Sunday, January 30, 2011

What I believe about students & how I aim to have a positive impact on them...

As an intro assignment for my teaching methods class, I had to create a glog introducing myself to either a student audience or teacher colleague audience (I chose to address both simultaneously). (or for the version teachers can use in their classrooms) is home to a really cool concept: creating interactive web posters which are highly customizable and can incorporate all kinds of media--text, images, video, sound, you name it. It is really awesome technology. Super fun and very easy to use. I highly recommend it for educators to use with their students; I would also recommend it for anyone else interested in using interactive, engaging technology to get a message across or to get someone's attention for whatever reason. You can also embed the glogs into blogs or websites so that non-Glogster users can see them.

Ok, and now, here is the glog I created for my methods class. I am really pleased with the way it came out; it concisely represents what I believe about students and how I aim to have a positive impact on them.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The power of language

**Sorry I haven't written in awhile. In November and December, school grew super busy and intense, as expected. Then in January, I decided I needed a small break from writing. Yes, I believe in breaks and balance... good for the soul :)

And now, for my 13th blog post:

Language. It's something that totally fascinates me; I'm a student of it and a lover of it and a big user of it. I suppose that's one of the reasons why I chose to start a career teaching about it. I always find myself thinking about language. Its uses. Its impacts. Its potential. Its dangers. The nuances of it. The splendor and beauty of it. The way it's so robust and dynamic and flexible. The way it changes and adapts and gets adopted. The multitudinous varieties of it. The ubiquity of it. The fact that we can never actually escape it. The way it connects us. The way it can divide us. The way it can galvanize us to do things, both good and bad, destructive and non-destructive. The way it can cause gigantic rifts between us. The way people use it. The fact that without language, we'd have a ridiculously hard time communicating with others and making sense of the world. The lasting impact it can have on us. The immortality of it. I could add more to this list, and so could you. But my picture's been painted. I hope.

The point is that language is such a significant entity, such a necessary concept. It's everywhere. It gives life to and powers everything and everybody. It's used and consumed at alarming rates of speed at every second of everyday by people everywhere. It's what makes the world go round. And because of this, the power of language should NEVER be underestimated.

During the past week, in news articles and opinion pieces and blog posts across the internet and in countless TV news programs, the use of language in American politics has come undeniably under attack. Many are assigning partial blame of the horrific Tucson tragedy that happened last Saturday on the vitriolic language American politicians (both Democrats and Republicans) have spoken or written over the past year. Of course, these politicians are not directly responsible for what happened in Tucson, nor should they be held so--they didn't plan the shootout, they didn't pull the trigger. That much is clear. But let's think about the power of language--its ability to persuade, to excite, to galvanize, to arouse anger (and all the other things proffered above). And let's think about the fame and authority and pervasiveness and influence of various political figures in America. Now doesn't it only make sense to draw some kind of logical conclusion connecting this insidious, violent-ridden rhetoric with the event that transpired last Saturday? Such language is far, far from trivial. Its potential impacts on people, especially those who are unable to process such language in a non-violent way, must be heavily considered, preferably before the language is used. And its consequences must be dealt with.

It is absurd to directly attribute the Tucson tragedy to these politicians, sure. But it's a very far cry to contend that their use of violent language didn't play some role in motivating Jared Lee Loughner to commit such a heinous act. Just look at his self-authored YouTube videos. There is evidence that the violent rhetoric impacted him, his thoughts, and his actions. We've had a well-known politician publish on her website a map containing crosshairs of democrats in the country. Crosshairs… symbolize gun targets. And can it honestly be considered simple coincidence that one of the crosshairs on that map pointed right at Representative Giffords? The same politician who posted the map tweeted "Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!" Another politician said that if ballots won't work, then bullets will. Still other politicians have used hostage metaphors. We simply CANNOT ignore the effect this rhetoric has had and can have on people. It's gotten so far out of hand, it's disgusting. We cannot inculcate people with such hateful language and not expect horrible tragedies like this to occur, sadly. Language is powerful. And people better start accepting this. The vitriol has got to stop immediately, for the ubiquity and power of language demands it. And so does the safety and maintenance of humanity.

In America, we have a right to free speech, and everyone knows it. Such a right can be a great thing and on the other hand, a not-so-great thing. I heard someone say once that just because we have the right to free speech, it does not absolve the speaker of assuming responsibility for the consequences it has on the person or people impacted by the speech. I couldn't agree more, nor could I have articulated it any clearer. Sure, people can say what they want, but they better be ready to accept some (or in certain cases, almost all) of the responsibility for what happens as a result of what they've said. As a language arts teacher, one of my main objectives will be to make sure that my students really understand the power of language. I want them to get it, REALLY get it. I want them to understand how it can be good and how it can be bad. Language is a beautiful thing that affords us a plethora of life and opportunity and experience and joy. But it's also something that can breed hate, cause violence, and unnecessarily pit people against each other. I want my students to really understand these differences. For it is in understanding language this way that real, positive change can start to occur. Yes, I believe that America, and the world, can be made into even better places. But it must first start with people using language in much less destructive and much more productive ways.