Context Is Everything

English is an inherently boring subject. When not paired with anything else English is just not interesting for someone who can speak it already, but can’t understand the written rules. It’s like chalk. Chalk is fun to draw with on the sidewalk, but if someone hands you a piece of chalk and says “No drawing, no writing about anything, just examine and play with this piece of chalk,” you’ll find yourself pretty bored. The same is true with pens and pencils… and English.

For example: Lets learn about English! No don’t write anything you like to think about. Don’t pass notes in class. Don’t write a story. Here. Look at this sentence about people you don’t know and tell me which commas are in the wrong place.

That sounds boring no matter how you put it.

And, by the way, I still probably couldn’t place the commas correctly 100% of the time. But I don’t think I’m the only one.

What I’m trying to get to is this: most English teachers don’t know how to relate how English works to the kids they teach. They want high school kids to read books like The Scarlet Letter (which sucks) and then write a compare and contrast essay about the characters. That book was so boring why would anyone want to compare those characters to anything? That’s how I felt at the time. I felt like the whole process was a waste of time, just like I felt that reading sentences and trying to spot the spelling errors was a waste of time when I was in 4th grade and sitting at a table with Amy and watching he point at each sentence and ask me, “Do you see anything wrong with this?”

I would probe her horsey face for the answer instead of looking at the sentence. I hoped she’d give it away but she never did.

I think for people to be interested in anything they need to first be interested in where it’s going. For me, that meant understanding written English so I could read Pokemon Cards.

After seeing Amy for a while, my dad and I once stopped at the Northgate Mall where there was this store called Wizards of the Coast. Wizards was a nerd place that had lots of computers for playing online games (this was sorta before online games could be owned at home) and lots of people playing different card games like Magic The Gathering, Star Wars, and Pokemon Cards. Being a fan of the Pokemon video game, I was enthralled by the cards–even if I couldn’t read what they did. My dad agreed we could buy one pack of Pokemon Cards each week as long as I did my homework that Amy gave me. Suddenly I had a goal. I had a topic that forced me to read.

What I’m getting at is this: Paint is no fun if you can’t use it. English is no fun for the same reason. I had no use for reading before Pokemon Cards. With the cards came a purpose. I needed to learn to read if I wanted to play the game. That’s like life as well.

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