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Thursday, March 9, 2017

He likes new words.

Sometimes I worry about my language.

Not because I am inappropriate or foul or anything.

I just worry I am too casual, too informal.

In some ways, I probably am.

Students will influence my language.

I can't help it.

I pick up accents, words, inflections from the people around me.

Maybe I should try harder not to be influenced.

My students don't seem to mind.

In some ways, the casualness of my speech might be an advantage.

It is welcoming and less intimidating.

Still, I worry I am not setting enough of an example.

Until a student reminds me that I am doing ok.

Jason did that the other day.

I don't remember what we were talking about or what I was saying.

But I do remember being interrupted as I addressed the class:

"Ugh, Ms. Hirsch, you always be using the biggest words!"

I smiled, and he went on, "For real, I don't know what you saying sometimes. You use words I never heard or thought about."

"Thanks," I replied and continued the lesson.

He grinned at me.

It was a fleeting interaction, but it stuck.

Despite all his huffing and puffing, he likes new words.

As a student with a language learning disability, vocabulary, spelling, and syntax can be a struggle.

But he is motivated and eager and willing to try.

When he notices my vocabulary, that means he is listening (and might not quite understand yet).

Once in a while, I catch him using a word I have used.

That is golden.

His vocabulary is improving, at least a little.

And he always notices when I intentionally misuse or make up words.

Which I do to keep kids on their toes.

It gets their attention.

Sometimes I even give extra credit to those who recognize what I've done.

Part of the issue is this: while professional, formal language matters, communication matters more.

Being aware that language grows and changes and can be manipulated matters more.

Understanding the power of breaking rules matters more.

Respecting the power of precision that comes from word choice matters more.

Having fun, an actual good time, with language, matters more.

So, I am rather casual with my students.

Who cares?

If it gets and keeps their attention, if I liberally sprinkle in both academic vocabulary and synonyms for boring, overused words, it is worth the nagging worry I might be overdoing it.

When they notice I am teaching them new words, well, that is a good thing for me.

It lets me know my approach is working.

When they don't notice, but start using those words, that is exceptional.

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