I may never live long enough to complete this list. One poignant scene included a moment where the characters discussed the possibility, that because every word they had ever spoken was a pattern of vibrations, their conversations were all present somewhere in the atmosphere, or potentially in outer space.
My Marquette days in speech science class came back to me. I reran that old story about the tree falling in the forest. I connected it to the very modern notion that everything we post on-line, on a facebook page, or in a text are somewhere in cyberspace. And, I began to take words much more seriously.
Now, I love words. Lucky thing for someone who spends their professional life assisting kids in using words effectively.
One aspect of this role is the understanding of multiple meaning words that are prevalent in our English language. This is the foundation for the form of humor known as puns, for countless Saturday Night Live skits, and for the Headlines spot on the Tonight Show. This part of the lexicon is one of the most troubling for non-native speakers and those who struggle to master the use of language. It is what makes our television commercials engaging, our text confusing, and keeps our slang evolving. Even bad can mean good, depending on which neighborhood you live in. One of our important jobs as teachers is to make this process of actively thinking about words one that we model, explain and assign to our students. In this way we can raise active readers, writers, speakers, listeners and thinkers who appreciate the humor, the creativity and the strength that these key words can elicit.
The word resolution, an important part of January for many individuals, is one of those multiple meaning words. It has historical value and technological import. The Miriam Webster On-Line Children’s Dictionary identifies five meanings of this word, most that are used daily somewhere in the school setting. It speaks to how clearly we think, how sharply we see and how strongly we fight for what we love.
1)-the act or process of changing to simpler form, solving the problem, identifying the correct path, finding the answer
-the act of answering, meeting the requirements
-the act of determining
2) –the ability to distinguish, as parts of an object or sources of light
-a measure or the sharpness of the image, like a printer image, video screen or television set
3) –something that is committed to accomplishing, as a New Year’s resolution
4) – a formal statement of the feelings, wishes, or decision of a group, such as a mission statement, curriculum or set of goals
5) – the point in a work of literature at which the main conflict is worked out, such as in a book or movie
In the past I have made many resolutions. I have organized them by category, created systems to track and reward success. I have kept a few, but failed to keep many more.
This year I am making ONE, one that I believe has a good chance of success. It has applications in my personal, professional and spiritual lives. It invites redefinition throughout the year. It begs for the cooperation of my friends and family, my co-workers and my students. It has the potential to change my world and the world around me. It is amazingly simple and very complex. It is this: Those things that are already in my heart, those things I care passionately about and that guide my steps need to be moved to my head.
I need to be better informed, better schooled, more articulate, about these feelings and motivations. I need to listen to both sides and make reasoned decisions about those topics. Those things that already in my head, that I have read about, discussed, or investigated need to move to my hands. It is not enough to feel and to know, if it is not accompanied by action. I need to do the work that puts my heart and mind to positive effect. I need to model this for others and find it within myself. Lastly, those things that are already in my hands, on my to-do list need to be in my feet. I have to expand my sphere of influence. Those ways in which I have become effective, in bringing change and order to my immediate surroundings need to be expanded to the broader world.
That is what teaching calls us to do. That is what the concepts of new years, new lives, and resolutions are all about. That is why choosing our targets and our words carefully are so important. After all, they may still be out there somewhere.