Collateral damage of the classroom

Have you noticed that educators’ messages have grown increasingly unintelligible lately?

Perhaps it’s a reaction to Donald Trump: For every single-syllable word he uses, educators are popping-off with a four-syllable one just to show who wins the IQ competition.

Whatever the reason, it’s getting to the point where you need a translator to understand messages from the school.

I found some of the following descriptions in educational journals.

I pulled one from a local school district newsletter.

I made some up.

Can you tell which is which?


The school says:

[name of student] was reaccommodated to facilitate individualized dialogic experiences as a pragmatic step toward embracing behavioral methodologies directed toward enhancing academic success.

The translator says:

[name of student] was sent to the office and told if he didn’t shape up, he’d flunk.

The school says:

[name of student] exhibits periodic withdrawal of attentiveness which constitutes a significant contributing factor in his failure to thrive in an academic environment.

The translator says:

[name of student] is flunking because he doesn’t pay attention.

The school says:

[name of teacher] impacts her students by providing a nurturing and positive environment in collaboration with parents to provide a foundation for students to reach their highest potential.

The translator says:

[name of teacher] does fun projects during the schools and sends students’ academic work for homework.

The school says:

[name of administrator] is committed to building a trusting culture in which school improvement is a constant priority and to shaping the future of our precious students.

The translator says:

[name of administrator] lets staff alone unless they mess up spectacularly.

Junk jargon that makes essentials exotic

English educators use highfalutin terms to describe routine activities. The terms may impress journal readers, but they scare off students.

In large part, your success in teaching writing depends on making students see writing as part of ordinary, everyday life.  So use simple, common, everyday terms to describe activities in the writing process:

  • Use terms like draw a picture (or chart, graph or diagram) instead of graphic organizer.
  • Use plan instead of outline.
  • Use doodle instead of mind map.

If ELA jargon isn’t necessary—it rarely is necessary—junk it.


[An earlier version of this post appeared in the June 2008 issue of Writing Points ©2008 Linda G. Aragoni.]

Junk jargon that makes essentials exotic

English educators use highfalutin terms to describe routine activities. The terms may impress journal readers, but they scare off students. In large part, your success in teaching writing depends on making students see writing as part of ordinary, everyday life.  So use simple, common, everyday terms to describe activities in the writing process:

  • Use terms like draw a picture (or chart, graph or diagram) instead of graphic organizer.
  • Use plan instead of outline.
  • Use doodle instead of mind map.

If ELA jargon isn’t necessary—it rarely is necessary—junk it.