Monday, May 7, 2012

The Grammar King

I just finished a most unsatisfying semester. I was notched into a class I didn't want to teach, and felt that I was really not able to give my best shot. Not because I didn't know the material -- it was Grammar, and I am a Grammarian. Or, at least, a linguist.
Y'see, the problem is that as a linguist I know that there is a huge difference between the knowledge of the rules of grammar (as they are taught in the school system) and the ability to produce grammatical sentences. For most people, there is no reason or value or validity or worth or profit in studying traditional parts of speech grammar. I felt obliged to share this information with the class, which caused them to ask the question, "Then, why are we here?"  I couldn't answer that one very well.
So there I was, teaching grammar. Since I had to teach it and they had to take it, I vowed that I'd try to 1) make it interesting, and 2) make sure the students got it. As a result, I basically worked on a day to day schedule, talking about nouns and verbs and adjectives and (shudder) adverbs, then testing the students to see what they had absorbed. It made for an up-in-the-air experience which must have been unsettling to modern students, who want to know exactly what they are doing from day to day, and, more importantly, when the test days are.
In this class, students knew the general trend of the lessons, but didn't know precisely what we would be doing on any one day.
It was actually a very liberating experience in a way. I wasn't simply covering a set amount of material in a set time -- I was covering as much as I could cover thoroughly in the time I had. And, I have to admit, for a linguist, talking about syntax and words is fun any time, even if it doesn't serve any real-world purpose.