Saturday, September 6, 2008

Poem: "The Grammar Lesson"

Although I enjoy teaching, it sometimes makes me feel more than a little self-conscious. Besides the occasional brain-freeze I have when I am writing something on the board, which usually results in some atrocious and embarrassing misspelling, I often have to refer to one of the grammar books that litter my desk and fill my bookshelves. While I will often know when something is grammatically right or wrong just by looking at it, I often forget the specific rules and grammatical names. This grammar amnesia isn't a huge problem when I'm editing my own work, but it presents a challenge when I'm trying to help students improve their writing. Telling them that their comma usage "just doesn't feel right to me" is probably the least helpful thing I could say.

Luckily, there are apparently other English teachers and writers who share my rather complex relationship with grammar. One poem that makes me feel a lot better about my grammatical shortcomings and limitations is Steve Kowit's witty villanelle "The Grammar Lesson." Sometimes, when I am having a particularly trying paper-grading session, I repeat "A noun's a thing. A verb's the thing it does" over and over to myself. Surprisingly, this sometimes makes me feel better.