From the Editor--On Purple Dittoes, Purple Prose, and the Poetry of Teaching ESL
by Linda Yoder


What shall I do with this stack of purple ditto masters? I wondered. I was freely tossing things into the landfill as I went through the detritus of a verbal pack-rat, one who saves every scrap in the hope of putting it to some future fascinating use.

I couldn't quite bring myself to part with them, even as I knew they had no value. Now, I've photocopied usable ditto masters on occasion when I found something too good to part with. But these were a stack of blanks.

Perhaps their only value, aside from historic value, is as a stimulus to meditation on the speed of change, the ephemeral nature of words, and the enduring worth of what we do as ESL teachers. I was using these purple ditto masters in the 1980s--really, not a long time ago. In Indonesia, in the 1960s, I endlessly typed instructional materials on clumsy carbon paper packs, about 5 copies at a time, on a manual typewriter.

Now I endlessly tweak a text, an exercise, a test, on my computer, searching for the El Dorado of perfect combinations. At a touch of the button, Shirley in Duplicating produces flawless copies for my class. Hardly to be dreamed of even fifteen years ago.

But the poetry is not to be found in the speed. The poetry is found in everyday use of language. As I write a single word on the board, I do a search through my mind for every possible association my students might have for that word, associations that can help or hinder understanding.

This slowing-down of language, searching through its associations, is very much akin to the work of a poet who pays the closest attention and the utmost respect to language And so I am grateful to my students and to my profession for permitting me these moments of poetry in every day life, poetry in chalk, poetry in the language.

Here I am, your editor of this modest little on-line publication. I look to you to supply our needs with your comments, your news, your replies. What we become is entirely up to you.

Linda Yoder, Editor,

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WVTESOL Newsletter Editor: Linda Yoder

Salem-Teikyo University

Copyright 1999 by

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This page was last updated on 28 March 1999.