ONE TEACHER’S ALPHABET
V is for Verbs
In my teaching, I would like to place more emphasis on verbs than on nouns and pronouns – not in a grammatical sense, but in a 'real life' sense. Verbs stand for actions rather than individual persons, places, or things, and in that sense they are impersonal. Verbs don’t distinguish between “me” and “them”, or between this person and that person. They are impersonal and impartial; you might say they will accept any ‘subject’ that will help them make a sentence. This interests me, because one of my goals is to build a sense of impersonal-ness and impartiality in my classroom. I want us to think of ourselves as joint and essential elements in the activity of learning, rather than as individual persons (‘I’s and ‘me’s and ‘they’s) standing separate from each other and hoping for individual, private success. Education is an action, not a person, place, or thing. It’s a verb, not a noun. It doesn’t stand still; it happens, no matter who the student is – no matter what kind of person (noun or pronoun) is standing in as the ‘subject’ of the learning process. Accordingly, I hope my students and I can learn to think less of ourselves – of our isolated, discreet roles as ‘he’ or ‘she’ – and think more of the marvelous process of learning that is occurring in the classroom. This is what I mean when I say I want to develop an atmosphere of impersonal-ness in my classes. If the students and I think not so much about ‘I’ and ‘me’ and more about the endless process of searching for truth, we have a chance of building a productive community of learners – a community based on shared, cohesive activity (reading, writing, studying, discussing) instead of separate, sovereign persons who simply want a better grade for ‘me’ than for ‘them’.