They’re just little kids.

This semester has been a tough one for me. I’ve never been at the same job (except lifeguarding, but does that really count?) for more than three years. So when I started this year, among many other struggles, I knew that the sheer amount of time I’d spent doing this job would take a toll on me.

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I hate rows. But I love a quiet classroom.

Veteran teachers are probably laughing at me right now. My own mother is probably shaking her head saying, “Try 25 years with YOU and then tell me what struggles you have!” I know: 4 years is not that long. It’s a blink. It’s a gust of wind. It’s nothing. But, to a blossoming new teacher, it’s quite a bit of time.

Perhaps I’m a self-fulfilling prophecy, but since day one I’ve been tired. I’m tired of these kids’ attitudes. I’m tired of the bull-crap I have to swim to, just to take a teensy tiny breath of fresh learning for one single second. I’m tired of having to keep these kids’ attention for 1 minute at a time. I’m tired of them not listening. I’m tired. Not the best attitude, I know. But in a field where people is the game, it can be draining!

I’ve gotten so mad at my kids, all in the name of desiring them to grow up and pay attention. I’ve made little impact on my students, relationally. I forgot why I started. Yep, I said it. And during this final, it’s all boiling down to the end results… and I see all of my mistakes. The kid I don’t know. The time we wasted. The work we didn’t get done. The frustration of them STILL NOT KNOWING WHAT EXCEL MEANS EVEN THOUGH WE HAVE USED IT FOR THE LAST 15 WEEKS.

But they’re quiet right now, taking their finals. Thankfully, I haven’t heard any whining, they’re all just working pretty hard. I see their faces, their looks of concentration, their quick glances up at me, their puffy, sleepy faces. They’re just kids. Just little, sleepy, hopefully, hormonal, confused, happy, mad, bullied, bully, hurt, tired kids. Aren’t we all? We have no idea what we’re doing here, no idea what our next step is, no idea who we are sometimes… We’re just kids, in some ways. We’re all just kids in search of someone who understands us, who loves us, who nurtures us, who pushes us to do our best — even when we fight it.

They say that you don’t understand Christmas until you watch your own child experience it all anew. Same with teaching: you don’t understand it unless you see them as kids. Kids who need a hug, kids who need Jesus just as much as I do.

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ZipGrade for Android is so easy! Just create a quiz key, print off the pdf, and voila! The initial download includes 100 free scans! You can pay for one year of unlimited scans for $7. Well worth it!

In brighter news, I used ZipGrade this morning to grade my finals. My principal introduced us to it a few weeks ago. Usually I try to do a more in-depth final that isn’t all multiple choice, but since he was pushing ZipGrade so much, I figured I would do it. I included a paragraph portion, because hey it’s English… Y’all, I finished grading 30 finals in 15 minutes. Not even lying. It’s available for Apple and Android and even has a Cloud you can register for so that you can edit things online. I give it 5 out of 5 pencils.

Merry Christmas, Teachers and Parents and Students and Kids.

MM

 

 

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Why We Should Teach Grammar

I hope I ruffle quite a few feathers today. I hope people become upset. I hope people take a moment to think about what we are teaching our children.

As an English teacher, of course I support teaching grammar in language arts. As a future mother, I support teaching grammar in language arts. As an English speaking citizen of the United States of America, who hopes to work closely with all kinds of people — no matter age, race, background, or livelihood — I support teaching grammar in language arts.

Here’s why!

Grammar includes sentence structure, parts of speech, different types of phrases, punctuation, and spelling. Yes, spelling.

While many things about our language have changed through time, and are continuing to change, I am a prescriptivist with descriptivist tendencies. English is a fluid language, adding words daily, changing the ability of an adverb to be in a certain place by simply popularizing the new way in a TV show (thanks, “Star Trek”). However, there are rules; and there are a lot of them. There are rules that need to be followed.

I was recently teaching my kids principal parts of verbs and the difference between the singular helping verb has and the plural helping verb had. The principle parts of verbs, while accompanied by rules, are sometimes broken. Rarely, but sometimes they are broken! With the helping verb has, I would never, ever say “I has a question;” however, I is singular and so is has! I breaks the rules. So does you.

We could move on even further into the “i before e, except after c” rule that is only followed by about 30 words in the English language.

We have rules for how words work, but not every word follows every rule all of the time. However, we would not know the difference if we didn’t first know the rule itself.

Now let’s pause and think how this affects our kids — because it does. While I may never, in common conversation, analyze a sentence and find the predicate noun or the appositive phrase, and I may never be quizzed on what an independent clause looks like or whether or not I should use a semi-colon or start a new sentence. However, I am expected to speak and write like an intelligible human being. I am expected, not merely as an English teacher, but as a professional. Over half of our lives are spent communicating, either with our loved ones or with authorities, with new people and old acquaintances, with commoners and VIPS. We cannot call ourselves good communicators until we have mastered our given language of communication.

My creative writing professor, Dr. Myers, told me that he did not want to see any of our poetry or short stories until we had mastered and understood the proper ways to write both genres. He said we had no ability to add to the culture unless we understood the culture. I was a little hurt by his words, but since then I have analyzed my pre-CW class poetry with post-CW poetry and let me tell you… It’s a world of difference. Since then I have played with form and broken some rules, but I was not allowed to do so, and I could not effectively do so, until I had mastered the forms, the rules, the guidelines.

The same is true for our children and students: we cannot let them play with conversational speech until they understand how it’s purest form is to be written and spoken. We cannot let them say, “Well, it doesn’t matter; that’s just how I do it.” We cannot let them throw out the rules because they seem archaic, because mainstream ignorance has changed them and deemed them out-of-fashion. I myself throw in a perf (perfect) and totes (totally) now and then. I myself may type “c u latr” in a text (that’s a lie, but you get the point) but understand that in a formal essay, an email to my boss, or a work application: THAT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE.

We must know the rules before we can break them. We must understand how to write and communicate formally before we endeavor to do so informally. The same is true with friendship, is it not? When I met my Sophomore roommate, I wouldn’t have dreamed of calling her names for fun or “letting my hair down” — I wanted her to like me, to see me as intelligent and adult-ish. As time wore on in that Taylor suite, we became familiar and thus the names started being called, the hair started to be let down. From formal to informal. From picking up our dirty clothes to forgetting how to clean our room, we started formally and ended informally. The same is true for writing and communicating: we cannot break the rules until they know what the rules are.

Now, spelling. I have heard many elementary teachers protest spelling by saying it is unimportant in light of the fact that we have spell check; it’s too stressful on kids to learn vocabulary or have spelling tests. Try typing in colonel when you don’t know how to spell it. “cernal?” “cornel?” “cernel?” Sorry. No dice. How about the difference between saying there instead of their. Both are spelled correctly. Spell check won’t catch that. Spelling exists for a reason. Without consistency of spelling, our language would fall apart. We wouldn’t be able to communicate. Webster figured this out and thus we have the dictionary! Without consistency of spelling, the language wouldn’t exist.

I know many ignorant people who would say “Well, this is how I do it so who cares?” This kind of thinking, this blatant disregard for the rules is a creeping weed that will soon destroy a whole green, beautiful lawn.  Say y’all. Say ain’t. Speak in ebonics or deep southern drawl: I don’t care. What I do care about is that we acknowledge, understand, and can aptly apply the rules when necessary.

I am not trying to exclude certain ethnicities, cultural differences, or people groups. I am not trying to stand on my Puritanical soap-box of English teacher-y-ness. I am, however, trying to save my language. I am, however, dying to create competent, intelligent students who can effectively communicate.

If we cease to communicate, we cease to exist. If we must use the rules on the road, if we must use the grammar rules in foreign language classes, then I implore this generation of teachers, students, citizens, parents, kids, math-majors, and English-majors alike that if we do not follow the rules of our given language, we will soon become relics in a tomb where no one will be able to make sense of us.

That is why we should teach grammar in schools, K-12. I cannot wait to have children so I can teach them how cool and confusing this language is. And I cannot wait until they discover its nuances, its puns, its figurative language, its idioms. I cannot wait until they discover that there is an apostrophe with their name when they are speaking of their own items; that dependent clauses are joined to independent clauses with commas, thus giving clarity to a sentence; that when there are other commas in a sentence, we must then use semi-colons to separate the different parts.

If our land is beautiful and we must respect it, so should we do to our language. If our people and cultures are beautiful and we must respect them, so should we do to our language.

We must teach grammar. We must.

The Perks of Being a Grown-Up

Today is pay-day. And as per usual on pay-day, I am reminded of the drudgery that is adulthood:

  • In two days, my car and school loan as well as my credit card payments go out.
  • Rent is due.
  • My cupboards are bare.
  • I need to buy dog-food.
  • Christmas is coming up.
  • I should fill up my gas tank. Feenie is hungry.
  • My savings needs a steroid-shot.

Before I know it, 3/4’s of my paycheck is gone out into the wild somewhere, paying my debts and keeping life going in my small corner of the world.

That all to say, I do have a paycheck. I work hard for the money. I pour out my heart and my knowledge for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. I prep and grade for countless more hours and days. I enjoy what I do and I’m compensated for it. The budget is tight, and let’s be honest: it’ll never be loose. But, it’s a good life. I have money to enjoy the weekend with friends, to get good gifts for my loved ones, and to enjoy life that is around me.

Being an adult is much harder than I was told it would be (and yes, I was warned). But it’s probably the most rewarding part of my whole life. So, dear soon-to-be-college-grads/my-old-residents-who-are-now-Seniors-at-OBU-and-are-terrified-of-the-thought-of-grown-up-life: relax. Pray for wisdom. Take time to smell the roses. Work hard. Keep up your friendships. Don’t worry that you’re not married and starting alone. Don’t worry too much about how much you don’t have. If you ask my roommate and me about groceries and meals on a budget, well those were the best meals of our lives (even the 4 weeks all we could afford for lunch was slim fast…). It’s actually a pretty amazing time. Life is pretty amazing.

Or should I say, God’s blessings in life are pretty amazing. So glad he takes care of me.

MK

Homecoming (warning: sappy college reminiscence)

I drive a Bison Mobile. Let’s be honest: it’s golden yellow with two giant OBU stickers and will soon have a comemorative OBU license plate on the back. It’s a sort of VERY happy coincidence. One I wouldn’t change for the world.

For the last four years I’ve been all about OBU. My nickname Sophomore year was Miss OBU. Who’s got spirit? Me. All up in hur.

When graduation came I was nearly in a panic. Yes, I didn’t have a job and that contributed to it… But after 3 years of being Miss OBU, doing EVERYTHING there was to do on campus, I was a little at loose ends. I loved residential life and living life with people (as we termed it…). I loved the gold flowers in the brick flower patches. I loved the creepy statue of Dr. Scales that greeted me on my way to class. The musty smell of Shawnee’s Basement (AKA an English major’s home). The smell of WMU when you walk into the front door, like girl’s perfume, laundry, and home. The crooked, decaying sidewalks from WUA to the GC. The holy beep of your ID card before and after Chapel. The odor of crappy, burnt coffee in Java City. The Submarine in the library and its academic prose.

But I can never know it the same again. The Submarine in the lib isn’t the same without a Civ Cram with my study group (we nearly got kicked out every time we were in there). I’m certainly not going to go to Java City on purpose, but it sufficed during long nights and early mornings.

It took a trip to Hawaii, a long summer at home, and an all-consuming ministry/job at school to bring me out of my SAD (school acquired depression). My very good friend, and Farkle-Family sister, is coming into town today. We may not go to all of the homecoming festivities at OBU, but I think I can finally face the campus without the tinge of jealousy I feel when I see freshmen walking out of WMU. Without that passion I feel when I see Raley Chapel watching over all its little Bison. Without the memories of late nights past haunting me when I see Taylor Residence Center.

It’s taken me a long time — at least it feels like a long time — to remember the feeling I’ve always had before. That feeling I’d get when I parked near the North 40 or next to Montgomery Hall. It’s that calming, sweet feeling of going home. OBU will always feel like home.

God Bless OBU. MK