I have a good friend who always reminds me that there are no coincidences.
A couple of months ago, I put together the following graphic, a matrix inside of a circle showing etymological relatives:
A few days later, I got an inquiry from a friend inviting me to come to Nashville, Music City, home of the Grand Ole Opry.
Nearly four years ago, I was hired to give a presentation on morphology, which was recorded and posted online. About a month later, I was at a conference in Chicago, and a woman came up to my booth and introduced herself. She had chanced upon the recorded presentation, watched it, and wanted to learn more, so when she found out that I was presenting live in Chicago (with Pete Bowers and Marcia Henry), she drove up from Nashville to Chicago to be a part of it.
Since then, she’s followed English spelling to Philadelphia, France, and Canada, to Chicago, to Ohio at least once. She’s not only hardcore dedicated; she’s hardcore brilliant. Often she’ll capture an understanding in words that just take my breath away. She is quick but patient, rigorous but flexible, and impressive in cultivating an understanding with both children and adults.
This is the remarkable teacher who contacted me recently and asked me to join her and her colleagues in the Music City later this month for a day and a half of private training. After several years of Mohammed coming to the mountain, the mountain is so pleased to now go to Mohammed.
I think that makes me a mountain.
Moreover, thanks to this Mohammad, I also have the pleasure of announcing a workshop open to the public on Saturday, May 30th, at Vanderbilt University. This came about because this same dedicated, patient, brilliant woman reached out among her local contacts to see who might be interested in offering a venue for teachers to encounter real English spelling. Vanderbilt responded; the registration flyer is available here, or register at this link.
It’s a brave thing to step toward the forward edge of a field, especially when it requires us to rethink familiar and comfortable practices. Sometimes, in education, people forget that that edge is not a front, but a frontier. Language study shouldn’t make us soldiers, battling about others’ ideologies, but explorers, mapping out the terrain of the orthography and cataloging its natural resources.
Let’s see, music, work, and new frontiers. Sounds like Nashville to me. Hope you can join us!