Monday, November 16, 2009

Setting the Record Straight

I love writing, getting my ideas out there...sharing them with somebody, anybody who may find what I have to say interesting. However, I get all prickly when something I have said is taken out of context, or is misinterpreted for the world to see.

It all started innocently enough. A few years ago, I had just begun investigating social networking when I ran across a student's MySpace page. On it, one of my students had written this:

"wut it do i ain't talked 2 u n a minute ever since da last day of skool fo christmas break wut been ^ 2 me nuttin jus sittin @ home ain't gone nuttin 2 do........well i wuz jus stoppin by 2 sho ur page sum luvin get baq @ me when u can"

I was horrified! I was reading this before (B4) I began participating in social networking myself, before I figured out how to text on a teeny keyboard on my phone, before I became cool. So I developed a presentation for my students that eventually found its way around the entire school. I was able to share my ideas on writing with every language arts student in my building that year.

What I did was talk about the history of our language. I went way back to our Greek and Roman roots (pun intended) in language, traveled through old English, middle English, Elizabethan English, and onward to modern times, providing examples along the way. I ended with the MySpace quote, and the students and I had a grand time discussing what effects, if any, this type of abbreviated writing would have on formal writing. I was pretty sure we were doomed. They just laughed at my concern as if they had not a care.

Shortly after, I wrote an article I called "Grammar Interrupted" for Teacher Magazine online. It received lots of "hits" and folks emailed me for awhile, asking questions about my lesson. From there, I was interviewed by Sara Bernard from Edutopia. Her article, "The Zero Thumb Game: How to Tame Texting," came out on May 28, 2008. Ms. Bernard interviewed several teachers and did a great job of summarizing all of our comments. When she mentions my use of the MySpace page for instruction, she says,

"Some English teachers are tapping into their students' own instant messaging style to get their points across. Some, including Cindi Rigsbee, are guiding exercises in text translation: pulling up a MySpace page...and asking students to translate the writing into standard English. Or they ask students to translate passages from classic literature to texting speak to demonstrate their comprehension..."

The key word here is "some." Sara Bernard is not only talking about me. She interviewed several people! She has correctly identified the activity that I did, "pulling up a MySpace page" and thrown in another activity - translating passages from classic literature - which can be attributed to the teachers she refers to as "they." So far so good.

Here's what happened a few weeks ago, a long two years later: I started getting calls and emails from local media as well as from news anchors in New York City. After some investigation I found out that an article had come out in a major newspaper in my state, The Charlotte Observer, naming me in a report about texting. On October 29th, the following was printed in US News and World Report:

"Teachers such as Cindi Rigsbee have asked students to translate passages from classic literature to text-speak..." I didn't!

So when the reporters called me and found out that I didn't actually have students translate from classic literature to text-speak (instead, it was the other way around for me), they weren't interested in interviewing me. That was okay...I had "not a care." Until today...

While searching to see if my upcoming book was listed, I found myself in another book, a book by an author I've never heard of - Why can't U teach me 2 read? by Beth Fertig.

"Cindi Rigsbee, a middle school teacher...asked her students to translate lingo-based websites into standard English and to translate classic literature into text-speak."

Okay, now my feelings are hurt. Not only do I not have students translate from classic literature into text-speak, I know that I never would! Why in the world would I ask students to write incorrectly on purpose? Goodness knows they're practicing enough of that! Meanwhile, who is Beth Fertig, and couldn't she have contacted me before mentioning me (and my alleged activity) in her book?

So there are several problems here. One is that what I actually do has been interpreted across four articles until the original meaning has changed. Another is that our "global" access to information means that anyone can get their hands on what is actually a teacher's intellectual property and use it as they wish, even if it's incorrect.

So here I am setting the record straight. If any of you ever see anything about me in print and want to use it in your book, please just ask me. I may have been misquoted, misinterpreted, or misunderstood.

Jus send an email 2 me or sho my pag sum luv.


MM said...

Jus shoin sum luv! I love your blog...I mean, I luv ur blog. ;)

Nancy Flanagan said...

Bummer! On the positive side, at least someone's talking about the evolution of language, and they're quoting you instead of Poindexter Drydust, professor of the classics.

While it's annoying to have to correct their assertions (and I agree--this one has played out like a game of "telephone")--it's a platform for saying what it is that you actually did and why it's important for kids to think about precise and lively communication. In fact, being a good communicator is more important than ever, in this digital world--a point you can make in your public rebuttal.

Go get 'em.

Miss Wendland said...

Nice way to roll with the punches! It's awesome that you would be willing and open minded enough to include something like myspace (or facebook, the new cool thing) in your instruction. Teachers like you truly reach the kids! It's unfortunate, however, that others would take daring instruction such as yours, and misrepresent it!

Laura said...

I'm so sorry.
Once a reporter from a local Catholic paper called me( while I was driving) and asked for my opinion on some current classroom issue.Let's just say that my sentences were a bit fractured as I tried to manage the highway during rush hour and the caller's questions.
She quoted me verbatim.
I came across like a 3rd grader.

Trinity (of haiku tofu) said...

haha u crack me ^

What a mess! A text scandal! Text-speak has always annoyed me. Ten years ago I would have shunned anyone who spelled the word cool as "kool"- but now I'm a little more forgiving.

I work with kids, and some of them like to take notes in "Text"- it works for me, as long as they can understand their shorthand. On classwork, of course, they must use English!