Tutoring and Its Impact on Me

So tutoring is my bread and butter these days, literally, as it doesn’t quite cover the gravy, and I am learning a lot.

I am a visual person, and I have noticed over the years that although I used to be a perfect speller (commented on by many a teacher and relative), there is more doubt creeping into my spelling choices. And I know that has a lot to do with the fact that the more often I see something spelled incorrectly, the more likely that choice is to override the correct spelling, the older programming in my brain. Damn that visual memory of mine!

So, in tutoring a 1st, 2nd and 4th grader, it has been fun to go over the basics. And, there are some basics that I find I have forgotten over time, if in fact they were ever learned correctly in the first place. Also, in talking with other friends who are older than myself, some of the rules have in fact changed. Such as titles of books, movies, paintings, articles and songs. The rule I am currently teaching is the first and last word of all titles are capitalized, as are all other words except articles (a, an, the) and prepositions of four letters or less (of, in, to, for, etc.,) The student I am specifically tutoring on capitalization at one point pulled out an iPod Nano, and showed me the titles of some of her favorite songs. I was shocked to see how blatantly the rules of capitalization are ignored! I pulled out my iPod, and saw many more obvious ignoring of the rules. One of our exercises then created on the spot was just looking at those titles, and by following the correct rules, saying which words SHOULD be capitalized. My older friend, when I mentioned this to her, told me the rule she had been taught was never any prepositions (except if the first or last word of the title), regardless of length, and only nouns. It came up, because I was proofing a menu she had created, and was objecting to the words she had chosen not to capitalize. I also told her of the caveat the rules gave, of significant words should be capitalized, and that individual interpretation of what words are or are not significant can be based on fonts and spacing and other aesthetic reasons when on album and book covers and movie posters. I laughed when I read the rule, because it just goes to making it that much more confusing and open to interpretation. I of course did NOT pass that rule on to my poor 1st grader, since I am trying to keep it simple.

With my 2nd grader, I have been working with her on irregular plurals. These the ones you usually just have to memorize, like mouse/mice, tooth/teeth, goose/geese, moose/moose and octopus/octopi. We used a computer game one day, and I thought we had a handle on nouns ending with -f or -fe, converting them to -ves. Like wolf to wolves, and life to lives. But the computer game threw me for a loop when roof went to roofs, and dwarf went to dwarfs. Huh, maybe I didn’t know the rules so well. So hoof can be hoofs or hooves, but roof is only roofs, while dwarf can be dwarfs or dwarves. So sayeth the children’s dictionaries I have been consulting since. But did you know that octopus can be octopuses? Or that the plural for rhinoceros can be either rhinoceros or rhinoceroses? That zero can be either zeroes or zeros? And interestingly enough, not all dictionaries give the same alternatives. So, I suspect that it is an example of English doing its thing, of mutating to the standards that common useage dictate, and not merely the consistency that I remember from my childhood. I honestly just don’t remember it being Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, but Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

Then again, memory is not known to be infallible. I could just be plain wrong. Which is why tutoring on such an elementary level is an excellent way to review the basics!

One Response to “Tutoring and Its Impact on Me”

  1. gary Says:

    i know, i have gotten totally lazy with the basics of writing

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