One of my goals throughout my teaching life has been to not let my students grow up ignorant of words like I did.
I've always strived to give them things I missed that I shouldn't have.
This week, my eighth-grade class started reading the momumental All Quiet on the Western Front as we tie up World War I. I decided not to give them reading questions (the bane of literature study, yet unfortunately, an almost necessity in school classrooms) but to give them eight to ten vocabulary words per chapter.
The point of vocabulary words is to learn words you do not know. Duh!
I wrote these on the board, had them copy them, and then simply asked questions such as "Which of these words do you think means luxurious or grand?" After a couple of answers, I told them if no one had figured it out. The intuitive ones wrote down these quick-and-easy synonym definitions. Some of the others, instead of writing these down wanted to contest that these were actual words: "Helter-skelter isn't a word! Who's ever heard of wan? When am I ever going to use wan?" These comments were said with such arrogance that it made me mad.
I re-emphasized a point I bring up at times like this: Education is learning what you don't know. And when I do, I'm reminded of George Grant's thoughts: " [T]rue education is a form of repentance. It is a humble admission that . . . we don't know all that we need to know. . . . " (You really should hop over, via the link, and read all that Grant wrote.)
Not long after this class, this quote floated across my path:
That quote is going on my board Monday.
Ignorant and arrogant students with cavernous mouths just encourage the changes in my future. Besides, I embrace lifelong learning and look forward to once again renewing my pursuit of discovering the inheritance of art, music, and literature that await. There must be something to that sabbatical year thing.