Archive | 3:14 pm


2 Sep

Words are everything. They are our most important tool in communicating with others and how we learn language and learn how to use language will have much to do with our success and our failures in life. The beauty of words is that they can have so many varied and different meanings depending on where and how we use them. However, what makes words beautiful in one person’s mind can also make them ugly and frustrating in another. How are we supposed to know what a person means unless they are exact and precise in what they have to say? One man’s definition could lead to another man’s doubt. Take for example the Declaration of Independence; a document that although forthright in its declarations can reveal upon closer scrutiny that when words are chosen carefully enough, meanings that seem straight forward and clear can still be open to further and even contradictory interpretations.

“All men are created equal.” That seems simple enough doesn’t it?

All: Everyone. Men: Male. Created: Made. Equal: Same.

So what they were so eloquently saying was, every male is made the same.

They could just as well have written “All people are equal.” Not very poetic but definitely more precise and certainly leaving nothing to argue about, but they didn’t did they?

By using the word men they were excluding half of America’s population, namely the women! By using the action verb created instead of a verb of being like is or are they were implying that after someone does the creating, we can still make you a slave, or ignore you altogether, like the Native Americans and African Americans, thereby leaving out another 20+ percent of the continents population. In all honesty, once you’ve added “men are created” to the sentence then words like all and equal are useless modifiers.

It took me a long while before it occurred to me that two of my favorite founding fathers from history, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, owned people. No matter what their thoughts were about freedom and the rights of people, they never let it get in the way of business. They truly were the first trickle down theorists weren’t they? If American slaves would only join the revolution and fight along side the colony’s white revolutionaries there would be freedom for all upon victory. First freedom from the tyranny of the British king would come to white Americans who would then eventually see to it that freedom from the tyranny of white American slaveholders would eventually trickle down to the lesser American’s… like slaves. And it only took 4 score and 7 years (and a civil war) for the trickle to make it all the way down.

So we need to stress in our public schools and to our public school students that not only is learning to read and write important but also that the study of words and their various meanings and usages are equally important if not more so. Students must be admonished to always remember to use them carefully and remember that others may be using them carefully too. And above all, like our founding fathers, have some fun with them because not only is language important, language is everything. Now go read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States (I’ll bet you never have really read them before) and see if you can figure out what our founding fathers were trying to tell us.

And while you are at it how about starting a little notebook for yourself right now? Jot down all of the words in this blog that you do not understand or maybe have never heard before and then look them up in a dictionary and write down their definitions. Darn! Now you have to go get a pencil…and then try not to lose it! See the great difficulties that our young students face in school? But if you do it you WILL learn something and gain some Knowledge in the doing…and Knowledge IS power, especially word knowledge. The more vocabulary you learn, the more you will understand what people are saying. Increasing your vocabulary is almost like learning a foreign language. In fact for many of my students over the years studying a foreign language in school was easier for them than studying English! Go figure!

The Secret of Teaching

2 Sep

The Secret of Teaching…

      Just about everything there is to know can be looked up in a book. This really is the secret to teaching.

Look it up!

People with inquisitive minds have been around for thousands of years and smarter and more inquisitive minds than yours or mine have already done the thinking and the inquiring and the writing down so if there’s a question then the answer is out there somewhere. You just have to look for it. Of course now, in the 21st century, we have the internet and Google so “look it up” has been replaced with “Google it!” Either way, all you have to do is take the time to find the answer. “Seek and ye shall find” my mother would always say. Although I’m pretty sure somebody said it before her and that’s where she got it from…ok I just Googled it and it’s from Matthew 7:7 in the Bible. Wasn’t that easy?

            Although there is a little more to the secret than just “look it up” and that is where the word research comes in. Learning is about seeking and you should always look in several places and check your sources to see if the people who are giving you the answers are credible and honest and authorities on the subject. And always look in several places to make sure that the “authorities” agree.

            Learning takes patience and leg work and an inquiring mind. Not all teachers are authorities nor are they necessarily being honest with you. A good student always checks everything out and keeps an open mind and isn’t afraid to ask questions. And a good teacher always demands this of his students and of himself. Teachers are facilitators. They help students find their way but it is the student who does all of the important work and who is the deciding factor in whether or not any learning is to be done. Come prepared to listen and absorb information. Pay attention. Inquire. Always keep seeking more information. There’s a lot to learn out there!


                            Three more secrets of teaching:

  1. The Dictionary—get a good one and keep it handy
  2.  Encyclopedias/Encarta On-line—everything you want to know all the time. Don’t live home without one!
  3. A good Internet Connection—it’s the 21st century for crying out loud!


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