I’m an English teacher who retired after twenty years in the classroom.
When I was a high-school student, I wrote based on what seemed right. My teachers would say to me, “Read that sentence out loud. Does it sound right?” And I’d listen and fix it.
When I started teaching, though, I was teaching kids who didn’t have my background as a white male raised in the suburbs with a PhD dad and a college-degree mom. I would say to my students, “Read that sentence out loud. Does it sound right?” And they would read it and respond, “Yeah. It’s fine.” I didn’t have a way to communicate the problems.
Searching for a way to explain formal sentence structure in an objective way, I found sentence diagramming. I spent most of my career trying to find ways to make grammar fun and interesting, and I succeeded for a bunch of kids, but I failed for many more. Grammar is a hard sell in a classroom.
I retired in 2018, said goodbye to the classroom, and went back to school to learn how to make videos for YouTube. I spent three semesters taking film, acting, and music classes so that I could produce grammar content in a way that students could actually enjoy. Instead of trying to make grammar interesting, I’m trying to be interesting first, and the grammar follows. I want junior-high kids watching this channel’s content, and I want adults with PhDs, who know how to write well because they can feel it, watching this channel as well. I want this channel to be unabashedly vulgar, fun, crude, hilarious, cringy, absurd, and full of bad ideas. I want to be the Jackass of grammar instruction, the Deadpool of diagramming! I want to draw people in and show that grammar is not that hard, and not that scary. I want people to know that they can write their way into whatever future they see for themselves.
This idea idea didn’t take off until I found Tiktok. Within one week of posting my first video, I had 100,000 followers. It’s interesting to me how many more people are interested in grammar in one-minute nibbles than grammar on YouTube for a five-minute video. On Tiktok, grammar is totally nonthreatening, and people can scroll past as soon as they want. I love Tiktok, the people I’m meeting, and the connections I’m making. Here’s to the start of bigger and better things!