How Do You Say?????

ReadingthuRsday-R2“Never make fun of someone if they mispronounce a word. It means they learned it by reading.” (Anonymous, posted by McKay Books – Nashville)

The quote reminds me of the various vocabularies we carry in our heads. We have a speaking vocabulary, a listening vocabulary, a reading vocabulary, and a writing vocabulary. In other words, we have words we can say and read and understand that we might not use in our writing (sometimes because we do not know how to spell a particular word). We have a listening vocabulary of words we understand but might not use a lot. Evidence of a listening vocabulary is really demonstrated in young children who can listen and understand words’ meanings without the ability to use the word in reading and writing or for that matter be able to say the word yet. We have a reading vocabulary which encompasses the words we know from sight and the words we can determine from context. Rarely are all these vocabularies at exactly the same place for most of us. minionwords

The interesting part about words is that once one encounters a new word while reading and is able to determine its meaning, then it seems the word is used a lot more than we thought in other contexts. For example, the first time I encountered the word verdant, I could figure out what it meant in the context of the story, but I was unsure how to pronounce it. A little while later, I heard someone use the word verdant and then I could put a meaning and a pronunciation together. My internal pronunciation was incorrect, so if I said the word aloud, my pronunciation would be incorrect.

Hello-My-Name-Is-Hard-to-Pronounce-400Readers spend a lot of time figuring out the meanings of words, and often just worry about the pronunciation when they need to go public with their reading. When a reader reads silently, there may be less concern about how to pronounce all the characters’ names correctly as well as all the other words. As long as the text is making sense, a few mispronunciations here or there does not impede progress very much. However as soon as a reader’s words become audible, then difficulties arise as one tries to comprehend and sound right all at the same time. For example, a student reading aloud in a class has an extra burden of proper pronunciation while trying to keep the meaning of words in his or her head. Anyone who has spent much time in a classroom with younger children remembers how some school children feel the need to pounce on classmates’ mispronunciations when classmates reads aloud. Unfortunately, all this “help” often leads to the reader making more mispronunciations which impedes comprehension and causes a lot of angst.Louisville_pronunciationguide

Students in college classes may also need some help with pronunciation while they grapple with unfamiliar words. As we teach our classes, spending a little extra time on pronunciation of key terms is helpful. In a few cases, students may ask “How do you say _____?” but usually most adult learners think everyone knows how to pronounce terms, so they do not ask. Timely help on instructors’ parts can put the proper pronunciation into a reader’s head; thus, adding another support for understanding.

March Madness!

anneOnce again there is a buzz around college campuses – bracketology. Number 1 seed vs. Number 16 seed; who will advance who will no;, and who is the Cinderella team? Sound all too familiar? Well, if you are a sports fan, it should. President Obama just completed his bracket choices. Las Vegas is buzzing with making odds on each and every team. It is mayhem for about 4 weeks.

In my house there is a 3’ X 4’ poster of the NCAA men’s tournament brackets. With great care, it is updated daily after each and every game result. This will be displayed until the end of the tournament. One big exception:  if “our” team wins the tournament, it will stay up well into the summer – bragging rights, you know! Presidential+NCAA+Bracket+2016

Coaches plan strategies, work long hours designing plays, schedule specific teams to play and work hour upon hour in practice gyms from October until March in preparation for this event. Player’s shortcomings are tweaked down to the tiniest detail. The end result is focused on being as close to perfect as you can be. Everyone watches ESPN Selection Sunday to see who is in and who is out, whom each team will play, and where they will be going. Then it’s GAME ON!

caliperiIt dawned on me that this sounds similar to what happens at our college. At the beginning of the term you receive your team. Some are going to be NBA draft picks, and some need to be worked with to get them off the bench and onto the playing floor Some of the team (bless their hearts) will sit on the bench the entire season.

Planning strategies for classes and practice sessions are meticulously designed.  Working tirelessly for long hours becomes what you do. What can be done in class to make sure all of the players are getting the correct training? Your time frame is a short – 4 and one-half months (eight weeks at Fort Campbell!). In that short time students are expected to develop a knowledge base of the subject matter and prove to be proficient in the material. Each and every class is getting that student ready to participate in the “big dance”. lesson-plans-and-aims

As a coach, what is your game plan? The success of these players depends on what you provide in the way of educational material. You are taking your experience, knowledge and expertise, just as coaches do, and helping them to become successful. Think about it.

The Mysterious Love of Procrastination

Brian picProcrastination usually doesn’t show up with things we love but with things we don’t. An image comes to mind of a task that is too boring, too long, too difficult, too confusing, or too bothersome—at least that’s the perception.

If the task can be bumped off the to-do list, great. With assignments, that’s not likely. If anything, instructors would like to pack more into a course. They are in the field of their pleasure, and they would like to pass on to students the joy of the subject at hand.  procrastination1

How well I remember the mathematical truth, “The sense of foreboding increases proportionally to the delay of a task, until its exponential spike before an imminent due date.” Foreboding requires a lot of energy. Dread doesn’t come cheap.

procrastinationThen there is the scientific principle, “A task procrastinated upon increases in mass until it becomes unexplainably bigger than it really is.”

This all calls for a state of mind that has weighed up foreboding and increased mass and decided that pleasure is often defined by misery avoided. The amount of displeasure in getting started and knocking out the task is far less than the cumulative displeasure in procrastination.

It is even possible to stop thinking, “I am not enjoying this” and to just do a task, with the mind freed up for the task without having to click the like button or the dislike button. Suppose neither is particularly useful to consider.WWS-Procrastinate1

Of course we like or dislike lots of things. That will not change. However, the like-dislike paradigm does not have to receive so much attention. It can be starved. A person won’t die by not majoring on liking or disliking certain tasks.

The mysterious love of procrastination turns out to be more easily resolved that had been supposed. Life does have its unsolved mysteries, but procrastination need not remain one of them.procrastination-flowchart-2

I want to live in Mitford (just for a little while)

ReadingthuRsday-R2Anyone who knows just a little about me knows I love to read and mysteries are my favorite genre. However, now and then I like to read a “feel good” story. On my last trip to the library, Jan Karon’s novel about Mitford was available. In past years, I have found the Mitford novels to offer a certain amount of calming influence on some hectic days, so I gladly checked it out. The latest books is called Come Rain, Come Shine. I will admit these books are not considered classics, and many will find the plots simplistic, but for me it was the right book at the right time.mitfordbooks

There are 12 Mitford novels, and they feature Father Timothy Kavanagh and the fictional village of Mitford. The latest book is about a wedding between two young people, Lace and Dooley. In the midst of all the wedding preparations, small side stories emerge. While the plot is interesting, it is really the small passages throughout the book that describe love, human failings, longings, redemption, and faith. What saves the book from being sappy is that not everyone is perfect and not everything works out neatly. However, a happy ending that leaves the reader uplifted is a joyous occasion, and this book provides joy.

Peace (interior)Lately, we are plagued with less than civil political rhetoric and violence as we work through our democratic process to elect a president. This week evil was committed against innocent citizens in Brussels. I am not hiding my head in the sand, nor am I making these events seem unimportant. However, I needed just a few moments to “live” in a peaceful place where neighbors look after each other and lift each other up. So for me, the right book this week is about a small make-believe village with make-believe people who do make-believe things. Let us all strive to have a little “Mitford kindness.”

I am thankful to be American, and I stand with the people of Brussels.

From Spectator to Player on the Field

Brian picOne of my professors made a comment one day in class about football, saying, “At a football game you see 22 players on the field desperately in need of rest and 55,000 people in the stands desperately in need of exercise.” Our class had signed up to hear the famous lectures of this salty professor, but he let us know that we would not be spectators only, and his assignments proved that.SpectatorsImage

Though his lectures were stimulating, full of pith, and insightful, his assignments were designed to make students concentrate on all levels. They brought out the global picture of a text but also required noticing tiny details. The assignments were like an elaborate quilt; it gives up immediately what the main picture is, while at the same time including rich, small details without which the quilt would fail as a work of art.

1218_boston-marathon-2I notice passivity in some students who come to college. They got by previously by being “good listeners” and taking tests or doing worksheets. The premium for them has been intake of information and the ability to replicate it from memory. Intake and replication are vital to any profession, but eventually the practitioner learns to discover how to use information in difficult situations where the human component is present.

That is the sticky part—the human part. Humans defy neat categories, and so applying knowledge to them goes beyond our spectator days. We have to put our knowledge into play on the field and not in the stands.knowledgepic

It is true that every endeavor has its virtuosos whom we love to observe. Certainly it is a wonderful thing to study and celebrate the works of a master in any field. However, virtuosos are not a separate category of human. All humans live by giving their all to play at something and serve others. Everyone has a game to play, and to play well means a move from spectator to doer, which reminds me of a scripture, “Be ye doers of the word and not hearers only” (James 1:22).

Ending on an Up Note: Safety Tips

After I discussed lab safety, played a safety video, and asked students to sign a lab safety contract, my class asked, “Who would be dumb enough to do that stuff anyway?”

Who, indeed?

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Thanks to Doug Savage at Savage Chickens–Cartoons on Sticky Notes for once again sharing his unique view of the world.

Enjoy your weekend…safely, of course.

A Fine Southern Lady

ReadingthuRsday-R2In 1974 – 1978 I had a part-time job at Clarksville’s Leaf-Chronicle. At that time, the Leaf-Chronicle made it a point to hire college students. It was a brilliant move on their part. The Leaf-Chronicle got some inexpensive people to work for them who were energetic even with full course loads. Working at The Leaf-Chronicle was a great job while attending college. The hours were flexible, there were opportunities to work at night and on weekends, plus a lot of fun and wonderful people worked at the Chronicle. vintagead

At that time, most of the advertising lay-out was done manually. I worked in the ad department, and I slowly learned how to follow an ad layout and create an ad. What is now done with publishing programs, we did by hand using strips of print we waxed, cut to the appropriate size, and placed carefully and evenly on blue lined paper. I was trained by Sonya Turner, who was fast and accurate in her work, clever with comment, and one of the most patient and fun-filled people I have ever met. To help Sonya with my training, various folks in the ad department helped me along. I have always felt I learned as much working at the Leaf Chronicle as I learned from my college classes. One of the persons that helped me learn about work ethic, kindness, and pride in my work was Mrs. Velma Crowell.

Crowell-Photo-360x480Mrs. Velma was a “fine Southern lady.” She took extra time to ask me about school, and she listened to my small worries about classes, balancing work and school, boyfriends, and life. She encouraged, and she chided a little if I let small things become big things. When I graduated from Austin Peay State University, she gave me two small books of poems. Those books have traveled with me through many moves, and they ultimately made their way pack to Clarksville in 2013 when I moved home after more than thirty years. Most of the poems can easily be found in other books, but when Mrs. Velma gave them to me I felt special. She knew I loved to read, and one day in passing, I told her about a poem I had read. I cannot remember the poem, but I remember the kindness of her patiently listening when I am sure she was tired.

Mrs. Velma Crowell passed away on March 12, 2016. I had assumed she had passed long ago, so I was very upset with myself for not looking her up when I returned to Clarksville. I always thought of her as a senior citizen, but she had to be in her late 40’s (much younger than I am now) when I began working at the Chronicle. Mrs. Velma lived 90 years, and she worked 24 of those years at the Leaf- Chronicle when newspapers were a little more locally driven and less syndicated, and the work was a little more labor intensive. When I learned of her death and posted on the Facebook page dedicated to Leaf-Chronicle past and present employees, the outpouring of gratitude for having the opportunity to know her and work with her was heartwarming. My friend Denny said she gave him a Cross pen when he graduated. I think she saw something in both of us because each of us has made a life’s work based on words.mentor

I regret not telling her in person how special she was to me. In her honor I am taking this time to remind all of how important small encouragements are to a college student who is trying to find that balance between work and school and life. RIP and thank you, Mrs. Velma.