© 2018 by Ethan Kenvarg

WRITTEN WORK

Ode to the Honey Bee

Often, life's simplest moments can prove to be the most inspirational. One summer day, my mind wandered while observing a honey bee enjoying a flower in full bloom. The bouncy, playful first stanza of "Ode to the Honey Bee" came to me in that moment, and the rest of the poem soon followed. I was fortunate to have this rhyme-driven ode published in the Rootstalk journal in their Spring 2018 issue.

The Animals of My Sorrow

At Grinnell College, I completed an in-depth research-based thesis, known as a Mentored Advanced Project, under the guidance of a tenured English professor. In addition to writing and editing my own work, I intensively researched modern American poetry, poetic criticism, and analysis. My final portfolio was released as a self-published chapbook, and one of my poems, “The Animals of My Sorrow”, was selected for publication in the Fall 2011 issue of the Seneca Review.

Halved

I finished "Halved" shortly before losing my father to a degenerative lung condition. It is a reimagining of the tale of Polyphemus, the cyclops famously blinded by Homer’s Odysseus. The poem attempts to reframe Polyphemus’ character, and serves as a spiritual allegory for my own experience of losing both parents.

Emoji Lesson

A few years ago, I discussed with an elementary school teacher the difficulties of engaging a new, technologically savvy (and often obsessed) generation of students. Above all, one particular pain point stood out to him: emojis. He’d received homework assignments, even essays, that included the ubiquitous little yellow faces. He hadn’t figured out how to eliminate the pictographic scourge, and his every one of his many efforts were in vain.

 

But, I countered, it seems both unwise and impractical to try to build such a wall around students’ self-expression. The language of social media -- abbreviations, gifs, and, of course, emojis -- is now an integral part of their dialect. I don’t believe this to be a bad change. Discourse evolves naturally over time, and many of us are left bewildered in the resulting dust. However, the written word does have advantages over emojis in many cases. Teaching students to understand these advantages, rather than pronouncing their method of communication inferior, seemed to me a much better way of proceeding.

 

It was this discussion that sparked the idea for the Emoji Lesson. Students are asked to translate back and forth between emojis and written words, exercising their writing skills while utilizing their most relevant cultural currency. This lesson allows teachers to not only emphasize the importance of language, but also teach vocabulary in a fun, effective manner. The lesson includes comments to guide teachers in administering the curriculum.

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