Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Keep Calm and Head to an English Class
Well social media has been a blast lately am I right? From the overused Minion memes, (that quite frankly are just weird), to the comments section where on any given day you can find an expletive laden, misspelled, insulting, all in caps “rebuttal” to an article, one thing has become quite apparent to me. Everyone needs to calm down and take a really great high school English class. Why? Glad you asked dear reader, read on!
I’ve been teased for a few years over my insistence that grammar needs to be correct, even when on Facebook. Which is fine, I don’t mind being called the Grammar Snob. However recently someone who loves me said that they were afraid I was looking elitist regarding my grammar.* (Specifically when I back up a friend on Facebook, and then someone who can barely spell or capitalize goes on the attack. I’ll admit I go for the jugular first-if you can’t be bothered with capitalization and you’re busy attacking anyone who has a different opinion that you, I will pick on your lack of capitalization.) And for a split second I was worried. Was I being a jerk? Should I not care that much about grammar? And then I smacked myself. Of course I should care! Writing is permanent. Sure, you can delete something, but when you take the time to write something, there’s a sense of importance, urgency even. (And yes this is also true for social media!) Why is it elitist when we insist on not only doing things correctly, but when we value people who are smart? In school we want to sound smart, so why does that change when we leave the classroom? Shouldn’t we try to act smart outside of the classroom?
Why else should we turn to ELA classes? For accountable talk stems. What? I’ll explain. Lately I’ve been using these great little stems in class for my more spirited classes; the students who will go to bat about Amir’s choices in The Kite Runner, or the students that can’t understand why Penelope’s dad is such a jerk in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian. (And yes, there are students out there that are this passionate about literature!) Everyone wanted their voice heard, and sometimes it would get a little heated. So I started handing out stems, and displaying stems. “I disagree because…” “I understand…” “So what __________ is saying is …”
At first I was afraid that my students would sound too wooden. However, it has given us mature, vibrant, and diverse discussions. Discussions where all ideas are shared, and where everyone feels they have value to add to the conversation. We need this outside the classroom. We need this in social media. Lately all we hear is how protesters are whiny, and locally we keep hearing such awful things about children that I won’t even repeat what is being said about them. Wouldn’t it be great if social media platforms had accountable talk stems pre-loaded in the comments section? Maybe as adults we could learn to speak as respectfully as my students. (They're teenagers by the way! Aren't they the ones who are supposed to be disrespectful?)
I became an English teacher because it was the coolest job out there where I could live in the world of writing, literature, and share that love with others. It also teaches us empathy. You can’t study To Kill a Mockingbird and not feel for Boo Radley. You can’t study Romeo and Juliet and not see how blind fighting accomplishes nothing. Or Night and see how devastating the Holocaust was. These are all stories I have taught, or will teach this year. I have had amazing conversations with students about the themes in these stories. I have seen students cry at the injustice these stories highlight. Online we see a barrage of nasty memes, we read comments that you wouldn’t dare say to someone in person, and hostility can run rampant. Online people seem to have lost their ability to empathize. Maybe as adults we should slow down and pick up a book every once in awhile.
Yes you can get all of this in an ELA class; grammar, how to speak with one another, and empathy. It’s a nice reminder for us as adults. Writing correctly isn’t only for the classroom, we can disagree without yelling, and sometimes we get so wrapped up with ourselves and our problems that we forget there’s a whole world out there with concerns and problems, and maybe a little empathy would go a long way. So keep calm and got to an ELA class.
’s a great deal for taxpayers.
*As for what spurred this entire post, I am not upset with the person who made the initial comment. In fact, when it was said it began with “I agree with you, but…”I just don’t want that person to read this and think I was upset!