Champion.

Image via WordPress free photo library.

The TV commentators during the Tokyo Olympics have been using the word a lot lately. They seem to be using it in different ways, though, which makes one wonder just what qualifies someone as a champion?

Is just making it to the Olympics enough? Or is it winning a medal? Does one need to make it to more than one major competition? Does a record have to be beaten?

Champion is a word with a number of different senses or meanings, so it can be used in all those ways, and more.

Sadly, there are some commentators who seem to suggest that whoever gets the gold medal is the winner, and everyone else somehow falls short. Even the silver and bronze medals are some kind of consolation prize.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Just by getting there, each competitor is a champion. Each of them is the fittest, strongest, fastest or most accomplished of an entire nation.

The person who comes fourth, or sixteenth, or twenty-first in any given Olympic competition has still achieved something most of us never will.

Similarly, any competitor who has to withdraw because of injury or issues of mental health is completely undeserving of criticism for doing so. Not only have they, too, achieved something most of us cannot do, they have demonstrated that it is entirely possible for even the strongest or fittest person to reach the extent of their ability to go on with a particular pursuit.

As a person with ongoing physical and mental health conditions and acquired disability, I find that enormously encouraging. It is a reminder that it is not only acceptable, but in fact absolutely essential, that we acknowledge our limitations and live within them. That is healthy. That is human. That is an excellent example for the rest of us: you cannot ask anyone for anything more than their best.

So, whether we are watching the Olympics or any other sport, or reading a child’s school report, or considering the performance of a colleague,  or responding to the behaviour or words of a public figure, let’s break the habit of automatic criticism and condemnation.

Instead, get some perspective: did they do their best?
How might we reduce any pressure or expectations that might have limited rather than lifted them? How can we encourage them to keep going or do better?

We cannot know what others are going through behind the scenes. We do know, though, that criticism and cruelty can be incredibly destructive: they can main and kill just as effectively as blades or bullets.

Choose to leave your negativity unspoken. If you must speak it, try to be constructive, and try to be diplomatic and discreet.

Choose kindness.

Choose empathy.

Choose love.

Those things never harmed anyone.
And that will make you an absolute champion, no matter what else you do — or do not— do.

Churlish.

Yesterday I experienced some churlish behaviour in two different contexts of my daily life.

As a high-school teacher, that is to be expected. Thankfully, it occurs in only a very small minority of the young people I work with on a daily basis, most of whom are excellent individuals.

In other areas of life, though, it can still take me by surprise because I tend to keep those with churlish tendencies  safely outside my personal boundaries,  from whence I can usually dismiss unpleasant behaviour with relative ease. In fact, I have come to expect little else from some quarters.

Churlish may be a somewhat old-fashioned word, but it is a very satisfying one because it is at the same time descriptive and highly expressive, able to deliver an eloquently judgemental tone that slightly soothes one’s wounded sensitivities as it is spoken.

Churlish dates back to the late Old English word cierlisc  which related to churls:  the lowest rank of free men in Anglo-Saxon England, and later the agricultural serfs of medieval England. They were the rustic peasants, looked down upon by those who were better off and better educated because they had neither manners nor money.

The Old English word ceorl has cognates, or close relatives, in the Middle Low German word kerle and the later German word kerl  which meant man or husband, the old Dutch word kerel  which referred to a low-ranked freeman, and the Old Norse word karl which meant old man, or just man in general. This suggests a common origin, and confirms that it is a very old word indeed.

By the late 14th century, churlish had come to mean deliberately rude or bad-tempered , a meaning which has persisted to the present day. There are other words one can use instead: these days, many of them are still considered inappropriate for polite conversation or formal writing, but one might justly call a churlish person rude, unmannered, arrogant, or temperamental. Churlish behaviour might be described as a tantrum, a fit of pique, or a hissy-fit.

The behaviour I witnessed yesterday fits all those descriptions. It made a highly traumatic day even harder to deal with, and left me feeling miserable and considerably more hurt than I had been earlier. I can only suppose that was their intention, and if they were ever to read this — which is unlikely, given how they both appear to feel about me — that may give them some satisfaction. I will probably never know, and that’s quite okay.

In the end, I don’t care for their attitude or their behaviour. If they want to be churlish, they can do it without me.

I’ll be interested when they want to communicate like a grownup.

Note: This is not a passive-aggressive post. As previously observed, those responsible are unlikely to read it.

Don’t Call Me A Grammar Nazi

The name of my blog should clue people in to a basic fact about me: I have a passion for words and language. I really am a wordy nerd.

It’s not just a passing interest or a hobby, either. As an author and as an English teacher, that’s my job. I have no shame and make no apologies about any of that.

I do try to be nice about it. I am gentle with my students, and use encouragement and positive reinforcement to help them improve their writing and  their spoken language. I urge them to read their work aloud, even if just in a whisper, to see where they need to end one sentence and start another, or add punctuation. I point out things that need fixing, but at the same time offer to upgrade their marks if they fix their errors and resubmit. I reward effort.

Outside of the classroom— most of the time, at least— I tend to keep  my comments to myself. The level of self control exerted by myself in those situations is almost universally grossly underestimated and under-appreciated.

I also refuse to engage in commenting on or correcting most people’s social media posts. The usual exception to that is anyone who cuts others down or calls them ignorant or stupid while using incorrect spelling or grammar themselves: they have it coming. The irony train is fully laden and they are its next stop.

People have many names for people like me, many of which are less than complimentary. I don’t care about any of them but one.

Do. Not. Ever. Call. Me. A. Grammar. Nazi.

That is just offensive.
And anyone who fails to understand why really needs to take a good hard look at themself.

Even if we don’t appreciate what a person does or, more likely how they do it, there is no excuse for equating them with the most hateful regime in living memory.

To equate anyone with that level of atrocity is rarely, although sometimes, justified. It’s not the people who appreciates good spelling or admire elegant sentence structure, nor is it anyone who wants to see people improving their grasp of the language and public profile at the same time.

There are so many terms that could be used instead:
Grammar Geek.
Grammar Nerd.
Word Nerd.
Word Genie.
Grammar Fairy.
Ultragrammarian.
Grammar Patrol.
Grammar Nut.
Walking Dictionary.
Pedant.
Grammar Llama.

I’ll gladly accept and use any of those.

In social contexts, I rather enjoy telling people I have a grammar fetish. While I would never say that to my students, nor indeed a number of my more conservative colleagues, I will definitely throw it into casual conversation  for the fun of seeing people do the mental gymnastics and trying to keep a straight face.

Long story short, don’t call me a Grammar Nazi unless you’re ready for a very long lecture from a history nerd — also me— on why that is unacceptable.

Don’t Call Me A Grammar Nazi.

#grammar #behaviour

The Uncomfortable Truth: The Rapists Are Likely To Be Blokes You Know

The irony of writing to men on International Women’s Day has not escaped me, but this is something they need to understand.

Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

On the morning of Sunday, March 6, 2021, a white, middle-aged male Australian journalist, especially the privileged and powerful stated on national television that while he was glad that women were speaking up about rape and sexual abuse, he was struggling with the fact that his friend— a prominent member of the government who is obviously innocent, of course— had been accused of rape and is at the centre of a maelstrom of media and public scrutiny as a result. 

It was an absolute AYFKM moment for any thinking g woman watching. The two women on the discussion panel did an excellent job of not saying what they were clearly thinking.I, on the other hand, was not on national television so I was able to express my thoughts more freely. 

When the rage and the nausea subsided, I asked my husband, “Who exactly does he think the rapists are if they’re not among the friends of all the other men?”

The fact of the matter is, rapists and child abusers are very often friends or family members of their victims. They all have friends who would be as shocked by the truth as Peter Van Onselen is by the allegations against Christian Porter. They would all struggle with accepting the heinous behaviour of someone they know and respect. 

That does not mean that allegations and accusations are not true. The only way to know with any confidence is to fully investigate and, if necessary, prosecute the matter. 

In the meantime, friends of the alleged rapist— particularly journalists and his parliamentary colleagues— should recuse themselves from public forums discussing the matter because, quite frankly, it is not the place for biased male perspectives on the experiences of women. It is most definitely not the place for making a woman’s account of rape about them and how much they are struggling with the allegations against their mate. 

Conversely, Australian women are way past being surprised or shocked by men we know, or those in positions of privilege and power, being accused of rape and abuse. And while we have always been angry about rape and abuse, our fury has grown over recent weeks over the number of allegations of rape and abuse connected  to the government and the apparent inability— or outright failure— of those in positions of responsibility and power to deal with those situations appropriately. 

It’s high time Peter Van Onselen, Scott Morrison and anyone else struggling with the current accusations and publicity realised what the rest of us know: while most Australian men are not rapists and many of them are excellent, the abusers and rapists are moving among them and look just like the. They could turn out to be anyone. Nobody is beyond suspicion, regardless of their position in society. 

One other thing is just as sure: if Christian Porter or any of the other accused men in Parliament House were a teacher rather than a politician, his employer’s response would have been very, very different. 

The Rapists Are Likely To Be Blokes You Know
#UncomfortableTruth #blog

Why Are Christmas Songs Called Carols?

Photo by Blue Ox Studio on Pexels.com

I recently heard someone insisting that there was a difference between Christmas carols, which were all about baby Jesus and the angels, the star and the wise men, and Christmas songs, such as Jingle Bells or Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

It sounded like a feasible explanation, and the guy put up what seemed like a good argument– mostly due to his confidence and the underlying implication that he knew more about it than anyone else.
(See malapert and ultracrepidarian.)

That’s what triggered me to research the question. I confess it was more out of my desire to possibly prove him wrong than to actually know the answer that I took out my phone and searched Etymoline for ‘carol’. To my delight, he was wrong! It does seem to be a popular belief, but it’s not consistent with the etymology of the word carol.

Carol is a very old word that dates back to about 1300 in both its noun and verb forms.

At this time, the noun meant both a joyful song and a form of dance in a circle or ring. Both of these meanings probably came from the Old French word carole that referred to that kind of circular dance, which was sometimes accompanied by singers. The origins of the word before that are unclear, but it certainly does paint a festive picture.

It wasn’t until about 1500 AD – two centuries later – that the word had also come to refer to a hymn or song of joy sung at Christmas. Thus, the religious connotations of the word came much later than the secular meaning.

The verb form to carol first meant to dance in a ring or circular formation. The sense of the word that meant to sing with joy or celebration had developed by the late 14th century.

The verb carol did not mean to sing Christmas songs, often moving from place to place to do so, until the late 1800s. It does seem, though, that the practice of carolling is believed to be a much older tradition that was outlawed in Britain, along with the celebration of Christmas itself, by the Puritans who governed in the mid-1600s.

So, Christmas songs are called carols because of their festive and joyful nature. Given that a. the word was originally far more specific about the type of dance than the type of songs being sung, other than that they were joyful, and b. Jingle Bells and Rudolph are as festive in their own ways as Hark The Herald Angels Sing or Joy to the World, there is no reason to classify them differently. They’re all Christmas carols, and that’s that.

Sources:

Carole: European Dance
Etymonline
Medieval Circle Dance: Carole
The History of Christmas Carols

Why Are Christmas Songs Called Carols?
#ChristmasSongs #ChristmasCarols #blogpost

Fairy Lights: A Reflection on Brokenness at Christmas Time.

I wrote this poem a while ago, but it seems so relevant at this point of 2020. Every time my Christmas fairy lights flick on lately, I think of this poem.

It’s the time of year when people want me to attend parties and end of year gatherings for work or other groups. They want me to sparkle, but I feel as though I am still so tangled and frayed and broken, I just can’t.

Yet again, I find myself ‘faking normal’ and smiling and nodding while wishing I could go home and go to bed instead. It’s a well-practised skill that, quite honestly, I wish I had never had to learn in the first place.

Hence my choice of new Christmas decoration, hung lovingly on my tree in honour of the mess that 2020 has been.

It’s fair to say I enjoy this bauble far more than I have enjoyed this year.

Photo by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.com

Just like a bundle of fairy lights, stowed carelessly,

I am a mess of entangled emotions

A jumbled catastrophe, knotted and messy,

Some parts are missing, some coloured glass broken;

Synapses misfire in slightly frayed wires:

There’s danger in causing my power to surge,

I don’t always light up the way others desire

But I can be quite lovely when I have the urge.

©2017 Joanne Van Leerdam

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And People Wonder Why I Have Trust Issues.

This happened today… and I am very unhappy.

Anyone who knows me well enough to be in my front yard knows how much I love my maple trees that I have carefully and lovingly grown as reminders of my beloved Canada. I can’t get there anywhere near as often as I want to, so the least I can do is have a bit of Canada in my own garden. It’s not too much to ask.

Today, though, someone who was in my front yard — unbeknown to anyone who lives here, of course, heartlessly ran down one of my maples.

The victim.

Yes, it was a fairly small tree. That is irrelevant, because it was on its way to being big. Big maples cost lots more than smaller maples in Australia, and small ones cost more than enough. More importantly, it was my tree.

The only notification they left of the destruction of my tree was the tree itself, now horizontal rather than vertical. No note. No phone call or text. No apology. No identification of the culprit.

I am so sad. I’m sad for the loss of a tree that actually meant something to me.

I’m also sad that whoever is responsible felt it was okay to not be honest with me.

If I knocked over someone’s tree or broke something that belonged to someone else, I would be guilt-ridden and desperate to replace it.

Apparently, not everyone I know is quite so principled.

Fortunately for them, I have absolutely zero clues as to who is responsible.

Unfortunately for me, that means that my already cynical INFJ mind will not just go “oh well…” and let it go. Self-destructive as it may be, a little voice in my head will wonder ‘Was it you?’ every time I see people I should be able to trust. The question will probably never come out of my mouth, but it will be there, nevertheless.

The group of people in whom I have  absolute trust was already  a very small group indeed.
And people wonder why.

Josh Frydenberg: You Have Some Nerve, Mister.

An open letter to Josh Frydenberg, Federal Treasurer and MP for Cooyong:

You have some nerve. Your outburst in Parliament yesterday was way out of line.

Yes, mistakes were made early on in Victoria’s management of COVID. And they got cleaned up. We’ve actually done a brilliant job, which you didn’t even acknowledge. But that isn’t the part of your speech to which I, and many other Victorian teachers, take particular exception.

While the rest of the House was congratulating the people of Victoria on crushing the curve and bringing the numbers back to zero, you chose to be ungrateful. That little tantrum of yours would make a two year old proud.

An excerpt from Frydenberg’s speech in Parliament, Tuesday Oct 27, 2020.

Your assertion that your children missed out on six months of schooling is highly offensive to every teacher in this fine state who has gone way beyond the call of professionalism and duty of care to ensure that our students did not miss a single thing that we were able to provide for them.

Were my colleagues and I merely dreaming all the extra work we put into setting up online classrooms, doing extra courses in online safety and classroom management, monitoring our students’ wellbeing and mental health, in addition to all the usual planning, preparation and teaching we have been doing all year?
Did we imagine the eye fatigue and headaches from being in online classrooms all day, doing all our marking and reporting online, meeting with colleagues and conferencing with parents online?

You have been able to do your job almost completely normally all year.

We have had to completely reinvent ours, while at the same time being required to switch from face to face teaching to online classrooms, then back, and back again, sometimes at only a few days’ notice.
We’ve done it without tantrums, without complaints, and without pointing fingers at people who were also trying to do their best in otherwise uncharted territory.

Victorian teachers have proven to be dedicated, resilient, and incredibly versatile this year.

And I will tell you one thing that is absolutely certain: the students at my school did not miss six months of school. They had their full timetable, every school day, complete with teachers and teachers aides, differentiated lessons, roll call, and individual help whenever they needed it.

Don’t be firing your nasty little aspersions at Victorian schools and the 100% committed teachers in them, Mr Frydenberg, even by inference.

We do not deserve that. We are exhausted, our patience has been pushed to the limit, and we are still going. We are not in the mood for your petulant tantrums.

It’s high time you gave credit where credit is due, learned some gratitude and grace, and got on with doing your job while we continue to do ours.

An Open Letter to Josh Frydenberg @JoshFrydenberg
#TeacherLife #VictoriaTheHeroState #howdareyou

6 Things to know about Invisible Disability Awareness

Everything this post says is true.

I, too, suffer from chronic, invisible illnesses.
I have fibromyalgia. I have a permanent back injury. I have depression and anxiety, and I work hard to keep those under control. I strive to take good care of myself, and to manage my conditions. I avoid aggravating them. I also make every possible effort to stay positive and to do the things in life that I enjoy doing.

The fact is, though, no matter what good care I take care of myself or how positive and proactive I am, I cannot heal or cast off my invisible disabilities.

The debilitation is real.
The exhaustion is real.
The misconceptions are real.

And the judgement? Many people would not be willing to believe how real, and how consistent, and how very, very toxic that is.

The critics are only right about one thing: I don’t look sick.
That’s because I’ve been faking being well for years.

Brainless Blogger

This year Invisible Disability Awareness Week falls on October 18th to 24th.

According to the Invisible Disabilities Association, the term invisible disability refers to symptoms such as debilitating pain, fatigue, dizziness, cognitive dysfunction, brain injuries, learning differences, mental health disorders, as well as hearing and visual impairments. They are not always obvious to the onlooker, but can sometimes or always limit daily activities range from mild challenges to severe limitations and vary from person to person

Invisible Disabilities You ShouldKnow

6 Things to know about Invisible Disability Awareness

Unseen

Because Invisible Disabilities are not visible to the eye it can cause issues. Some of these issues are judgments when we use disabled parking or disabled bathroom stalls and others feel the need to make an issue out of it… because we do not Look disabled.

1994-1995 Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) found that 26 million Americans (almost 1 in 10) have a severe disability, while only…

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Pedant vs. Teacher

Most people use the term ‘pedant’ in a derogatory way, usually in reference to someone they perceive as being too fussy or too strict about rules. 

On the occasions when I have been called a “grammar pedant”, I have generally responded as though someone is paying me a huge compliment. I invariably say something like “Oh stop it, you flatterer!” or “One day you’ll say that like it’s a bad thing!”

As a lover of the English language and words in general, there are things to we should be paying careful attention. There is value in pointing out where a student needs an apostrophe or a comma in their writing, or where they can express an idea or key point of information more clearly. That is part of being a teacher. It’s my job.

However, I try to restrain myself from correcting people’s grammar on social media, though, for two reasons:

  1. I don’t have time. I have a life to live, and I need sleep to function.
  2. They tend not to like it much.

What many people don’t know is that the word pedant was actually derived from the world of teaching and education. It came to English from either the  Italian word ‘pedante’ or from its descendant, the later Middle French word pédant, both of which referred to a schoolmaster or teacher.  It may be one of those words that came into English from more than one source. The Italian word is derived from the Latin word paedagogantem, which is the origin of the words pedagogue and pedagogy, which are also related to teaching and education. 

By the late 16th century, though, the English were using the term in a negative rather than a neutral way.  ‘Pedant’ had already come to be used for one who placed undue emphasis on the minor details of learning, or someone who focused on details or technicalities  instead of looking at overall issues or taking a wider view of general learning and practice. 

In that sense, correcting someone’s grammar on social media when it is clearly not appreciated is being unnecessarily pedantic. Perhaps that is the distinction that really needs to be made.

Alternatively, it might be a somewhat uncomfortable yet valuable opportunity to improve both one’s learning and professional credibility in an age where prospective employers and customers look at social media profiles before deciding to give a job or order to a particular person. This is particularly true for anyone who should be reasonably expected to have a sound grasp on the language, such as teachers, writers, bloggers and professionals who rely on clear communication in their work. 

Let’s face it. I may not care if someone misspells an uncommon word, or one they’ve only heard and not read, but if they don’t bother to differentiate between ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ on social media, I’m neither going to buy their book, nor hire them to write my copy or teach my kids. 

Fussy? Yes. 
Pedantic? Probably. 
Apologetic? Not one bit. 

Reference: Online Etymology Dictionary

Pedant vs. Teacher
#grammar #English #language #words