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28 Aug

assignment deadlineI entered the lecture room eagerly as I couldn’t wait  to see the presentations the students were going to make.  Boy, was I excited.  No one was present.  They were never usually late so that should have been the first red flag but pity me all wrapped up in my excited anticipation did not pick it up.

Twenty minutes later, they strolled in collectively.  It had never happened.  Another red flag but I missed it.   They were not their usual animated selves;  another red flag. I missed it too. I attributed the almost lethargy to them being tired from their involvement in the college’s events  of the past few days, and  earlier that morning.

I proceeded to give the ground rules and order of presentations then I sat  expecting  compliance. I was not prepared for what happened next.  NO. ONE. MOVED.  This was when I woke up from my excited anticipation to face reality.   As any responsible person would do i made an inquiry.  Quite bold and audibly, the spokesperson announced :

“Miss we are not ready. We are not finished so we can’t present today. Can we do it next week?”

My eyes opened,  my lips parted,  I instinctively clasped my hands, my chest heaved.  I slowly, softly and sternly uttered  “What. Did. You. Say”?  ( All this time in my mind I am praying “Lord help me find the right words. Let me not blow a fuse.  Curb my tongue”).

No one responded to my soft utterance.  I  stood, looking the all five feet, eight inches of me,  and strutted purposefully  to the front of the lecture room. I said calmly:

 “Today is the ONLY day we are doing this.  The person or persons who misses it, will receive a zero – even if it is the entire class”. 

The spokesperson opened ‘his’ mouth to speak . I stared at ‘him’.  He must have felt its poignancy because nothing came out. I returned to my sitting position.

It hit home.  They realized I was serious.  They started scrambling for their materials.  They attempted to do the presentation. They all failed miserably except two.

Two days later, in my office,  I was visited by two of the students.  I wasn’t in the mood to speak to them. I was still upset but they were persistent.  So I granted them audience but kept writing.  Again, I was not prepared for what I heard  next. One said:

 “Miss, I want to apologize for what happened in class but I respect the decision you made”

Now they had my attention. I placed my pen down looked at them. She continued:

“Yes miss I respect it. We have always relied on going to lecturers as a body; an entire class speaking with one voice. When we do that, we always get the extension. This is the first time it has never worked. We were not prepared for it”

I started laughing. I am still not sure why I was laughing but that was the only response that came out.

The other student joined in.

” yes miss it really surprised me. Didn’t know you would say no. I felt so bad.  But miss, I am starting your next assignment later”

I laughed again. “Lesson learnt”?  I asked  mockingly

“Oh yes miss”  they chimed alternately in varying tones of resolution

They then left.

The long and short of it is, ALL  subsequent assignments came in  on time and we well done.

While at Secondary  Level Education…

  • I was constantly accused by several individuals of being hard on my students when I:
  • Refused to accept late assignments
  • Deducted marks for incomplete assignments
  • Ignored parents pleas for mercy as they accepted responsibility for their children late or incomplete assignments.

I frequently  heard:

“you too difficult man”

“yuh hard eeh”

“you don’t belong in the classroom”

“so why yuh affi so hard”

“I don’t like her; she coulda well ah tek di work”

Thank God my mettle was made of sterner things or maybe I would have believed it all.

As I transitioned to tertiary education, I was even more convinced I was not hard on my secondary students.  I was simply preparing them for life after high school.

As educators, we need to set  and maintain standards. Be consistent.   If we do this, our students will rise to meet the standards.

I am a sucker for deadlines. What about you?

*picture taken from google images



27 Aug


She is at it again!.

Jamaica continues to grapple with low literacy rate, one visionary administrator  continues to use Facebook as a medium to help  others improve their use of English skills.  It started long ago and it has become the most sought after staple by the friends, acquaintances, followers, peeping toms (reads: inquisitive persons) on her Facebook page.  The English Language is not easy but with constant practice one can certainly achieve mastery of same.  Alcia Morgan-Bromfield has made it quite simple below:

Basic English 101 (AMB Lecture Series)
“I am often embarrassed to hear these words misused especially by persons who should know better” was the far from lengthy preamble she used to commence her class.  The brevity of it is an indication that there is not much to introduce; let’s get down to business.

The Lesson

  1. Presently – soon to happen. Eg: Presently, I will leave for home.

2). At present – happening now. Eg: At present, I am at the nail technician.

3). Lie – to recline or set one’s self down Eg: I am going to lie for a while.

4). Past tense lay; past participle lain

5). Lay – to set something down Eg: Lay the basket on the table.
Past tense laid; past participle laid.

6).Ordinal numbers tell position eg first, second, third etc so we ought to say The 1st of August NOT August 1st

7). Cardinal numbers tell how many as in 15 cows; 10 dogs etc so we ought to say August 1 NOT August 1st

8). Data: plural of datum. Media plural of medium. Bacteria plural of bacterium. Use these nouns with plurals verbs. Eg: These data are valuable to the research. Social media are sometimes misused. Bacteria are both helpful and harmful.

9). Indiscipline: noun – There was an embarrassing display of indiscipline by the young lady.

10). Undisciplined (adj) She is a rather undisciplined person (note NOT indisciplined)

11). Gear ( paraphernalia associated with sports). THERE IS NO “S” ON THIS WORD no matter how many pieces of gear there are.

It does not get simpler than this.

Was this helpful? Please feel free to stop by and comment and let us know


16 Dec

The literary class on facebook has taken off. Literally!

Participants had hardly consumed and digested the intellectually edifying lesson on Prefix, Suffix or compound words, that was so aptly taught by the effervescent Alcia Morgan-Bromfield, before they were face to face with another.

Marlene Gilling was at it again. This time around she needed clarity on the issue of whether it is okay to start a sentence with “Because” or “And”. Can’t say I was surprised because she did warn us it was coming. This is becoming a habit. A very good habit. Who the heck is complaining anyway? There is a popular saying that “where freeness is bliss, it is folly to resist”. We all dug in when Marlene took to facebook and wrote:

“Rosie has been avoiding me all day. Because I told her that what she did to Ray was wrong she has decided not to speak to me. And if she is upset about the truth I’m not apologizing. CeeBarbs plz get the team on board. I need help. The because and the and have me”

The discussion did not get too far before the expert came and set the record straight. Alcia Morgan-Bromfield responded:

“Sentences can be categorized in two main ways: by their function and by their structure. Marlene, your query is concerned with the structure so I will focus on that. Sentences by structure are classified as simple, compound, complex or compound-complex. To help determine the structure of a sentence, one must examine its formation.
One main clause ( simple sentence)
Two simple clauses joined by a coordinating or correlating conjunction ( compound sentence)
Two simple clauses joined by a subordinating conjunction (complex sentence)
Two or more clauses joined by both subordinating and coordinating conjunctions (compound-complex)

Both “because” and “and” fall in the class of conjunctions. Their main function is to join clauses or phrases. “Because” is a subordinating conjunction whereas “and” is a coordinating conjunction. Remember, subordinating conjunctions are used in complex sentences which comprise an independent or main clause and a subordinating or dependent clause. Eg:
“Because I told her that what she did to Ray was wrong (subordinating clause), she has decided not to speak to me (main clause).

If you divide the sentence into two clauses this is what you would get:
(1) Because I told her that what she did to Ray was wrong (subordinating or dependent clause)
(2) She has decided not to speak to me. (independent or main clause)
If the subordinating clause were left on its own, there would have been questions to answer; the thought would not have been complete; hence the reason it needs to be joined to a main clause.

THE POSITION OF THE DEPENDENT CLAUSE IS NOT IMPORTANT as long as it is followed or preceded by a main clause so the sentence could have been written as the foll:
She has decided not to speak to me, because I told her that what she did to Ray was wrong.
On the other hand, the conjunction “and” joins two simple sentences or two main clauses to form a compound sentence.
I am going to wash the dishes and Cee is going to wash the car.
I am going to wash the dishes. (main or independent clause)
Cee is going to wash the car. (main or independent clause)
Both ideas are complete; there are no questions left unanswered.
In creative writing and speech however, it is a convention of both format that the author’s or character’s stream of consciousness can be shown using any class of word in an unconventional way. Writers and speakers will get away with that as there is the understanding between writer/speaker and audience) that this is permissible and accepted.

AS FAR AS I KNOW, it is not permissible to use a coordinating or correlating conjunction (eg either/or) to function as a subordination conjunction in academic or formal writing as in the example cited in the post “And if she is upset about the truth I’m not apologizing”.
Again, I hope this helps. Please enlighten me if your readings/research show you otherwise.”

It does not get better than this. You agree, right? What I have come to admire and appreciate about the lecturer of these lessons, is her open approach to the subject of discussion. Despite her wealth of knowledge, she does not take it for granted that she is always right. This great show of humility captured in the last line of her response.
By the way, she mentioned in the second lesson that she would charge for the next, BUT…. let’s see how the remuneration package pans out.

Do you have a challenge with the use of ‘Because” and “And”? Share your experience. Even if you’ve never had a challenge with the use of the words, you are welcomed to share your thoughts.


13 Dec

The English Language is quite strange or even complex but when mastered is absolutely beautiful. It therefore comes as no surprise that lovers of it, and those who have gained mastery in the field, easily gets frustrated, annoyed or even angry when others are teaching them things that are contrary to what they know. This was the case with Marlene Gilling.

The Story
It was morning. Early. The goldens rays had not yet penetrated the clouds. I rose from my slumber, and through groggy eyes I checked my phone and saw a facebook notification that I was tagged in a post by the Pierrot Grenade Alcia Morgan-Bromfield. Now I was fully awake. When you get a notification like that you don’t hesitate to check it. I quickly unlocked my phone and click on the notification, and realized she made a response to a post made by Marlene Gilling.

The Cry for help!

In a desperate cry for help to clarify the prefix, suffix, or compound word debacle she was facing, Marlene reached out to the literary minds on her facebook page with this post:

“Cee Barbs and Strachan Help me out here. I was taught(although a very long time ago) that both the prefix and suffix are syllables. Am I correct? Next. Is a syllable a word? ish to child gives childish . Suffix . Pre to mature gives premature. Prefix. OK. But card to board gives cardboard and rain to coat or vice a versa gives raincoat. Tell me please. Aren’t the latter called compound words? Well I’m hearing now that a word added to a root word is also a prefix or suffix. Open my eyes to the light please”

And the lessons began!

After several responses to this problem were proffered by participants on Marlene’s page, the expert communication and linguistics specialist was called in. However, Marlene had to wait until the following day to hear from the Pierrot Grenade. I can only imagine how impatient was felt as she waited. (Yes I would know. I felt the same way when I waited for her to respond to my own desperate plea for help)

The Lesson that settled it all

The face behind the words

The following day Alcia Morgan-Bromfiled wrote:

“Good morning Cee Barbs, Marlene Gilling et al. Sorry I couldn’t help you last night. I had an early night. Now, if I may enter the discussion, and add from a linguistic perspective the following and hope it will bring (some) clarity to the discussion. Let me quickly explain in order to set the background that linguistics deals generally with syntax (grammar), semantics (meanings), morphology (word formation), phonology (pronunciation or sound pattern) lexicon (lexemes, words/vocabulary) and some linguists may add pragmatics (usage/political correctness) and orthography (spelling).

Words are the most basic units of syntax in linguistics. The process of morphology allows for the formation of words. Two of the most recognized manner to form words are through compounding and affixation. Compounding, as you have rightly stated, involves joining two (root) words (lexical items or morphemes) Now there are “free” morphemes and “bound” morphemes. Compound words such as “raincoat” comprise two free morphemes as each morpheme [rain] and [coat] can stand on its own. However a word such as [books] has one free morpheme [book] and one bound morpheme [s].

Affixation which include prefixes, affixes and the less popular infixes and circumfixes, involves a process of adding an affix to a word to form a complex stem. Affixes can be placed at the beginning or ending of a word – pre, in, un, sub (prefixes) or ion, ate, able, ness (suffixes). Infixes are placed in the middle of a word (they are usually of a derogatory nature eg [abso-blooming- lutely] and [in-phuking – credible] while a circumfix is placed around the word/stem eg [a-cook-ing].

Suffixes are also known as “derivational or inflectional morphemes”. A derivational morpheme changes the class or part of speech [er, ist, or] eg teach – verb to teach[er] – noun) whereas an inflectional morpheme retains the class or part of speech eg teach[es], [teach[ing] – both verbs although one shows simple present tense and the other show continuous tense. English is a highly inflectional language. *Jamaican Creole is not but that is for another lesson.

The error we seem to be making here is confusing PHONOLOGY with MORPHOLOGY. Remember phonology is an aspect of linguistics that deal with the pronunciation of words whereas morphology has to do with the formation of words. SYLLABICATION would fall under the former thus it involves breaking down the word into parts chiefly for pronunciation purposes. Example the word [justification] can be broken down into [jus/ti/fi/ca/tion]. The process of syllabication must be done in such a way that each break has a meaningful part as is done in the example. It would be incorrect to pronounce the word as [ju/st/if/ic/ati/on] which is sometimes done when we are unfamiliar with the language. You know like how we do when we are learning a foreign language and we pronounce all phonemes (the smallest units of a word) even when they are silent!!!!

I hope this has helped! I will charge you for the next lesson!!!!”

More than a mouthful isn’t it? Consume ye all of it. Then let it digest. You won’t regret it. I particularly enjoyed this post because on the day it was posted I had a similar encounter and had to send students to research the prefix of some words.

By the way, she won’t charge for the facebook lesson just like that. She can’t stop herself from responding to these desperate cries. But who knows, an official facebook literary class page that earns revenue may just be in the making. And why not? It would be money well spent.

In case you missed part 1, you can view it here (IF I WAS YOU…OR IF I WERE YOU…)  Coming next, the “And and Because”.
Stay tuned.

What do you think? Share your thoughts on this lesson


25 Oct



25 Oct

I never intended to have stayed in the classroom. I was suppose to teach for three years and then make my exit or so I thought. More than ten years later, I am still here.

There exists several assumptions that teachers are lazy and do very little work. In a dialogue with a friend – who is not a teacher-  he revealed that teachers are indeed lazy, and do not work enough hours in a day, gets too much holiday, and a host of other babble-about-nothing.

As I reflected on the conversation, it had me thinking and I realize just how much of my time I have given to my students. I was therefore compelled to share some of the these things with you, and discover how you spend some of your time as a teacher.

A teacher is always thinking about the next step

I spend all night thinking of strategies to motivate students to learn.

I spend every alleged ‘free time’ thinking what activities I should use for a particular lesson.

I spend my hours thinking how to handle the student who is emotionally and psychologically destroyed and has reached out to me for help.

I spend every waking moment thinking what am I going to do with the confidential information that students have bestowed upon me without breaking that trust.

I spend my holidays, afternoons, and nights marking papers, and designing plans just to reach that one student who is falling behind.

I spend my hours parenting students outside of regular school hours because parents simple cannot cope, and they needed me to help their child.

I spend my time planning my budget for the week to include that one child who will always come asking for lunch money. Each day I pack my lunch bag, I put something extra in it- not for me, but for the child who will come searching for me in a state of hunger.

I spend my time sacrificing to save an extra dollar to pay for at least two (2) CSEC subjects per student.

I spend my time watching, and nursing the child who is too ill to be at school but parents send him/her anyway.

I spend my time thinking how to help a student to see the best in him/herself.

Simply put, teachers spend most of their time taking care of student’s needs – whether they are at school or otherwise. I can hear some saying it is their job and they are getting paid to it; But teachers are also humans who need time for themselves and their families. For some teachers their families are often left behind because the teachers are often busy with other children.

If you are a teacher, or you know anyone who is a teacher, share what do you or they spend most of your time doing?

*image taken from google image


19 Aug

That’s the powerful woman standing right there…the lone rose among the thorns

After a heated debate with a colleague about the correct grammatical form of a statement, I took to social media to consult an exceptional education administrator, editor extra-ordinaire, prolific writer, communication and linguistic specialist. I quickly made this post and tagged her in it:

“I need to consult my editor extra-ordinaire, linguistic and communication specialist Alcia Morgan on this one…which is correct:
“If I were you…? or “If I was you…?”
Talk to me please so I can stand corrected and go apologize or say “I knew it”

She did not respond right away . All this time my mind was commenting and chastising itself in a most realistic way. It had conversations like: “Really Alcia, is where you hiding tonight?” Or, “Come man Alcia, I need my confirmation.” The logical mind didn’t miss a beat as it chastised the impatient me “Calm down. The woman have a life” or “She will respond in her own time. Go and find something to do”. I found myself laughing out loud at this internal dialogue. Talk about getting mad. Ah boy. Anyway, back to the story.

Despite my gross impatience, I was not concerned whether she would respond or not, because she just simply cannot resist the urge to share her expertise. It’s an impossible task for her. The wait for me was forever because I was twitching to get her response. However, I was not prepared for the detailed, informative, and profound elucidated response I got. Here it is:

Dorraine Reid, only you could draw me out of hibernation like this. Technically, both are correct from a descriptive linguistic perspective as both express a conditionality; You will never hear a prescriptive grammarian using “if I was’ though. Bear in mind that the prescriptivist (the ones who write the grammar books) SAYS what is correct; the descriptivist express what actually happens. The former “if I were you” expresses a situation that is possible but not real; a hypothetical situation that is contrary to the real situation and thus the use of the subjunctive. “If I was” on the other hand, is indicative and can be replaced with “whenever”. To conclude, the phrase, “if i were you” is the correct use from the “standard” English perspective. In essence, “If I were you, I’d apologize if i have to”.

This response had many facebook-ers quickly clicking away on the like button and sparked a vibrant conversation. It felt good to have been a part of it. As the discussion progressed, it further reinforced the notion that, social media is what we make it. This Educator extra-ordinaire who wears so many hats, uses her facebook page to inspire, motivate, encourage, teach. As we lamented about her brilliance, and I expressed a desire for more persons to read her response to the question, she responded with this:

Seems my page draws a lot of attention….both for those who visit it to see what literary work I’m up to, those who want a motivational moment, to have a laugh or to learn ” the word of the day” and those who just want “grist for their mills”

This is such a factual statement because I am one of them. I live for her facebook posts (and I’m sure I’m not alone) because each one I consume, I walk away with another word added to my vocabulary. It is indeed a literary class on her facebook page.

If I were you, I would get to know her…visit her page or ask Mr Google.