The MEGnitude of Change

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jan 08 2013

A letter to my math team

Dear John Marsh students,

You are creative & brilliant but all too often choose to express yourselves using such commonplace language. While I may teach math, I still appreciate the nuances of the English language.

First of all, step up your game when it comes to slang. The kids at Douglass have stopped using the term “Gucci” months ago, and only recently have I started hearing it grace our hallways. “Ratchet” barely makes sense — are you talking about using physical tools, or trying to describe your classmates? (Can one of you trace its linguistic history for me, please? I’m perplexed as to where it came from.)

“Irky” is okay, and even I used the term “salty” when I was in college. While I appreciate the sensory nature of these terms, they’re overused. When you’re in a sassy mood, you’re often acting “irky” or “salty” or “childish” — why must we call attention to it each day?

What irks me the most (why yes, “irky” does derive from a proper English word), however, is your use of the expression “on God.” I’m not sure what’s most bothersome: (a) the fact that you’re disrespecting others’ religious beliefs, (b) the fact that I trust your assertions even less when you preface them with “on God,” or (c) the fact that you sound like you’re saying “en garde” with a British accent. Really, team, since when did the hallways become a place for fencing lingo?

Despite my frustrations with your choice of language, I do appreciate when “salty” or “Gucci” replaces other, more offensive language that slips from your mouths. I don’t endorse this slang, but I prefer it to swearing like a sailor.

So, students, get a little more creative with your slang. Branch out. Explore your verbal options. There’s a wide world of colorful (and appropriate) language out there — use it.

With high hopes,
Your math teacher

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