Monday, July 21, 2008


“Meaning Business”

As a boy, I often heard my mother say “I mean business”, an expression that would be suitable in my English classroom. When she used that expression, she meant she was serious about getting something accomplished (as in “clean up this mess, and I mean business”), which is exactly the attitude I want to promote among my teenage scholars. We don’t come together each day simply to indolently pass the time; it’s imperative that we “mean business” about further educating ourselves in the understanding and use of our language. Each of us must constantly embody the mind-set of my mother: be done with foolishness and achieve as much as possible. The word “business” refers to the occupation, work, or trade in which a person is engaged, a clear reminder of what should be happening in my classroom. I want the scholars to understand that we are English workers, not players – that we’re engaged in an occupation, not an amusement. We should feel free to say to each other, whenever necessary, something like, “I want to understand literature, and I mean business.” When we use the word “mean”, we are saying that we have a purpose or an intention – that we intend to learn whatever needs to be learned about reading, writing, listening, or speaking. We are serious about it. Of course, that doesn’t preclude the possibility of good cheer and heartiness in the classroom. In fact, meaning business in our study of English is perhaps the best way to develop an ambiance of cheerfulness in Room 2. After all, getting good things done (whether it’s cleaning up messes or mastering the use of gerunds) usually does bring at least a touch of inner merriment.

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