How I Always Exaggerate Everything!

This blog has now been in existence for a few months, and I would like to pause for a moment to reflect. I have been pleasantly surprised by the degree of interest and would like to thank you all for reading and commenting. I particularly want to thank those of you who have blogged about my blog, added me to your own blogrolls, and tweeted my new posts. (Special thanks are due to The Thesis Whisperer and College Ready Writing.)

Although the actual experience of writing this blog has been very different than I expected (who knew it would be so engrossing!), the actual content has worked out more or less as planned. As was my intention, I started with key principles, sources, and strategies, all of which I hope will now act as a foundation for future posts. The completion of this initial phase means that I am now ready to tackle more specific writing issues. But I find myself unable to decide what to tackle first. I have given a ridiculous amount of thought to this–as those of you who know me will find easy to believe–without coming to a decision. What I did come to, however, was a realization about a quirk in my teaching style.

In trying to find a suitably significant topic for today’s post, I thought back to things that I present to my students as particularly significant. What I realized was that I use a lot of superlatives. In fact, you might say that I use superlatives in a way that suggests I don’t actually understand the concept of a superlative. ‘This is my favourite strategy’, I say about many different strategies. ‘This is the most important idea that you will learn in this class’, I say in reference to many different ideas. There is a pleasing simplicity about saying ‘If you learn one thing in this class, it should be this.’ But that simplicity is undermined by saying it about more than one thing. In course evaluations, students often mention my enthusiasm, although it sometimes sounds less like praise and more like pity (‘Rachael sure does care a lot about grammar.’) I am sure, overall, that my enthusiasm is a strength in the classroom. But the indiscriminate enthusiasm could stand to be replaced with something a bit more measured.

From now on, I will attend to the true meaning of ‘favourite’–and ‘best’, ‘most’, etc.–and exercise an appropriate degree of restraint. For instance, I will have only one favourite punctuation mark (although, at home, I will continue to have two favourite children because that is just sound domestic policy). Since that favourite punctuation mark is definitely the semicolon, I will make that the topic of my next post.

6 responses to “How I Always Exaggerate Everything!

  1. Thanks for the shout-out! I share those sites that I find the most interesting and useful, and yours is definitely both those things.

    And, you must, of course, know about The Oatmeal and How To Use A Semi-Colon (The Most Feared Punctuation on Earth):

    I particularly like it because students tend to remember the most ridiculous things about lectures, and so I can always bring up the hairy knuckles and know that they know what I’m talking about.

  2. Hi Rachael,
    This week’s blog has given a personal touch to all your expertise in the field. You are simply amazing. I enjoy every bit of information that I gather from your blog.

  3. Thanks for the shout out too 🙂

    I often get “passionate” my teaching evals – clearly I need to calm the heck down. Yet I can’t help myself with exclamation marks… I look forward to your post on them 🙂

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