Sunday, February 26, 2012

Spelling Gee! Spelling Beeswax!

Amber had been practicing for her MaRRs Spelling Bee competition when it just dawned on me.  Why are spelling bees often said out loud when correct spelling should be part of good writing?  I mean, you don’t go around telling people, “Hey have you ever been to M-m-a-b-a-t-h-o?”  No, we say them, not spell them.  Or like greet people with H. E. L. L. O.!  You simply say, hello!    

It seems like we are testing children using the wrong methods.  They should get a keyboard to key in their answers, or if still not so techie, at least a slate with a marker to write the correct spelling.  And these spelling bees have been going on for many, many years! 

No wonder children are atrocious at spelling.  The generations of drilling them to shout out the words when all along they should be putting it down in writing must have had some negative effect on the spelling development of school children.

It’s like when our kids are young and we don’t want them to understand what we are talking about, we spell it out.  Let’s go have s-e-x later when the b-a-b-y is a-s-l-e-e-p.  Yes, great!  But I digress. Back to spelling competitions.

There is a correlation of being able to capture the word in your mind and then be able to spell it.  But this kind of competitions have a bias favoring visual learners.  What about audio-sensory or tactile learners who use listening or actual experiences to spell?  Do we just leave out their abilities because we are used to the standards of spelling?  And these standards are set by whom? Perhaps it is time for an upgrade to go with the times. 

With the arrival of techie stuff, we should re-examine our spelling competitions and the traditional ways we teach spelling. 

I mean why can’t kids – the younger pre-school children – be able to hold a plastic hammer and bang the letters away to spell the words like cat, dog, and hammer!  Think how fun that could be, heck I’d try it myself.

Foundations years 1 – 4 can do games on their PCs, IPods or IPads using examples of games like Angry Birds or Plants versus Zombies.  Something like shoot the pigs by spelling the mystery word correctly, or plant the flowers in correct spelling and you defeat all the zombies.  That’s why I love games like Word Search, Boggle and Scrabble.  If it aint spelled right, you aint got no points!

Today’s texting had added its toll on proper spelling as well with words abbreviated to ‘c u l8er’ and ‘ur my bff’ I cringe at the grim future writing and correct spelling has in the young. 

There is the standard and there is the reality.  While we old people insist on correct spelling, the young will use language that expresses them and sets them apart from their predecessors.  As much as I want to uphold the goodness of a written work that showcases correct spelling and proper punctuation as well, I fear the days of the spelling bees could be facing their dusk in the long history of competitions.  Not only does it fail to test the proper skills (spelling out loud when it should be written) but the students themselves are becoming less and less adept at correct spelling.

And with a language that continues to develop, merge, evolve and get used by the people at a certain time, who knows where this will lead. 

But for now, Amber has to learn how to spell for her spelling competition and despite my objections to the methods; at least I know my child can spell.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Driving Lessons 2: Every Start Has A Stop

What is it about death that frightens many among us? It is the final destination; death is. So even if we know for certain that death is coming, still many of us do not want to reach that destination just yet. There is this Latin phrase: “deficit omne quod nasciture” meaning, ‘Everything that is born, passes away,’ that I’m always reminded of whenever I think about death.

It is the same when you start your car to go on a trip, be it a short or a long journey, every engine start-up must come to an end. Often you find yourself driving with family or friends, people who take the journey with you from and up to a certain point. Sometimes you find yourself driving alone.

In life, like driving you hit traffic signals telling you to stop. Pause a while to consider your journey so far. Take a break from all that driving (or living) and just chill. Even take a break from people who may have taxed us so much, exhausted our capacity to understand and tested our patience and goodwill.

We also reach crossroads which often we are unsure which turn will reap the best rewards. Then there are the milestones; kilometer marks, distance indicators telling us what we have so far attained. These we pass by, yes just pass by for we never really stop in each one or if we do, we never really linger because the journey continues.

There are many road signs in the road of life. They warn us about bad things that could happen. It could be a parent giving advice, a friend with a gut feeling, even our own bodies, telling us of illnesses to come. Sometimes we take heed, slow down and stay alert. Although often we disregard them and blaze on uncaring if we hurt ourselves in the process.

On the road, as in life we get the feeling that somehow we missed a turn or got lost along the way. It is better to get lost with someone than being lost all by yourself. A haunting lyric from an Air Supply song asks, “When you’re lost, where do you begin?” and lets one ponder the next best step to self discovery or simply finding the right direction to seek help.

Even finding the right one can be gleaned from a bit of driving 101. Was that stop you didn’t take the point where you could have met Mr. or Miss Right? Should you have heeded the sign to slow down instead of entering into such a commitment? Sadly, life like driving does not always have a reverse or rewind button. Yes you can probably manage a short reversal on the road but the path you have trodden had already been trod. The words you have spoken had been said. Your actions whether for good or bad have been done. The die is cast. What remains is the road ahead.

You do not stop driving just because someone got off or there’s this huge accident on the road. You even do not give up not when your car had ran out of gas or gotten a flat tire. You find a way to fix the problem and drive on. Life goes on.

So as I start my engine this morning to drive my daughter to school and me to work, I think about the road ahead later today: the way home; where my husband will be too later tonight. So long as there is a home to go to, I shall not give up on driving and discovering new places nor will I stop living my life. No, I do not fear death but for now that is not yet my destination for I am homeward bound.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Driving Lessons 1: Seeing the Bigger Picture

Often we find fault or blame the driver in front of us on the general traffic condition. How many times have we caught ourselves saying, “Oh why is he going so slow?” of the driver ahead who seems to be on a sightseeing tour rather than rushing his way to the office like us who are now running late? Many times we may even say, “Dumb guy” or “Stupid driver” if the car before us suddenly stops when the traffic is clearly on go; or simply how he seems to be going backwards instead of forwards. Surprisingly enough, when we let our vision include the other motorists, we find that often it is not even the guy in front of us who is at fault and realize the cause for him slowing down or suddenly stopping.

In life, we often blame those who are directly connected to us for the many faults and wrongs that we see or experience in our lives. My husband’s not as ambitious or driven, my son doesn’t seem motivated, my mother is too critical of everyone; my best friend seems to be avoiding me. On and on our personal diatribes go as we find our nearest and dearest to blame. Yet if we only take time to see clearly, we may discover that hubby may be working as hard but opportunities may not be available for advancement in his current workplace, son may be going through self discovery phase and is more concerned with self than school and needs guidance, mother is only concerned that everyone is doing well and best friend is going through a personal crisis that we should help rather than feel alienated.

Interestingly, it is when we change lanes that we see the bigger picture of what’s going on ahead. Perhaps in life, it is not bad to change points of view once in a while to see other versions and arguments and possibilities. I’d like to think that I’m fairly open-minded and do play devil’s advocate to myself once in a while, just to see how the other sides feel or think or react. And it can be applied to anything. How would my son or daughter feel like if I told them to do this? What would my husband say to this? If I were my mother, how would I feel if I did this? Would my best friend mind if I told her this?

Who we are can be reflected in how we deal with those around us. A driver who always consider other drivers as dumb or stupid by the way they drive and never once thought about how he himself is driving is a classic example of the egoistic person who finds fault in everything and everyone but himself – the center of the universe. This guy would cut you off the road and smirk that he got away with it smugly but would be the first to honk and get upset when someone else cuts him. He would be the one who’ll change lanes, not to see what’s going on up ahead but to merely get ahead of everyone else. He’s be the one who’ll speed up when you are signaling to change lanes so that he goes ahead of you instead of letting you pass. Sadly, many people are like this driver in life and on the road.

But we can change. We can get better.

So next time you feel like cursing the guy in front of you for being too slow or when you feel the need to honk that horn, try to see the bigger picture first. Put yourself in the shoes of that person before you make your judgment. Try a different point of view and see how it suits you. Perhaps the solution is found within. Perhaps it’s time for you to do some self evaluation on how you drive be it on the road or in life.