”. Firstly, I must say this phrase is overused to the point that I’m not sure people really consider what it means before typing it. Of course, I may be no better because I use the emoticon ūüôā quite frequently myself. I just somehow doubt that the texter is laughing out loud in some moments. Regardless, I was looking at the set of letters and noticed it kind of looks like someone drowning and crying out for help.


Maybe I can help you see what I’m seeing.


It seems as if the “lol” is a cry of the language saying “Help me! I’m drowning!” No, I don’t think the language is a lost cause yet, but if we don’t send out some rescue boats very soon, the language as we know will be drowned by misspellings, text talk, and emoticons. Students will no long know how to use colorful language, in the sense of varying adjectives, to describe their thoughts. Instead, they will resort to “lol” instead of “that is hilarious” or “you tickle my funny bone”.

On a related note, I watched a TedTalk about the overuse of the words “good” and “bad”, which reminded me of elementary teachers who used to tell us “said is dead” in order to persuade us to vary the words to describe words that come out of someone’s mouth. The premise of this video is that there are so many other words we can use to describe our emotions, our food, our day, or any other way that we use “good” or “bad”. I found myself examining my words, and the words of people around me. How often does someone say “How are you?” and your response is “good.”? Do you describe your food as “good” or “bad”? I know there are other, more colorful words. Let’s use them! My theory is that by using better adjectives more conversation will be sparked and deeper connections will be built. Just imagine someone’s face when, instead of saying the dinner they cooked is “good,” you say it’s “superb”. What a compliment! Now I do agree that there are times when “good” and “bad” have their use. Things, situations, and people can be “good” or “bad”, just not all the time. Let’s liven up our language before it drowns.

These two small changes to the way we write and speak could make a difference in our communication skills, and they don’t even ask you to crack open a grammar book or think about commas. Do yourself a favor: buy a thesaurus and see what sort of precise colorful language you can use next time you send an e-mail or compose a text message. Surprise someone with the word “loquacious” or “splendid”.



Posted in Education, Literature

I’m a [proud] bookworm.

English class almost always proves to be quite thought provoking. Today, in the second half of the class the professor proposed two questions:

Why do you read and value literature?

Why do you study literature?

I did not get a chance to answer during class, but I still have thoughts about these two questions in conjunction with one another. I see them as very different questions. I began reading at a very young age and continued probably to fill time. I was also interested in the story and the people in the books. I remember as a young reader having the bad habit of reading only the dialogue of novels and skimming the rest. Thankfully I’ve grown past that to appreciate all of the text. Now when I read for leisure, I still enjoy the story and the characters but for slightly different reasons. Now, the enjoyment comes from living another life, if even for a brief few pages. For example, a few weeks ago I was reading The Fault in Our Stars (John Green)It was one of those books and nights where I just could not stop reading (I knew that if I didn’t finish it that weekend reading for class would take over and I would never finish it). By the time I came up for breath, I was startled to find I was still in my bed. It was such a well written book I felt that I had actually traveled with the characters. Those are the moments I read to experience. 

Studying literature did not become a passion of mine until late high school maybe even early college. I knew I wanted to teach English but I didn’t truly appreciate studying literature until a while after that. Now I enjoy my English classes because I enjoy the puzzle of figuring out a good novel. I find myself trying to make connections to other works and analyzing characters even when I’m not reading for classes. I can’t read a book without a crayon in hand (or paper and pencil if I’m reading from a library copy). Anything I read, I find great passages that speak to me or that give me some clue and I want to annotate it. It excites me to figure out what social statement the author is really making with a piece of fiction. I even have an unfinished timeline of literature hanging next to my bed (it was there to study for the Praxis but now I just like to look at it). Studying literature has taught me much more about history or science than I have learned in those type of classes. 

What can I say? I’m a book worm.

Posted in Education

The Chitter Chatter Needs to Stop

I just finished teaching the opening to Dorian Gray to a senior English class.  Today I was not super nervous, because I had a plan and I knew what to expect.  Little did I know that I would get there and the teacher wouldn’t be there.  It was a sub.  Okay.  New person to watch me.  Thankfully, this sub was nice, knew the majority of the students, and didn’t interfere too much.  It went okay.

My biggest issue was talking.  I can’t seem to keep them from talking.  I wonder if I shouldn’t have moved some of the students away from each other, but that probably would have caused a bigger battle.

So for those of you who are teachers, have teacher minds, or have seen great teachers, any advice about managing the chatter level in a classroom would be greatly appreciated.

It doesn’t help that some of the students had not read nor did they have they books.

Somehow we made it through the hour.  Now to see how they did on the quizzes.

Posted in Literature

Reading Difficult Literature

This semester I have been reading quite a bit of philosophy and older literature. ¬†Usually I struggle through these dense writings which are full of large words, complex sentences, and huge paragraphs. ¬†This year though I am able to read authors such as Seneca, Whitman, Emerson, Aristotle, and other authors with little difficulty it seems. ¬†Yes, there have been those times when I haven’t quite gotten through an assigned reading, but that usually happens because of poor planning. ¬†I want to share a few tips that I feel like are helping me get through the literature that is out of my comfort zone.

1. Take notes. ¬†I used to be a strictly notes in the margin kind of girl, but now I am taking notes in notebooks. It helps me be able to go back after I’m finished and glean out a big idea for the entire piece. ¬†This also helps when I’m in class and looking for a particular quotation.

2. Use page numbers in your notes.  It seems like common sense, but I sometimes forget and then the quotes or summaries of what I read are useless to me when reading a large piece of writing.

3. Break it down. Rather than trying to read it all in one sitting, I am attempting to carry books with me everywhere I might have a chance to read.

4. Outline.  I kinda sorta outline what the author is writing to help get the big picture in my head.

5. Re-read. ¬†Sometimes this is necessary in order to understand. ¬†It’s time consuming but it can be helpful.

6. Watch the movie, read the Sparknotes, Google it. ¬†Sometimes it’s hard to just get into a piece of literature. ¬†Use those resources and find a way to get into the idea. ¬†Don’t use this a crutch to not read it though.


Okay I should stop this list right now and read Walden.  Happy reading!

Posted in Holidays

Thankfulness: It’s Easy as ABC.

Wow.  How have I neglected my blog for so long?

Today is Thanksgiving and I am currently located at my grandma’s house.¬† So far, I have ate a lot of food, watched two movies, played a lot of card games…yeah that’s about it.¬† I haven’t even thought about schoolwork or work or my future.¬† It’s been a nice break, but now I would like to delve back and do a little writing, even if it is just for this blog.

Since today is Thanksgiving, I think I would like to do what everyone else does: talk about what they’re thankful for.¬† A few years ago, I did something challenging yet meaningful to me.¬† I’m not sure where it went, but I remember creating a list of things I am truly thankful for using the alphabet.¬† Now I know it’s not really creative, but it’s what I do.¬† Here’s goes.

Apple- I do like apples, but I really just feel like every alphabet list starts with A is for apple.

Books, even if I have to read a lot for class

Chocolate- it keeps me sane


Education- it’s almost free for me


God- he should be at the top

Hello- that’s the first way to make a new friend

Inquisitiveness- it makes the world a better place


Keeper Friends- those friends that stick with me


Men- they are necessary for survival.

New and Old Movies

Oranges but not orange.


Quilts on my bed

Roxie- my car gets me from point A to point B


Troubles- they make me stronger

Umbrellas- no matter how hard I try I just can’t walk between the raindrops

Vitamin C

Weather Variety

X-ray vision- okay no I don’t have that.

Youth- 1 Timothy 4:12

Zoos- they do keep endangered species alive.

Posted in Education

MY HOPE FOR THE WORLD (as a teacher)

My education teachers keep asking me what my “hope for the world” is and I keep coming up with something that sounds good at the moment because I honestly don’t know what to say.  I have never really thought about this.  I don’t like those questions that ask “if you could change one thing in the world, what would it be.”  Gah!  Those annoy me.  I don’t really have any desire to change the whole entire world.  I could take the approach that I want to change the world one student at a time, but really I just want to teach them English.  Period.

Not a very good hope for the world.  I can’t really tell my teacher that because then she’d ask why I want to teach them English and why that is more important that math per say (which it is by the way).

So my hope for the world (or what I have decided so far):  As a teacher, I want to teach my students to think for themselves and value their own opinion.  This stems from my own life where I haven’t always felt comfortable talking aloud in certain classes.  Sometimes it is the setup of the room, others it is the teacher, and sometimes it is the students that make me feel inadequate or uncomfortable with sharing my opinion on certain subjects.  When I have my own classroom, I want to make it so that students feel comfortable sharing their thoughts.  I also want students to think their own ideas.  Too many times, there seems to be a “correct answer” in English classes when interpreting literature and I am not sure how this is determined.  Unless the answer come directly from the author, how can anyone know why an author included a specific part of any piece of writing.

In return I hope that these skills cause my students to value others, be who they are, and turn out to be the best that they can be.  Best is individualistic though, because I cannot determine what is the best for any person.  Each person must determine that for themselves and even that may take some time and searching.  My job is to help give each student opportunities to search for what is their best and to show them how to value what others do as well.