Context Clues

I’m reading Number the Stars with my class right now. If you haven’t read it, you really should. It’s a great story and very well written. Plus it’s short and on about a 4th-grade reading level, so it might take you a weekend to get through. It’s about a Danish family that helps their Jewish friends escape before the Nazis can “relocate” them.

My students are really enjoying it, and I’m using it to help them start getting comfortable using context clues to guess the meanings of unfamiliar words. We’ve done a lot of work on how to use the context to figure out what part of speech a word is, and now I’m starting to get them thinking about what’s happening so they can take a stab at the meaning as well. They still need a lot of help with it, though, so when they ask the meaning of a word, I walk them through the process by asking questions. Who is in this sentence? Where are they? What are they doing? What is that like? Imagine you were in this situation. What would you be doing? How would you do it?

Today, one of the words in question was “weep,” and I almost demonstrated involuntarily.

The context was that a Jewish mother and father were trying to escape with their baby when the Nazis arrived to investigate an unusual gathering of folks late in the evening. Everyone got through that particular encounter just fine, but it was understandably frightening, so when the Nazis came in, the mother held her baby tightly and started to weep.

Many of my students are mothers with young children, so I asked them, “What would you do if you thought someone might take your baby away?” And that’s when I almost lost it myself. I turned to write a definition of “weep” on the board, and I took my time erasing what was in my way and writing my definition so they wouldn’t see my face as I pulled it together. When I turned back around, I had on a happy face, and they were none the wiser.

I’m doing better. I really am. I don’t cry every day anymore. I can get out of bed and go to work. I exercise most days and eat good-for-me foods, and I feel good about myself for making those decisions. I laugh and sing and dance. I have more hope now than I’ve had since the summer. But I have also gotten better at hiding my feelings from most of the people I see regularly. It’s not that I’m trying to be fake. It’s that even though I don’t want to be sad, I still am, but I don’t want people to feel like they’ve done or said something wrong. They haven’t. If I’m crying, it is in no way your fault. I’m just sad. That is my context at the moment.

I know this is kind of a downer of a post, but today (this whole week really) has been hard, and I felt like I’d hidden it enough and needed to share it.

Nostalgia

Hey remember a month ago when I blogged like twice?? Sigh. Yeah, that was nice. Here are some things I’ve been doing/thinking about since then:

  • I went kayaking in Asheville last weekend. It was beautiful, I got to see some good friends, and I spent all my money eating delicious food (and maybe also on a teeny-tiny little visit to Urban Outfitters). I’d like to go kayaking more often. I would not like to get sunburnt every time. Guess I should work on my base tan.
  • Whitney and I stopped at pretty much every Lowe’s and Home Depot off I-40 on the way home and lifted a bunch of paint sample cards (I want to call them paint chips, but that doesn’t feel right. Is that right?) to spruce up our accent wall. If you’d like to come over and get your hot glue on, feel free. We’re also thinking of having a house-warming party wherein our guests would help us with this project. Don’t miss it! This was a pretty fun way to break up a four-hour drive. At the first couple of stores, we both kept a watchful eye out for the employees working the paint department, feeling like we were doing something dangerous, but by the time we got to Greensboro, we were brazenly stuffing our bags with the things and commenting freely on the colors we were taking. No one seemed to care.
  • I got a new computer because I filled up my old one. Filled it full. It literally has maybe room enough for another album’s worth of songs. I haven’t named the new one yet. Any suggestions?
  • I’m teaching a new class at NC State, which is pretty hit or miss. I’ve never taught this class before, and I’ve never been given textbooks to use before or had to make a syllabus, so it’s taking a little while to figure out. What I’m learning is that 18-year-olds are lazy, but they think they’re really busy and super cool, I should rely on my own teaching smarts and lean on textbooks for idea-sparks and support, cultural differences are probably more difficult for the students but far more annoying for the teacher, and a two-hour class FLIES by when you’re used to four-hour classes. So basically, there are pros and cons, but I think once I figure out how to add my own flair to the class, it’ll be awesome.
  • In the past week, I’ve been a part of or witnessed at least four conversations that went something like this:
    A: I really want to be more ________.
    B: Um, you are already totally ________.
    This has got me very curious. I’m wondering why we feel like we’re not enough of things we already are, if the reason we notice the lack of these qualities is that we also (maybe subconsciously) notice their presence, how we go about becoming more of who we are, and how we can help each other along. Your thoughts are welcome.
  • I can’t WAIT for fall. Oh my gosh. I just want to run through a big shower of red and orange leaves while wearing a scarf! That’s all I want.
  • We got a basil plant. It’s dying. How do you keep basil from dying?
  • I’ve read about six books this summer, which is not much for some of you, but for me, that’s a lot. I needed to find one to read with my class this semester, though, so I had to plow through a few pretty quickly. Let’s see, there was Godric, which wasn’t an option for class, but it is lovely. It just has some really nice lines in it – the kinds of phrases that you want to turn over and over in your head and hang on to in your life. Then there was The Giver, Playing for Pizza, The Kite Runner, Holes, and Hoot. I think we’re going to read Hoot in class, but next up is The Book Thief. If you’d like a review of any of these titles, let me know. I’d be happy to oblige. It’d give me a solid blogging topic.
  • I want to write more. I miss it. I’ve got so many little bits and pieces of ideas and so many big chunks of things already done, but nothing is even close to being finished. Also, I just miss playing with words, getting phrases just right, saying exactly what it is I want to say, and telling stories. Stories are the best.
  • I should write down a story every day. Nothing big or even fictional. Just something that happened. It doesn’t have to have a moral or anything. Just a story.

Ok that’s enough. Time to make a flow chart to help students decide if they need to use other, another, the other, others, or the others. Fun times!

Lost…Lost…Lost…I’ve Lost My Marbles

Y’all, seriously. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills. I put things down, and they disappear. I can’t find my mailbox key, I keep forgetting to buy more almond milk, I have no idea what I was going to write about here just now, and I feel fairly certain I was supposed to do something. Oh. I remember. Please hold.

Ok, done. Whew. Apparently I haven’t blown all my brains out of my nose this week along with twenty pounds of snot. Hang in there, gray matter! I still need you! I know I haven’t used you much this week at all, but that’s just because you got such an intense workout last week, and I wanted to give you a rest. Plus, I’m tired. Oh so tired. But don’t worry, I have every intention of pulling you off the bench very soon because I feel like not being in school has made me stupider, and I’d really like to work on that.

I’ve been reading about William Tyndale, and one interesting thing I read last night was that while he was at Oxford, he used a book by Erasmus called De Copia, in which there was an exercise to give “no fewer than one hundred fifty ways of saying, ‘Your letter has delighted me very much,'” the point being to force students to “use of all the verbal muscles in order to avoid any hint of flabbiness.” I’m always telling my students how rich the English language is and teaching them new ways to say things so they don’t have to use the same, tired words all the time, but that only challenges them. It doesn’t challenge me. And I’ve found myself recently unable to think of the words I want. Simple words like “radiant” and…oh, see, I’ve forgotten them again. Something must be done.

I know I’m still recovering from a crazy week last week and a cold, but those are poor excuses for losing one’s marbles, and I’m far too young for that. I know I’ll never be one of those old people who does Sudoku to keep her mind sharp because Sudoku already makes me want to punch a baby, but maybe I’ll be a prolific letter-writer or something. Something.

And maybe one day I’ll find my mailbox key.

Procrastination: A Tutorial

I’m supposed to be finishing my lesson plans for next week right now. Technically, I was supposed to do them yesterday, but since I’m the one who set that schedule, I was also able to issue an executive order to obsessively look at Pinterest and watch Psych instead.

That’s lesson number one, friends. If you set the deadline, you can change it too.

So here I am. Blogging. Something I’ve also procrastinated on quite a bit of late. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Oh wait, I do. There is nothing going on that is of any interest to anyone. So lesson number two: Find nothing of value in your activity, and you will not have any motivation to do it.

Because I didn’t have any trouble at all focusing for an hour last night at craft night on making my Madonna skirt. Nope, none at all. I even recruited L-Josh to help. Because I had a party to attend, and there were going to be boys there. That’s right. I’m a 31-year-old woman who is still highly motivated by the presence of boys at a party. What? Don’t judge me. What motivates you? World peace? Pshh. A likely story.

Lesson three: Turn your procrastination into a discussion of something else entirely, AND make that discussion about someone else. That way, people forget that this is about you not doing what you’re supposed to be doing.

If only boys at a party could motivate me to finish my lesson plans. Could I do a whole lesson on flirting? I’m pretty sure this week’s list could be a list of bad pick-up lines. Oh, it’s starting to come together. But I only do lists on Thursdays, and I still have to plan for Tuesday. I suppose I could do a list of slang words for good-looking one day and the list of pick-ups the other. And I could teach dating terminology like “blind date,” “go Dutch” and “crush.” What else?

And just like that, I’m back on track! Thanks, y’all.

A Few Unrelated Things

1. I’m totally addicted to Pinterest. I love it, and I want to spend more time browsing the internet looking for things to pin, but I just don’t have that much time to waste. I think it’s probably for the best.

2. I’m in the middle of the second Bible test, and so far, I think I’m doing much better on this one. It’s essay questions, though, so that is not shocking for anyone.

3. In my slang class, I’ve been teaching them lists of words that all mean the same thing. They’re usually 10, 15 or 20 words/phrases/expressions for something. I’ve done words for “easy,” “great,” “good-bye,” “money,” “crazy,” “nothing” and “vomit.” These lists have been QUITE a hit, and they’re pretty fun for me to come up with as well. The words we use for vomit, especially, are just so descriptive. If you have an idea for a future list, please share. I’m open to suggestions, and my students will love you for it.

4. I’m going to Wilmington this weekend, and I am super-excited about it.

The end.

What I’ve Really Been Doing

Ok so now that everybody pretty much knows, I guess I can talk about it.

I might be moving to Europe. It’s weird to type it out into the world like that. So far, it’s just been discussed privately among a few close, trusted friends and people I knew would understand and be excited with me. Honestly, I have no idea what’s going to happen. I’ve been taking things one step at a time, and really, at any point, the whole process could just be over, and that would be it. We’ll see. But for now, we press on.

I’m applying to go with World Team either to Italy or Spain. This is the same organization I went to Italy with back in June, and so far, this process has been…quite thorough. It’s been very cool – I’m learning a lot about myself as I go – but it has also been taking up lots and lots of time that I might have otherwise spent blogging. Or (let’s be honest) watching every episode of Bones (again) on Netflix. The application alone was at least twelve typed pages, and then they sent me the personality tests, the spiritual gifts test and the Bible tests (one of which I told you I flunked miserably, the other I haven’t been brave enough to take yet).

Then they sent me the official invitation to join them for a week of information, evaluation and mutual assessment, and suddenly things got really real. First of all, I need about $700 to make it happen, which is the first real commitment I’ve had to make. Until now, it’s all been literally on paper. Just theoretical. Just a really, really amazing dream of a possibility. Just paella and/or pizza, European public transit, Romance languages and adventure abounding on every side. But when it hits your pocketbook, it hits home.

Then, speaking of home, I started thinking about all the things I’ll miss if I leave. Weddings, birthdays, family reunions, my godchildren growing like weeds, Baby Josh, maybe Moravian Sugar Cake in my PJs with my family on Christmas morning. I don’t know what I’ll miss and what I won’t, but I know I’m asking my family and friends to make as big a sacrifice as I’d be making in going.

But then I started thinking of all the things I’d miss if I didn’t go, namely the chance to do something awesome, something bigger than myself, something impossible, something I’ve felt compelled to do for the last seven years. I don’t know the details of what’s in store for me. I just know that if I don’t at least try, I’ll always regret it and wonder.

I think y’all would too. You know me. You know I’ve got this crazy pull toward Europe. I honestly think if I didn’t at least try to go, some of you would be disappointed. So I’m asking you to sacrifice with me, but also to share in the awesomeness, knowing that your letting go is fueling something incredible.

I didn’t intend to make this a fundraising post, so you can stop reading now if you want it to not be about money. But if you’re still with me, and you want to give a little bit to help me get to the assessment week, please contact me. Comment, call, email, text, smoke signals, carrier pigeon, dream invasion, note in study hall, whatever. But maybe don’t send me a pigeon. You know how I feel about birds.

I’m Psychic: Brazilian Monkey Edition

It’s amazing how many little kid games I have my students play in class. We play board games, Memory, Cootie Catcher, but my favorite is Telephone. It’s perfect because it incorporates listening and pronunciation skills, and today, I made it use writing skills too. Because I’m the jam.

We were working today on quoted speech. You know, where you tell exactly what somebody else said and use quotation marks. I only just recently realized that not all languages write quoted speech the same. We use a comma to introduce a quote while other languages use a colon. We also put both of our quotation marks up high whereas in other languages, one of them goes down low. It’s crazy times, I tell you.

So I started two messages going in opposite directions around the room. As each student heard the message, he/she had to write it down as a direct quote:

Miguel said, “The fly water is ugly bathtub.”

That way, when we got the messed up one at the other end, we could trace our way back through the mistakes. And I don’t know, but I think that was more fun than just hearing the messed up version at the end.

Well. One of the sentences was, “Maria has a pet monkey in Brazil.” In my lesson plans, I’d written, “__student__ has a pet monkey in __country__,” and I’d planned to see who was there in class today and pick someone with a good sense of humor to put in the sentence. Maria worked out well because she has a great sense of humor, and she was far enough around the room for the sentence to have changed significantly from the original by the time it got to her.

On the other end, it came out, “Maria likes smoking,” but before that, it was, “Maria likes monkeys,” and ,”Maria is a bad monkey in Brazil,” which I’m sure they thought was some crazy idiom I’d thrown in. You know, like Shaft is a bad mon… (Shut yo’ mouth!). Aaaaaand YouTube-ing the theme from Shaft…

Anyhoe, once we traced it back to the beginning and everyone knew what the original sentence was, Maria’s face lit up, and she said, “Yes! It’s true!”

Y’all. The woman straight up had a pet monkey in Brazil. I was so confused, I didn’t know what to do with myself. She thought someone had told me, and I had to show her my lesson plan to explain that it was all a big coincidence. Amazing.

Incidentally, the other message was, “Without geometry, life is pointless,” which they totally didn’t get, but I was amused.

And the Bad Blogger Award Goes to…

I mean dag, y’all. I suck at this. I’m sorry. Here’s what’s been happening.

I’ve been working. We’ve been in class for three weeks now, and my students are fabulous. As always, I love them to pieces. I’ve been having about 15 every day, and yesterday, at our 2nd registration (out of 3), I got EIGHT more. Holy crap. We literally had to change classrooms in the middle of class because we would not all physically fit into the room we were in. And the church where we have classes is doing some work on our two biggest classrooms, so those are currently out of commission. All I can say is God help the workmen to finish those rooms before the next registration, or I’ll be teaching in the sanctuary, and I’m pretty sure that would weird everyone out.

My afternoon classes have been having pretty decent attendance considering we’ve only had the 1st registration. I think they’ll pick up significantly next week with this new batch of students, and the slang/idioms/phrasal verbs class is FUN. It’s actually pretty hard work for the students, but I had them do some writing for me the other day, and they’re really getting it. I wish I had some samples to share with you, but alas, I gave them back already.

Oh! I do have a pretty amazing story for you, though. I was having dinner with some friends last night (old and new), and one of them was Italian. He’s here studying at NC State for a semester, and he was telling us about a mistake that he’s been making in English for the past month that no one bothered to correct him on until recently.

In Italian, you can ask someone for a favor by saying “per favore,” or you can ask someone more politely for a bigger favor by saying “per piacere,” which, literally translated, means “for pleasure.” So this guy has been asking people “politely” for “big favors” by saying, “Can I ask you a pleasure?” or, “Could you do me a pleasure?”

Well, his friends have just been letting him say this in coffee shops and gas stations all up and down the eastern seaboard, but to make the story even better, he gave us an example that was supposed to be completely innocuous, but he didn’t know that the thing he was requesting could also have another meaning. He wanted to convey that he’d been asking people for “pleasures” and then just ordering simple things in a coffee shop, but his example was, “Excuse me, could you do me a pleasure? Could you give me a muffin?”

Oh my, how we did laugh! And then we ate crepes.

I’ve been doing more things, but to tell you all of them in one post might be a tad overwhelming, so I’ll save them for another post (which I’ll go ahead and write and then set up to post itself next week some time so we don’t go this long again without having some sort of update). Ciao, y’all!

Stop. Music Time

Well, I’ve gotten a little distracted. I was looking for songs, see, to use in class. I wanted songs that told stories, so I typed it into the Google, and away we went. But then, at the bottom of one article about story songs, there was a link to the Top 25 Guilty Pleasure Songs, and I just couldn’t pass that up, so now I’m making myself a Guilty Pleasures playlist, and I’d like to share it with you. As of now, it comprises only those songs I already owned or loved so much that I was compelled to purchase them on the spot. Guilt-free.

  1. Copa Cabana – Barry Manilow
  2. All Out of Love – Air Supply
  3. Mickey – Toni Basil
  4. The Safety Dance – Men Without Hats
  5. Ice Ice Baby – Vanilla Ice
  6. Aaron’s Party (Come Get It) – Aaron Carter
  7. Afternoon Delight – Starland Vocal Band
  8. Bye Bye Bye – *NSYNC
  9. I Want It That Way – Backstreet Boys
  10. Spice Up Your Life – Spice Girls
  11. Just Dance – Lady Gaga
  12. …Baby One More Time – Britney Spears
  13. Hey, Soul Sister – Train
  14. Straight Up – Paula Abdul
  15. Take a Chance on Me – ABBA

That’s it for now. If you have suggestions for songs to add, or if you’d like to go ahead and post your own Guilty Pleasures playlist in the comments, feel free. I’d love to laugh at with you about your horrible taste in music!

Also, if you have any suggestions of story songs I could use in class, I’d appreciate those as well!

The Teacher Becomes the Student

Oh y’all, this semester is going to be FUN! First of all, I’m going to be teaching a new class (that I’ll be inventing as I go) on phrasal verbs, idioms and slang. Now, for those of you who are not total grammar nerds, a phrasal verb is a verb composed of two or more words which, when put together, convey a meaning different from the meanings of the individual words. For example, “hang out” can be literally hang + out as in, “I hang (action) my towels out (where) on the balcony railing to dry.” Or, “hang out” can be a phrasal verb as in, “Ryan Gosling and I were hanging out in his hot tub last night…”

Ok fine, so that last one might have a possible double entendre, but you get the idea.

Anyhoe, that class is going to be awesome. But my other class, my morning class, is also going to be lots of fun. I’ve recently discovered some new podcasts that I’ll be using for listening practice. All from HowStuffWorks.com, we’ve got Stuff You Should Know, Stuff You Missed in History Class, and my personal favorite, Stuff Mom Never Told You. Well, I was listening to a Mom Stuff podcast just now in preparing my lessons for the first week of class, and as I was writing down a few vocabulary words from it, I began to wonder whether I should also use this podcast for the slang class.

The terms in question were “guyliner” and “manscara,” but they also got me thinking about “manscaping,” which made me curious as to how many other such words exist. So I looked it up and was not shocked to find the following:

  • guylights
  • boytox
  • manbag
  • brozilian

I WAS, however, both surprised and very, very amused by mantyhose. Yeah. Just you go look that up and enjoy. Feel free to come on back here when you’re done and leave comments.