The Blue Curtains

Hi everybody! Today we’re going to look at figurative language – specifically, why people choose to use it. I’ll discuss different types, how to recognize them, and how to use them in later posts, but I think that before we get to knowledge and skills, it’s important to reflect on purpose. This will help provide a foundation for understanding the knowledge and skills once we start exploring them.

As always, follows are great, hallelujah, but what I would REALLY love is if you left me a comment. Maybe your favorite example of figurative language and why it’s so interesting or meaningful, or something you don’t understand that you’d like me to explain in a future video. Or further discussion of some of the points that I raise in this one. Or even just a comment to say hello. I love all of that.

The internet is an amazing thing. It gives us access to all kinds of information and enables us to connect with many different people from all over the world. In a lot of ways, that’s fantastic. And in some other ways, it sucks.

A pie chart illustrating “Sturgeon’s Law ” – “ninety percent of everything is crap.”
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Books I Love: Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language

This book quite literally changed my life. It is the book that made me realize I wanted a ‘favorite books’ section on my bookshelf.

Book cover

For many animals, grooming each other is a primary method of creating and maintaining social bonds. It’s quite literally “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” However, these bonds are limited by practicality: each animal can only groom one other at a time. Dunbar posits that conversation developed as a way for us to develop these social bonds with several others simultaneously.

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Letter to Biden and Harris

Dear President Biden and Vice-President Harris,

As a resident of Georgia, in particular the 14th congressional district, I’m sure you can imagine what a rollercoaster ride the past election cycle was. I want to express my sincere appreciation for your “hit the ground running” approach to the beginning of your term. Our country is at a historic crossroads, and the decisions and actions that we make now will have far-reaching consequences. 

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End-of-Summer Nightmares


My schedule has been changed and I’ve been given a completely new course for which no one will give me any guidelines. The guidelines exist, of course, and I will be expected to adhere to them, but I don’t know what they are. 

I arrive at school only to find that the teachers’ parking area has been changed. I’m not sure where I’m supposed to park and if I spend much more time driving around I’m going to be late and my students will be unsupervised. 

One of my students is distraught and is trying to explain to me why she’s so upset. I want to listen to her and give her my attention, but it’s during the middle of class and has interrupted instruction and it’s not fair to neglect the other students to focus on her.

We have a fire drill. I take roll and a student who should be present is not.

I was supposed to cover classes for a colleague, and I forgot. Everyone else has to pitch in because I didn’t follow through on what I said I would do. 

I ask students to take out their books, and they tell me that I was supposed to pass the books out but I never did, and I realize that they are right and that we can’t study the essay I have in my lesson plans because I did not bring the books and it is all my fault.

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I started getting involved in community theater around 2014 or so. I almost missed out on my first play; the audition form said that some people would be cast without needing to be called back, so be sure to check the cast list even if you didn’t get a callback. Well, I just figured that was them trying to soothe the fractured egos of those who got rejected, so when I didn’t get called back for any of the roles, I figured, meh, they picked somebody who was a better fit. 

Well then a day or two after the cast list went up, I got a call from the stage manager who asked if I was still interested in the role. Apparently, it wasn’t just them being nice, and they really DID cast me without calling me back; that’s actually a thing that does happen.

Unfortunately, it happens the other way around, too. Back in the summer of 2018, I auditioned for a local production of Mamma Mia. I really, really wanted the part of Tanya; it’s the role played by Christine Baranski in the movie. And I got called back. But of course, when you get called back, that means other people get called back, too. And they’re the ones who are in serious running for the part.

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Cyrano de Bergerac, the Supreme Court of the United States, Representation, and Donuts

I was thinking about women on the Supreme Court as I got ready for school one morning in late February. I think this was mostly because I had dreamed about a new appointment that night. 

That dream was probably influenced by one of the books I was currently reading, which talked about the effects of explicit gender bias, and how that without deliberate countermeasures, lead to non-gendered situations having a lingering implicit bias as a result. So I had been thinking a lot about representation, and culture, and society, and the interconnections between them.

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The Myth of “Balance” as a Teacher

So, before I get started, I want to give a short message to any teachers who happen to be watching this. And that message is, “You can skip most of this, because you already know it, because you’ve lived it.” So, fellow teachers, thank you for your service, and you can scroll down to ‘What Can Help‘ for some practical ideas for how to juggle all of the expectations that are placed on us. 

Students are often surprised when I tell them that I don’t expect English class to be their top priority. To me, this just seems like basic rationality. Demanding that MY CLASS be the most important thing in anyone else’s life would demonstrate levels of arrogance and entitlement that are at the very least, unhealthy.

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On Standardized Testing During a Global Pandemic

This blog post is an adaptation of a video I created, available here.

Back in February of 2021, the news broke that the Department of Education announced it would NOT be setting aside the “accountability requirements” as required by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

This shot my blood pressure through the roof, so let’s take a step back and breathe for a moment. No, I’m not abandoning this topic. It’s just a moment. And, be honest. Chances are pretty good that you need this moment as much as I do. (And I really need a moment.)

So. Quit slouching. Move your spine. Remember the cervical and sacral areas, too. Shoulders play an important part. Hold yourself more open. Straighten. Release. Empower.

Remember that what we do matters. And that is not just a statement of responsibility, but of opportunity.

Breathe in slowly. Deeply, but without creating tightness. Pause. Release, just as evenly.

We can do this.

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Style Guides

(MLA, APA, etc.) What they are, why they’re used, how they change, why it matters.

My video lesson for this is available here.

As you’re progressing as a writer, at some point, you’ll learn about style guides. Maybe you already have; they’re generally introduced in high school. The two most common for academic writing are the MLA style guide, from the Modern Language Association, and the APA style guide, from the American Psychological Association. This is not the same as AP style, which is not so much a formatting guide as guidelines for journalistic writing, created by the Associated Press. 

There’s also Chicago and Turabian Style, which are very similar, the Council of Science Editors Documentation Style, the American Medical Association Style, Bluebook 101, the Linguistics Society of America’s Unified Style Sheet, and several others – but MLA and APA formats are the most widely used. 

Because I teach English, and like most of the humanities, literature and language courses use MLA style, this series is going to focus on some of the particulars of MLA. But before we get to that, I want to address a question that many (if not most) students have when they are introduced to the concept of standardized formatting for document setup and references:

Why do we have to do this?

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