September 6, 2013

Transitioning from the Lone Nut

I showed my wife one of my favorite TED Talks yesterday. It is Derek Sivers and he is explaining how you start a movement. He uses a video of a shirtless guy dancing like a lone nut in a park. By himself he looks crazy. But, he has his first follower join him; he embraces him like an equal and nurtures him. Then, that follower's friends see him dancing and having a good time and a couple of them join. This becomes the tipping point. By the end of the video they have a huge crowd.

What does it mean? You need a couple things to start a movement.
1. Someone brave enough to do something different that may bring them ridicule.
2. That first follower that let's the rest know that what is happening is not merely lunacy, but either a good idea, or just plain fun.

Right now I feel like the lone nut with grammar. I cannot, in good conscience, prescriptively teach it - especially with the use of out of context worksheets. But, that's what the department is demanding of me and of my students. Why? Because they still see the best demonstration of grammar skills and knowledge is their score on a test.

I have a different idea. My students need to write. Once they have written something significant (at least a paragraph) they need someone, likely myself, to go through it with them to explore their strengths and deficits in their writing. They need to be shown THEIR GRAMMAR MISTAKES and then how to fix them.

It takes a lot of time, but will make them much more effective in writing. It will also teach them to seek out help when necessary - another important skill.

But, as I have mentioned, I am still the lone nut. Where do I go from here?

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