Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “teaching”

Word Nerd Confessions: September 2020


Traditionally the month of September signifies the end of summer vacation and the return to school. September 2020 is the year of trying to attempting to educate during a pandemic. This month’s list seems to reflect an opinion on that essential issue. It’s indeed peculiar how the words happened to line up in this theme.

barmecidal: giving only the illusion of plenty

operose: done with or involving much labor

elide: to suppress; omit; pass over

slubber: to perform hastily or carelessly

outre: passing the bounds of what is usual or considered proper; unconventional; bizarre

horripilation: a bristling of the hair on the skin from cold, fear; goose bumps

strepitous: boisterous; noisy

chutzpah: audacity; nerve

oppidan: urban

peripeteia: a sudden turn of events

mythomane: a person with a strong or irresistible propensity for fantasizing, lying, or exaggerating

fettle: state; condition

blench: to shrink; flinch

cacoethes: an irresistible urge; mania

moil: to work hard; drudge

muzz: to confuse (someone)

moue: a pouting grimace

fardel: a bundle; a burden

succedaneum: a substitute

lassitude: weariness of body or mind from strain, oppressive climate; lack of energy; listlessness

stonking: used to emphasize something remarkable, exciting, or very large (thanks to Fiction Fan’s Book Reviews inspiring use)

Word Nerd Confessions: Confused and Misused


Affect or effect? Is it all right or alright? Was it a blatant or flagrant mistake?

This month’s focus is from
100 Words Almost Everyone Confuses & Misuses (American Heritage Dictionary)

Using the right word correctly is part art and part science. Knowing the word’s definitions is a start.

Affect: transitive verb 1. simulate, as in “He affected a suave demeanor with his knowledge of lexicon usage.” 2. to show a liking for, as in “She affects huckleberry gelato.” 3. to tend by nature, as in “We read how the weather affects health.”4. to imitate or copy: “Spenser, in affecting the ancients, writ no language (Ben Jonson, Timber) 5.to have an influence on as in “The rain affects the tourist economy.” 6. to attack or infect, as in “Pollen can affect allergies in spring.”

Affect: noun 1. feeling or emotion, as in “The music was selected for its thrill of affect.”2. obsolete

Now that affect is squared away, let’s get effect squared away:

Effect: noun 1. a result, as in “Every negative comment has a lasting effect on the final vote.” 2. influence, as in “The child’s laughter had an immediate effect on the crowd.” 3. advantage, as in “The teacher used the rainbow as a positive effect of the rainstorm.” 4. a scientific law 5. a condition on full force, as in “The hands free cell phone policy goes into effect July 1.” 6. creating an impression, as in “The tall ceiling effects the sense of dimension.” 7. basic meaning, as in “He said he would never return, or words to that effect.”

Why are affect and effect confused and misused? For one, they sound the same and are nearly spelled the same. However, affect is a primarily a verb, while effect is primarily a noun (it can be used as a verb as in producing a result: “The change is primarily effected by the mixing of breeds.”

No wonder there is confusion. Try to remember if it is an action (affect/verb) or a noun (effect), as in “The abundant harvest affected the workers in a way of relieving them of worry for the upcoming winter, which created an lasting effect of peace and assurance.”

Affect/effect is a major contender for the confused and misused category. Here are a few other entries:

All right/Alright. All right is the correct and accepted spelling, at least formally. Some confusion may arise since words like, altogether and already are in use and accepted, which seems to clear the usage of alright—but it’s not correct. We don’t say “meese” for the plural of moose because we say geese for the plural of goose.

Blatant/Flagrant. These are not interchangeable. Blatant means noisy or fail to hide while flagrant focuses on the intended wrongdoing. While blatant is often used to mean “obvious,” this is not an accepted usage. The sentence, “Sam admitted to his blatant lie” should be changed to “Sam admitted to his flagrant lie” since flagrant refers to being offensive rather than it being unpleasantly loud. Although if Sam screamed his lie at the top of his lungs maybe it is a case for being a blatantly flagrant fib.

Capital is the official recognized city government.

Capitol is a building where the state legislature convenes.

Complement completes, as in “The added mushrooms complements the stew ingredients.”

Compliment is to praise, as in “The diner complimented the chef’s ability to create a sumptuous lamb stew by adding mushrooms.

A council is an assembly of people who deliberate, while counsel is advice. I imagine those involved in the council receive counsel regarding their decisions.

Fewer/less. Ah, the quick checkout dilemma. Fewer is used when counting things, as in “There were fewer than five pizza slices.” Less is used in reference to mass of measurable content, as in “There is less than a quart of ice cream left.” So when at the grocery store and you are looking to quickly checkout with your handful of items, select the line that has the sign stating, “15 items or fewer.”

PET PEEVE ALERT

A. Hopefully it won’t rain on Saturday’s picnic.”

B. “It’s hoped it won’t rain on Saturday’s picnic.”

Which is the correct sentence? If you chose B you would please the lexiconical folk. If you selected A, you are among the majority. While A is most frequently used, it is not considered acceptable by grammarians—not really clear on why, but as in the way of most of our language. Note:once it becomes widely used it becomes accepted, just look at how “their” is now embraced as a singular pronoun instead of a plural one. I had to finally let my teacher red ink dry on that one.

Inflammable/flammable both mean easily ignited. Nonflammable indicates not being able to catch on fire. Don’t let the “in” prefix fool you.

Irregardless—don’t go there. This is a blunder. It might be a blend of irrespective and regardless but it is nonstandard, so walk away. Stay with regardless.

UPDATE: Webster’s Dictionary has acquiesced and has recently added irregardless to the dictionary—I wonder if usage or peer pressure is the deciding factor.

Lay/Lie. Quick and easy: lay is a transitive verb and takes a direct object (noun) (think what was laid)—“He laid the letter (what) on the desk.”

Lies is an intransitive verb and does not take a direct object, as in “Auntie lies down after working in the garden.” There is no noun, direct object—lie is the stated verb of action. *Sigh* I’m still working on this one.

PET PEEVE ALERT

“I could literally scream until I am red in the face the way people pop literally into their sentences.“

Nope. Literally used as an intensive is incorrect since it means to be taken in truth. If I screamed until my face turned red I best be heading to the ER for a possible heart attack commencing, because that is a fairly intense reaction. I should be using virtually or figuratively instead. The next time you hear a sentence like, “I laughed so hard I literally thought my insides would burst” I suggest one of the above substitutes or maybe a dust pan.

And last of all is the old favorite: A principle is a statement or belief of truth and a principal is the leader of the school—think of him as your pal, who wants to impart truths while you are at school.

Hopefully this cleared up some of the confusion; irregardless if I muddled up the explanations, I literally tried so hard to make it clear that my brains nearly fried.

I wouldn’t lay, um, lie about my intended affect on your attaining greater knowledge.

[Ha—Wordpress has yet to perfect their auto correct].

Bard Bits: May


I managed to go to school without any experience with Shakespeare (yeah, how did that happen?) I can easily relate to my student’s bewilderment when we begin our drama unit. Freshmen study Romeo and Juliet, sophomores experience Julius Caesar, juniors skip Shakespeare to study American Literature (The Crucible), and depending on the teacher, students have a range of selection from an overview of the comedies to a dive into tragedy with Merchant of Venice, Hamlet, or Macbeth.

I am usually prepared for groans from my sophomores when I announce we are studying Shakespeare. “Not again!” “We did him last year.” “Shakespeare is so boring.” Instead of coming up with excuses and defending our Wily Bard of Stratford, I agree with them. This gets me some interesting looks–most def.

I do agree with my students. Shakespeare can be boring, or at least his plays were until I got the hang of them. Watching, let alone reading the plays, was painful to endure, and I felt I could never get anywhere, no matter how hard I tried. Then again, learning how to ski was painful, and I wondered if I would ever get down the mountain without a initiating a yard sale. Hmm, I should use this analogy with my students since they have grown up with a mountain in their backyard.

Here are two thoughts on Shakespeare:

“I am more easily bored with Shakespeare, and have suffered more ghastly evenings with him, than with any dramatist I know.” Peter Brook, English theatre director

“We find Shakespeare boring because we’re lazy. We’re not willing to get through the language. That’s the only barrier. If a play is performed right by those who are properly trained, after about twenty minutes you won’t be aware of the language because the human story is so strong.” –David Suchet, actor

What are your experiences with Shakespeare? Bored, frustrated, from having to endure year after year of his plays in school? Perhaps initially bored, but then the story unfolds and the words are no longer a barrier and serve as a contribution to the experience? Or maybe you grew to appreciate him with time and experience?

One of my standout memories of teaching my favorite play, Hamlet–sorry, I do mention that often, don’t I?–is after we wrapped up the unit, one student, from my regular, not AP class, stayed behind. “You know I’m going to miss discussing Hamlet, I really got to like this play.” He grew thoughtful. “I can’t discuss Shakespeare with my father.”

I never discussed Shakespeare with my father either. But I sure discuss him with my own children when I get the chance. Shakespeare boring? Not for long. Hang in there, dig in your poles, don’t cross your ski tips, and you will enjoy the thrill of going from snowplow to slalom. That applies to skiing as well.

April: National Poetry Month


April is National Poetry Month and is a time when I spotlight poetry as I teach. This year adjustments have to be made, but that doesn’t stop me from sharing a few of my favorite poems. The first one on my list is from Emily Dickinson.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers – (314)

by EMILY DICKINSON

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

Hope is just that: small, yet resilient, able to stay strong even in a tempest.

We are definitely in a tempest these days, and I pray that little voice of hope remains strong and provides the sweetness and surety that it will be heard.

Take care–
Pam

Igniting a Discussion on Happiness


In my day job as an AP teacher I have the privilege of introducing students to literary works of merit. I look forward to their insights and perspectives.

Image result for f451 images are you happy

We have just begun Ray Bradbury’s classic dystopian tale of government control: Fahrenheit 451. This deceptively easy read contains complicated topics. One discussion topic is happiness. Guy Montag is not a happy fireman, or at least he was one until Clarisse asked him, “Are you happy?”

Image result for f451 images are you happy

So I put it to my students a discussion statement prompted by Clarisse: “Happiness is a choice, not a given.”

A lively discussion developed with a split between total agreement and a few who decided happiness was a complicated issue and they couldn’t come to complete agreement about it.

I then prompted them with this question: “What is the difference between happiness and joy?”

Their conclusions were opposite of my mine.

They said: “Happiness is long lasting, while joy is a temporary emotion.”

Hmm, I’ve always reckoned it to be the opposite. Happiness is a temporary state, dependent on outside circumstances, yet joy lives deep in our being, dwelling in our soul.

Nope. They didn’t buy that. Maybe I did have it wrong. I proceeded in the course of action that all teachers must do when wondering if what they are teaching to their students is baloney. I Googled it.

This is what I found: Joy or Happiness?

What are your thoughts? Is happiness dependent on outside circumstances? Does joy stem from emotional contentment from within?

Interestingly enough Guy Montag, F451’s protagonist, upon realizing he is not happy begins making decisions involving enormous collateral damage. Joy is never mentioned as Guy Montag seeks happiness. Does he find happiness or joy? I will have to reread it and decide if he actually did. And that’s why F451 remains a classic—it keeps asking the reader questions after the last page is turned.

Image result for joy vs happiness
What are your thoughts about joy vs happiness?

Timely Trials


November is a conundrum, being a month that offers a mixture of pleasantries and of trauma.

First off, how can one hour wreak absolute havoc? The bonus of getting extra sleep when setting the clock back one hour quickly becomes a bad trade off since my body clock doesn’t easily adjust.

I’m one of those people who doesn’t need to set an alarm clock. No matter when I go to bed I wake up at 5 am. Sleeping in is an ideal, not a reality. DST now creates the dilemma of the time read on my bedside table blaring “4 am” in red LED numerals. Gah.

It takes until spring, about the time we spring forward, that my body clock reconciles the hour difference.

Another November trial is PTC—Parent Teacher Conferences. Our district provides two nights (after working a full day) where teachers are available to parents. As much as I enjoy meeting parents, it’s a tough schedule, especially since that hour sleep deprivation is amplified by a week. I hope parents don’t think their student’s teacher is a zombie because after a week of disturbed sleep cycle I am definitely feeling zombi-ish.

Fortunately, the long two days trades out nicely as it applies to two days off which coincides with Thanksgiving week. Having a week off after PTC while dealing with DST having graded a stack of SPRPs (Senior Project Research Papers) is definitely appreciated.

And I do enjoy thanksgiving. No holiday shopping hype. No endless rounds of obligatory events to attend. No gifts to stress about. Nope. Food, friends, family. Now, that’s what I call a grand holiday.

One another aspect of November that is irksome is the night factor. Having the sunset earlier and earlier each night means driving home in the dark which initiates the feeling I’m working the swing swift in the coal mines. After working inside all day stepping outside into the light is a necessity. Good thing D3 is inexpensive and I thank whomever for inventing the Happy Light.

perpetuating a perceived reality

November also begins the season which features that four letter word, and its presence stays among us much too long in the area of which I call home. Shiver, shudder, and grumble.

So—November is a bit of a trial, yet knowing there is a pumpkin pie waiting for me at the end of the month makes losing sleep, grading papers, working two twelve hour days, and dealing with that which shall not be named, a bit easier to swallow.

Shakespeare Celeb:As You May Like It


As this tribute to Shakespeare winds up, I’m wondering how Shakespeare best fits in your life. Yes, your life. You are either reading this post because you are interested in Shakespeare or because you are a Cricket Muse follower and are tolerating these  incessant Bard posts because they automatically pop up in your feed. Or perhaps it’s what Star Lord said:

Image result for guardians of the galaxy a bit of both

How do you like your Shakespeare?

Plays? These come in the variety of Globe traditional, high school productions, professional troupes, creative adventuresome adaptations:

Image result for globe theatre Image result for high school shakespeare

Image result for royal shakespeare company           Image result for creative shakespeare play adaptations

Film adaptations? These appear in Branagh style with polish and high production value, or campy or modernized or foreign or really, really so bad, or really, really so good.

shakespeare adaptations

No comments on what I consider to be the good, bad, or ugly. Everyone has their own tastes in film.

How about reading the play? Shakespeare didn’t publish his plays to be read. He didn’t even have scripts for his players,* for fear of having his plays stolen and presented elsewhere (no copyright laws then). Today we have the opportunity to study Shakespeare through a vast choice of quick online summaries that make Shakespeare almost painless to understand (though the music of his language is definitely stilled by transposing it to modern comprehensibility). There are scholarly publications, first hand discovery accounts, guided tours for students. Even graphic novels.

No fear Shakespeare is available online and in book form at barnesandnoble.com.

Image result for shakespeare bloom critiques Image result for shakespeare saved my life

Image result for shakespeare for students  Graphic Shakespeare

Do you perhaps browse the internet looking for enlightening approaches to Shakespeare?

If you are still thinking Shakespeare is “meh” then maybe David Tennant can convince you otherwise:

*Historical interjection: they were called “players” because they were “playing” the part, usually a young boy playing the part of a girl, which stems from Greek theatre when men played females. This also go with the line from As You Like It when Jacques says in his speech “all the world’s a stage and the men and women are merely players.” It would have been different if he had said “actors” wouldn’t it?

I hope this month of dedicated Shakespeare has enlightened you to his amazingness, that it has at least entertained you, or has swayed you to joining the ranks of becoming a Bardinator. Adieu, adieu, for now until next month…

Word Nerd Confessions: October


No sooner than I share out some of my treasured lexicon than they multiple whilst my back is turned. Scamperous little verbiage. Well, let’s shake out their nest and see what we can find:

bravura

When we jump out and wildly applaud the artist shouldn’t we be shouting “bravura” instead of “bravo”? Hmm, needs investigating…

plantigrade

I didn’t realize we had this in common with bears.

pellucid

Okay, next excellent essay I grade shall have the distinction of “pellucid”–that should rock the writer…

turophile

Cheese, Grommit.

stanchless

Oh, yes. This perfectly describes the high school hallway conversations between classes.

scrutator

I can see why this one is not in popular use.

sennight

Nope. Never heard of this one. Fortnight, yes. Sennight nope. Does the senate meet in a sennight?

 

A Cat Named Atticus


I will admit it: I am officially in countdown mode. 

Once Memorial Day weekend arrives it’s just a matter of reviewing for finals and finalizing grades. 

This is also the time of year that I begin to reflect upon the overall. The usual introspective “Was I effective as a teacher?” thing that often ends up with the “Maybe I should look into retirement” nudges.

Yes, there were plenty of successes: students embracing the new research paper format; scores for state testing going beyond stated requirements (at least in one class); finding lost papers.

Yet, I dwell upon those perceived failures: that one class, that one student, that one unit that didn’t quite, that didn’t quite–that, well, wasn’t quite a success.

Maybe retirement would be a good idea.

Thoughts like that prompt me towards a library run and lunch out. And that’s when I am handed a providential reprieve. 

In a small town like ours it is inevitable I run into students, both present and former. They bag my groceries, fill up my water glass, complete my Penney’s purchase, and serve my food. This one I couldn’t remember her name, or if I actually had her as a student. So I feign the friendly, “Hey, how’s it going?” 

Then the question pops up: “Do you still teach English?” 

I guess I do look like I’m retired. We talk as she wraps up my purchase. She was in my class when I taught freshmen (that was a ways back). I wonder silently if she gained anything from the class. Five years ago…That’s going back a ways. Then she says, “I remember we read To Kill a Mockingbird.” I wait for her reflection, her possible judgement. “I named my cat Atticus.”

A cat named Atticus. 

Yup, I can put off retirement for at least one more year.


image:sportsmagazine.net

Shakespeare Knew Unrest


Peggy O’Brian, director of education, of the Folger, queries how former Folgerians are doing from time to time. Seeing the Folger is neighbors with many prominent Washington DC power sources, such as the Supreme Court, her question holds some resonance of consideration.

I paused and thought. How are we doing? The “we” for me being the school environment because school is a large part of my life and serves as a reflection of how the world out there is affecting the lives of present and future citizens: students. I will say this: there is unrest and concern.

Here is my partial response to Peggy’s question:

We are feeling the bite of unrest. Students are forming clubs that reflect their need to express their views. We have a club that celebrates the 50.5%, formed by young women (and young men). Another club is the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, young men who want to explore what it means to be a male in today’s society. We also have Interact and Key Club, which reaches out with fundraisers to meet the needs of the community. The administration has a mentor class of student peers who lead discussion groups.

Class discussion topics for my AP Language class bring forth interests such as “fake news,” and how women are portrayed in the media. Students exchange ideas and debate views. We share. I remind them their voices can be heard. They march. They write letters and articles for the school paper. They are involved. I am fortunate to be part of their conscious desire to be the change they want to see in the world.

And in all this, I keep teaching Shakespeare. He saw injustice, corruption, love, hate, death, prejudice and he put pen to paper, and words became actions upon the stage. Students see that 400 years later we still have the same issues, even if they are expressed in a different manner at times. My students see that one man continues to have a large influence upon the world. Shakespeare truly is a man for all time.

Shakespeare is one way I illustrate how times of unrest are reflected through the arts. And it’s frightening to learn that funding for the arts is being threatened.

I’m hoping our voices will be heard up on the Capitol’s hill that the arts are important and the people want them to remain a vibrant voice.

We especially need our voices to be heard in times of unrest.

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