Sunday, March 25, 2012

Spring Cleaning

Yes, I have put away childish things,
But haphazardly, hastily,
As if preparing for houseguests,
Stuffing old fears and tears in drawers,
Monsters shoved back under the bed,
And wayward wants inside my head,
So that my life now resembles
A poorly stuffed pillow,
Little clumps of softness
Finding holes in the hems
And sometimes breaking free.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The F-Word Myth

My fellow teachers often gripe about "kids these days" and their "potty mouths." At the high school where I work, one cannot stand in the bustling, buzzing hallway for more than a few seconds without hearing a curse word. Adults complain that children no longer have manners, that they don't care to speak professionally, eloquently, with sophistication - in a word, "correctly."

This is a lie.

My students enjoy learning and using new, "smart" words like (from this week's list) "cadaverous" and "loquacious" and "sycophant." They enjoy flexing their ever-growing lexicons around friends and family, and regale me with funny stories about how they outsmart others with their newfound vocabularies. In class they practice using new words by creating "Your Mother" jokes (not "Yo Mama" - it is English class, after all) and grandiloquent pick up lines which they later dare each other to use in the cafeteria or on the bus.

But I still struggle to get them to cut down on the swearing.

Today I came up with a new strategy - the truth. Time will tell if it has an impact. Two students asked me if I ever curse. I was tempted to lie and tell them that I only use appropriate language, but instead I said, "Of course." My students were shocked - their English teacher swears? Do you say the F-Word? Do you say SHIT - I mean, the S-word? No way! You're not supposed to - you teach English!

I told them about the myth: that to be classy and "eductated" we must all delete "bad" words from our vocabularies. I gave them this advice: "There will be times in your life when only the F-word will do. Hold on to it. Reserve it. Don't use it up and render it hackneyed (another vocab word). Keep it ready for the moment when you've got nothing else. Then use it without shame."

I suspect I'll get some angry parent phone calls in the next few days. I'll be careful not to deploy any F-bombs. Unless I've got nothing else, of course. :)