It’s as Easy as ABC

From Brenda Power’s THE BIG FRESH newsletter from Choice Literacy


Ours is the age of substitutes. Instead of language, we have jargon; instead of principles, slogans; and instead of genuine ideas, bright ideas.   ~Eric Bentley

One of the few things I dislike in education is the abundance of acronyms. MCAT, CSAP, ETRs, and SAT-9 are just four of hundreds. Most education acronyms are not real words, and when people use them in conversations they sound stuffy, bureaucratic, and insular. Acronyms can also fuel insecurity among teachers. Because if you don’t know what an ETR or the SAT-9 is, you’re definitely deficient in your professional knowledge, right? I avoid education acronyms in my writing and speaking whenever possible, never assuming that readers and listeners know what those strange words signify. If I had to come up with an acronym to express my feelings, it would be ACRONYM: Annoying, Convoluted, and Ridiculously Odd Nonwords Yahoos Memorize.

Because of my aversion to most acronyms, I was surprised and delighted at a recent writing retreat to learn three new ones over the course of the weekend that I find myself using regularly now. Each of these acronyms is a real word, and a quick way to monitor my behavior in ways that help me grow.

WAIT represents Why Am I Talking? I have a goal of talking less and listening more in conversations. WAIT helps me figure out if I am rambling on because I am nervous or afraid of silence. Mostly the word encourages me to close my mouth and think, if only for a moment.

HALT is a good one if you are on a quest for a healthier lifestyle. Never allow yourself to get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired — all of which lead to overeating.

My favorite new acronym for teachers and literacy leaders is SHAME, which represents Should Have Already Mastered Everything. Isn’t this exactly the trap so many of us find ourselves in, embarrassed that we haven’t mastered everything there is to know about teaching and learning, including that massive number of acronyms so many folks sling around in conversations?

Many thanks to Ellie Gilbert for sharing WAIT, HALT, and SHAME with me. Ellie would be the first to tell you she didn’t create these acronyms — they were passed along through others, who probably learned them from others too. I am just grateful all three finally found their way to me.    ~  Brenda Power             Founder, Choice Literacy

I agree wholeheartedly with Ms. Power. There is nothing more “exclusive” and excluding than a raft of acronyms. I rarely hesitate any more to ask the speaker to identify what the acronym stands for. There are some speakers with occasional and forgivable lapses. There are others whose use of acronyms borders on compulsive. It seems they take some perverse satisfaction in establishing who in the room is in the know and who else may be out of the loop, out of favor, or just “out of it.” 

This entry was posted in Education Professionals, Interesting Bits, Literacy, My Opinions. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to It’s as Easy as ABC

  1. gilda says:

    I agree with you and Brenda-too much exclusion, too much “drilling down” and “30,000 ft view” tend to obfuscate some genuinely serious issues. If you don’t speak the edu-ese, you can’t be seen as a serious player. What a SHAME the very people who should know, refuse to.

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