Day Twenty-Six: Verily, Merrily Vocabulary

I doubt I’ll be using my cell phone alarm anytime soon.  Waking up before the alarm, at 6:12 am, a good fifteen or so minutes before the alarm was to go off, I tapped my organizer and shut off the one-time alarm setting. Or so I thought.

I’m in the bathroom and I hear the obnoxious fakey rooster alarm goin beserk.  Caught in an awkward moment, having just stepped out of the shower,  I am not up for dripping and streaking across the hall to my room to shut it off.  I’m frantically trying to towel off enough to get some clothes on to dash across to my room wishing for a robe. That’s one request for my Christmas request list.  It’s difficult pulling up damp underwear onto a damp. Let alone the uncomfortable sticky part of wearing them.  I don’t recommend it.

I manage to jam on enough clothes for decency to make the dash, jump onto my bed, and grab my cell phone off my nightstand.  “What is your problem?” I growl at my phone.   I go through the turning off procedure again, the log says “alarm empty.”  I bounce my phone on top of my bed firmly enough to teach it a lesson.  I then attempt a return to my morning routine, yet I have little energy from too many late nights of noveling attempting. I give up on style this morning and go for necessity.  The hair will have to air dry and not wanting to catch a cold I throw on my woolen hat.  I grab a Pop-Tart and an apple, a kind of a guilt and compromise breakfast on the run, and head out the door.  I have the presence of mind to make sure I have my keys and phone before shutting the door.  Hello to another day.

One reason for my state of flurry is while in the shower I suddenly realized I have a vocabulary test in English, causing panic to set in.  The alarm frenzy didn’t all help. I try to recall the vocabulary list, try to envision the handout, yet all the vocab words whirl together in my brain like a blender in puree mode.  I close my eyes, convincing myself to take a breath and to calm down.  I pep talk my brain into test mode.  I hope my brain is listening.

At our school the freshmen are taught the Greek side of word parts, and in sophomore year we learn the Latin aspect.  We aren’t learning the languages of Greek and Latin, only the word parts.  I guess something like 85% of our language is composed of Greek and Latin.  The rest is made up of German, French and some other languages.  It makes sense to study how words are made up of parts.  Mrs. X had one of her rare cool moments, which are very few, and explained the vocab system one day.  She did it with Oreo cookies.

English: Two regular Oreo cookies. Please chec...

English: Two regular Oreo cookies. Please check my Wikimedia User Gallery for all of my public domain works. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Class,“ she beckoned to us, holding up an Oreo cookie. “This cookie is made up of three parts.   “There is the top,“ she demonstrates. “the middle,” she flashes the creamy middle after expertly twisting apart the two halves, “and the bottom.” We blink and stare.  She never does anything like this.  Seeing our glazed, unblinking expressions, she continues.  “Think of the top as the prefix, how it goes before the creamy white center.  Now the center is the root, it’s the middle of the word.  This brings us to the end part, or the suffix.  This cookie is similar to most words in that there is a front part, a middle, and a back part.”  And she put the cookie together and ate it.

Her cookie demonstration helped a little in understanding how words are put together, except I immediately want to eat cookies whenever I study vocabulary.  I wonder if she studied Pavlov.  Heck, she’s so old she probably went to school with him.  I think she started teaching the year the school opened back in 1946. The X is legendary, that is for sure.  I hear the principal is even frightened of her.  I think she’s been here so long she must have been his English teacher when he went to high school. If Mrs. X does retire some day they could hire three new teachers and still not equal her seniority in years. She is old.  Way old. She is way old school.  No one talks in her class. Death by over-the-reading-glasses glare is gruesome.  It happened last quarter.  I was witness to it.  Two girls whispered, actually whispered together, while Mrs. X went over the reading assignment.  The girls were oblivious to the quick darting glance warnings students tried to give them.  Then it happened…Mrs. X zeroed in on the offenders and before they could adjust their composure they got zapped with the famous X factor withering eye.  They stiffened in their desks and did not move the rest of the period.  I don’t talk to anyone in her class.  She is fearsome.

I absolutely do not want to fail this vocab test.  Not that I have failed any so far, but I have this “driving desire to pass it with excellence”, which is what Mrs. X tends to say as she passes out the test sheets. If we do well we’ll be spared her Vocabulary Speech.  This speech is among several she pulls out, dusts off, and drones to us.  Speech #42: “How Vocabulary Should Be Taught.”

“Because of the block schedule  I cannot teach like I used to. The old system allowed for continuity.  I would give students their word list on Monday, methodically go over each word, give a sentence example, and ask students to supply a word using the prefix, root, or a suffix from the word list.  The next class I would give the synonym and call upon a student to give the equivalent off the list.  The third day  would be “pop-offs,”  meaning I would randomly select words and students and expect the word to be known She chuckles at saying “pop-off” as if she thought it was cute for her to use such an expression.  Maybe she thought she was being “hip” for using it.

After her momentary inserted chuckle she continues: “If five words were answered incorrectly during the review I would have the students write them out fifty times on a piece of paper.  The Friday of that week the test would be given.  It would be rare to have a student get less than 95%,” she would crow at us.  I am so glad we are block schedule.

Block schedule has been in effect for at least five years; however, Mrs. X is still holding on the hope they will return to the Old Way.  She reminds us on a frequent basis how much better it was when teachers could meet every day with their students instead of this “willy-nilly haphazard excuse” of a schedule.  We get the vocabulary of yesteryear speech every time she hands back a set of unsatisfactory vocabulary results.  “Top grade today was a 87%.  Study, people,” she cajoles.  She threatens to reintroduce us to the proven method of repetitious writing for vocabulary if we don’t bring up our scores. Ack, please spare us the drone repetitive writing and rewriting.

I usually manage to learn my weekly vocabulary by sheer intimidation.  She personally hands back the papers and I tend to hold my breath as I glance at the score. Last test she handed back my paper pointing to the circled red 90% with an equally red fingernail.  I don’t know if that is an indication of condemnation or congratulations.  Her expression is this one-sided grimace, or maybe that is her smile.

I know I sound like I am whining.  Okay, I am whining.  Vocabulary shouldn’t be this hard.  Then again I have collected some absolutely bodacious words from my weekly vocabulary words.  Here are some of my favorites:

1.  petulant: insolent in speech or behavior
2. loquacious: full of excessive speech
3.  dubious: fraught with uncertainty
4. magniloquence: characterized by a high-flying style
5. veracity: adherence to the truth
6. consanguinity-relationship by blood
7. expedite: to speed up the process
8. aureate: of golden color
9. sagacious: sound judgement
10. mordant: bitingly sarcastic

I tend to hoard certain words like they are bits of found treasure, only to find that they sometimes accidentally drop into in conversation or in writing. If that happens at school students will remark, “Oh, we just finished week 4 or I spelled that one wrong,” since we all suffer through the same vocab program.  However, outside of school people tend to look at me oddly for interjecting an ocassional treasure vocab word, as if I am not privy to it. My parents are word freaks like me, or I should say  “connoisseurs,” which is a nicer term.

I may not especially appreciate Mrs. X and her vocabulary tests, but I relish the introduction to all the new words.  Not surprisingly, I also have grown quite fond of Oreo cookies.

Vocabulary - Words Are Important

Vocabulary – Words Are Important (Photo credit: Dr Noah Lott)

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