All posts by Connor Valvo

Expanding Circles of Conversation

In his essay “The Decline of Grammar”, Geoffrey Nunberg discusses the views of various critics that the English language is degenerating. Although his essay was published in 1997, I believe that these critics would be even more convinced of the degeneration of the English language in the current day. Nunberg responds to these criticisms on his own, but I think it’s valuable to discuss the state of the English language today as opposed to in the previous decade. We live in a time where, courtesy of the Internet and technology, people are able to broadcast their voices to large audiences with greater simplicity than ever before. In previous decades, the medium of print limited the amount of people who could share their ideas and opinions with a large group. Currently, with the various mediums of communication, there are a plethora of new voices, and consequently a plethora of different forms of the English language broadcasted to various audiences.

The basic rules of grammar and English have remained relatively consistent in certain mediums such as scholarly articles and works of literature, yet these only make up a small portion of the material we read on a daily basis. The fact of the matter is that now, more so than ever, the circles of conversation usually confined to interpersonal, direct conversation have been aided by technology, and therefore these circles of conversation have expanded. These circles of conversation become more public as opposed to private; for example, vernacular English usually confined to the home has expanded as the circles of conversation are enhanced through technology. What this may lead critics to believe is that the English language is degenerating, and that the care and attention to certain grammatical rules is slowly but surely dying. This may appear to be the case, but I do not believe the language is degenerating; I believe that these variations of the English language have existed to a degree for decades, or perhaps centuries, and it is not that the English language is changing, but that these variations of the English language are noticeable on a more public level. Therefore, I believe this degeneration is more illusory than these critics recognize, although I cannot deny that the English language has changed to a degree over the years, just not to the degree that certain critics may claim.

As Michael mentioned in his post, the purpose of language is for communication and the varying discourses and circles of conversation we participate in dictate the way we speak or write. With this fact in mind, I believe that the goal of English education should include an emphasis on the idea of conversational awareness, an awareness of the circle of conversation that an individual is in and an awareness of the type of English appropriate for this circle of conversation. I believe if people are educated in such a way, that various circles of conversation can continue to flourish without any degeneration of the English language itself. Our country is composed of many different individuals, and consequently different voices. While I do believe it is important to maintain some level of correctness in language, it is also important to allow these different voices to be expressed.

Service Learning Reflection

My first hands on teaching experience in York was a learning experience for my students, but it was also definitely a learning experience for myself. My two lessons in York were my first two lessons ever, and I have to admit that it’s a relieving feeling to cast away the weight of speculation and now possess a better understanding of what a real teaching experience is like. As I anticipated, the smaller group structure definitely made the experience more manageable and was a good way to ease into actually teaching a lesson. Overall, I found the experience very beneficial and it has me eager to continue the pursuit of my career in education.

Teaching my first real lesson allowed me hands on experience to actually exercise some of the strategies and practices learned in Block II. The skills and knowledge I gained from Block II definitely helped me in the planning and execution of my lesson, and it was an interesting experience to actually employ certain practices in a classroom setting. I feel that after using certain strategies and practices learned in Block II, such as cold calling and group work, I now have a better understanding of how they work and the effect they have in the classroom.

One aspect of teaching that I faced difficulty with early on in my lesson was accommodating the learning styles of my students. Not only did I have to account for each student’s individual learning style, but I also had to account for the differences between their learning style and my own. After taking college courses and participating in college level discourse, it took me a while to start, in a sense, thinking like a 9th grader. My anticipatory set for my first lesson involved a group activity where the students and I created a thesis statement about dogs and cats, analogous to the thesis statement they were writing about their two different religions. I felt this activity engaged the students, and also made the process of creating their own thesis statement about religion relatable to something. After the first lesson, I had a better understanding of the learning styles of each student and was able to use this knowledge to assist in the one on one conferences I had with the students. For example, one student enjoyed football and hunting, so I used those two examples to help him relate to the essay topic by explaining how to include common information about the two subjects.

My experience in York was a valuable one, and although I gained a lot from the experience, it was not without some adversity. The group of students I had came into the first lesson with little knowledge of how to write a thesis statement. Speaking to other classmates, I gathered that at least a couple of students per group could write a sound thesis statement, but my group struggled. Therefore, I ended up spending a lot more time than I planned focusing on thesis statement writing. Although this hindered the overall implementation of my lesson, I felt it was the most important part of my lesson. This experience allowed me to realize that my lesson plans will not always be perfectly implemented, and sometimes I need to improvise. These difficulties, though, proved to be valuable within themselves.