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.