Always Stay Humble and Kind

Listening to music provides so many benefits, especially for language learners.  Cultural priorities are revealed through songs. Correct and incorrect grammar is used too. Idioms and advice run throughout music. The segments are also short, often less than 3 minutes, so that you can listen over and over again to catch certain phrases or rhythms. You can hear what phrases can be shortened or smashed and what words are emphasized for meaning. Frankly, I think listening to music is overlooked by many students in their pursuit of better language.

There are so many awesome songs to consider when designing lessons, but today I’ve picked a song by Tim McGraw in the country western music genre for its message, ease of understanding, and amount of applicable language.



I suggest you listen to the song. Then read through the explanations of idioms, cultural references, language specifics, American values, and behavioral advice. Then listen to the song again, hopefully with a fuller understanding of the content.

“mountains to climb”

The mountain is a metaphor for any large task be it getting a new job, learning a new language, succeeding in someway or another, or countless others.  The task should be large like a mountain towering over the plain. In climbing the mountain, you in some ways “beat” the mountain. In achieving the task, you have victory in the situation as well.

“free ride”

This can be used in the obvious way as in a ride where you don’t pay, but more commonly in a broader sense to mean not have to pay for an action or experience.It is often used when getting a full scholarship to college as in “he got a free ride to college.”

“pick up line”

This is the idiom used for an insincere or lying phrase used to engage someone in a conversation for the purpose of having a fling or brief relationship, usually sexual.

“sleeping with someone”

This does not refer to actual sleeping but means to engage in sexual intercourse. A similar idiom is “to go to bed with someone” which means the same thing.

“take for granted”

This idiomatic phrase can be used in a multitude of contexts. It means be unappreciative of a positive something, for example, a relationship or gift.

“a light that glows by the front door”

Leaving the porch light on is a common theme in American culture. You’ll find it in songs and even advertisements.  Motel 6, for example, says “We’ll leave the light on for you.”

When you come home late at night, and it’s dark outside, having the light at the door is a welcoming sight. It’s easier to find your keys. You know that someone is expecting you to come home. 


“the key’s under the mat”

It isn’t safe to leave your house unlocked, but you want to allow friends to come in even if you aren’t home. Why do you do? Leave a spare key for special visitors and tell them where it is hidden. In fact, this is so common that you can buy a fake rock to hide a spare key for someone. Having access to this key shows that you are welcome in the home.

rock with a key inside

“eat a root beer popsicle”

Popsicles are frozen treats generally associated with childhood and summertime. In the summer, American children are usually out of school with fewer responsibilities and are running around just having fun. By using this reference, it suggests that we all should relax a bit and have some fun.

“when the work you’ve put in is realized”

Most accomplishments require a great deal of effort or work. You put in work or put work or effort into something. While the verb realize is most often used for coming to an understanding of an idea, it can also be used for getting the result of something, like extreme effort.


“stay humble and kind”

Humble and kind are both adjectives and most often used with linking verbs like be, seem, and become. However, in this case, the normally transitive verb stay is being used with the adjective in a kind of command form. No action is really taking place because the actor is already humble or kind, so he is just staying in the same state.

“cause your momma says to”

Like in most cultures, the American family relationship is significant.  In most families, pleasing one’s parents, especially mom, is very important. There is actually a standard phrase said by American parents “because I said so.” This indicates children should do what their told, even when they don’t understand or agree because the parent told them to.

“visit grandpa every chance you can”

Because most Americans don’t live with their extended families (grandparents, aunts, and uncles, etc.), immigrants often interpret this to mean that we don’t care about our families.  In fact, we do care quite a bit; it is just much more difficult to have those familial relationships so extra effort must be taken and with most things American, it is a choice, not a requirement.


“don’t forget to turn back around and help the next one in line”

While we are absolutely a nation of striving individuals seeking our own goals, we are also a nation of caring individuals who desire to be part of a successful community. Helping others along the way actually advances our own success.

“Hold the door, say ‘please,’ say ‘thank you,’

These actions are essential social courtesies, the actions of ladies and gentlemen, who are considerate of others. Though children used to be automatically taught these behaviors, social graces today are often lacking as we are all so self-absorbed and stressed out.

“don’t steal, don’t cheat and don’t lie”

Unlike social niceties, these actions refer to following the law. While America is certainly a place of great individual freedom, we do have quite a few laws for the good of the many. Obeying the law is usually a good idea.

“shut off the AC and roll the windows down. Let that summer sun shine”

This is another summer reference to getting away from the technology, the house, and the stress of it all and enjoying life for a minute.  Taking time to relax will help you to be more balanced and an overall happier person.

 There are so many fantastic resources available to help you along in your language journey. Study doesn't always have to be an intense experience. Sometimes, you can just have some fun with it! Try using music to have a bit of fun and learn cool stuff too!

Keep Your Fire Burning

One of the most awesome yet arduous aspects of working for or with others is that there is help in feeding the fire of accomplishment and motivation.  Unfortunately, many aspects of life require us to stay motivated on our own and finish what we started without cheerleaders or spectators.  To be successful, you have to feed your own fire.

For many people, including myself, the beginning is great with the anticipation and excitement of a new endeavor. I am full of ideas and have very little difficulty in firing up a project. Similarly, the glow of achievement that occurs as my aspiration comes to fruition and my goals are realized is enjoyable and spurs me to greater feats. However, the in- between in the middle, when the activity is no longer exciting but becomes tedious, when I have to focus on the minutia, not the grand scheme, and when I have to buckle down and consistently perform, this middle often gives me problems.

How do I stay motivated through the treacherous and monotonous middle? How can I continue to keep the fire of accomplishment blazing until the end? How can my motivation burn brightly all the way through my tasks to keep me going? As I asked myself these very questions this week, I found 4 ways to keep myself going. Perhaps they will work for you too!


Use Appropriate Fuel

Just like a fire requires different kinds of fuel to get burning, maintain heat, and die out, goals and projects require different activities along the way. What works in the beginning, may very well be insufficient in the middle. Thus, it is important to have various strategies to fuel the fire so that it keeps going.


Take my current book project for example. I’ve been working on it now for almost a year. Planning, organizing, writing for hours – those were great fuel earlier, but now, I have had to change the process because, honestly, I’m tired of the whole thing at this point. 

I have to change the fuel for my fires and be open to change and continued learning. I can’t simply do the easy and familiar, but have to challenge myself and to modify my actions if I want to keep my fire burning. I’ve actually recently started a new educational project which has nothing to do with the book, but it has made me excited about teaching in a new way. Now, I can apply this new excitement as a new kind of fuel and get the book finished.


If you have reached a point in your project where you can see it is starting to wither and not flourish, perhaps you need to find an alternative way to approach it or a new method of work.  We have to use an appropriate fuel to keep our fires burning!

Anticipate Problematic Aspects

If you’ve ever camped and had to keep a fire burning for light and warmth, you know that all kinds of factors are a danger for that fire. There’s the wind and wet; there’s a lack of wood; there’s even a lack of skill in starting and maintaining the fire.  Basically, keeping a fire going takes a lot of work!

Likewise, keeping our own motivation going overtime takes a lot of work, and there are many possible problems to burn it out. Boredom is a big one for me, so is exhaustion, and, of course, the inevitable trying-to-do-too-much.  Everyone encounters different problems, but if we plan for them, then we have a greater chance of overcoming them! There are many ways to anticipate problems. One that I have found valuable is to know myself.  My problems repeat themselves in endless loops, so I can anticipate them and even have strategies to overcome them.



For example, I am at a low point of my semester. The excitement of the new semester and getting to know the students has worn off, and now I have to slog through their difficulties and try to help them achieve. Right now, I am smack in the middle of part of my worst time. I have many plans for this problem time both tried and true techniques, and I also have some new ideas I want to try. Changing up my fuel a bit will help keep my fire going.



Even if you are doing a new activity or starting a new project, you can be aware of your weaknesses and plan for those moments of difficulty when you want to give up, which can help you keep your fire going!

Get Others Involved

In our individualistic society, self-reliance is usually rewarded; nonetheless, sometimes we all need help to keep a fire going. Regardless of how much experience you may have or how good you are in maintaining a fire, there comes the point where it is just nice if someone else throws a log on the fire or gives it at stir. Sometimes a new perspective, whether large or small, can make a huge difference in the project. Sometimes we just need someone else to question or encourage. No matter how independent you may be, no one can go completely alone!

While no one in my life is involved in my creative endeavors as much as I (not even Mr. C!) I have many people that I involve in small ways.  I am able to get my students involved by offering a bit of extra credit for responding to the blog.  I have brought in excerpts from the book to use in class. I talk to my colleagues at work; I discuss aspects of the work with my family. I ask for opinions and advice from friends. Basically, I encourage others to help me feed the fire of creation.


No one will care about your projects as deeply as you; it is, after all, your fire. Nonetheless, involving others, getting others help can enable you to keep your fire burning all the way to the end!

Bank Your Fire

A fire doesn’t have to be raging hot to survive. In fact, keeping a fire low in embers actually keeps it alive, just resting a bit. You can still cook on it, and it still produces heat. We can’t go full throttle 100% of the time; we will burn out. Sometimes, fires and people need a break to perform at their best.

Personally, I try to plan my breaks. I know that I have to renew myself and remember why I’m doing this in the first place! I arrange small breaks every day, a bit of stretching here and a funny Facebook video there. I arrange larger breaks every week. Wednesday is my go to take-a-break for myself day. It’s when I do those small things to reward myself like getting a message or reading for pleasure. Occasionally, I take big breaks, like Saturday when Mr. C and I drove to drive up to Big Bear to enjoy the last of the snow.

These breaks can also change up the fuel for my fire and involve others while such breaks can even give me new insight into dealing with problems! Hence, these breaks are not distracting me from my goals, but are, in fact, helping me achieve them. I am banking my fire a bit so that it can burn more brightly in the future.


Don’t be afraid to take breaks. They will help you keep your fire going for the long term! Bank your fire to keep it strong!

Being motivated, in and of itself, is terrific! Nonetheless, it is essential for success that you persist in your endeavor through the difficult and boring middle so that you can achieve your goals and keep your own fire burning! I hope these techniques which I use in my own motivational process can help you in yours!


Right to Assemble

Today, I want to take a brief journey into one of the American freedoms we have based on the First Amendment – the right to assemble- and how that freedom has been and is continuing to be expressed in our country.

Before we dive into the actuality of a protest, let’s look at and understand the language of the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights as it applies to this topic.



What does “right” mean here? While I have a sense of this based on my own education, I did an internet search to see what came up. After perusing several different definitions, I think this one at sums it up best by defining right as “rights given or reserved to the people by the U.S. Constitution, and in particular the Bill of Rights." To restate, a right is something that a person has which is guaranteed by the laws of the land.


This leads us to the very real question, who are the people? One obvious answer is citizens of the country. I don’t that can be argued. But are those the only people who have rights? Well, no. But what rights to non-citizens have? Websites with this information abound, and it can be quite confusing for they quote the law to make their case. The biggest point of contention seems to be whether “illegal” or “undocumented” people are protected under the Bill of Rights. From what I can tell, the general consensus is that every person living in the USA is covered under the Bill of Rights, but I am sure this will repeatedly be tested in the court of law in the upcoming years.


What does peaceably mean? Most of us have a definition of peace, but how does it apply here? We have all see the recent protests where people march in mass, waving signs and shouting. Is that peaceful? We have also seen people blocking freeways. Can that be a peaceful protest? It is the definition of what is peaceful that can cause problems. If the government or city decides it is “not peaceful” than they can break up the assembly as we have seen on TV with pepper spray being used on protesters. I was unable to find a clear, concrete definition of what is and isn’t peaceful and I think this is being debated and played out even today.


Assemble is a verb that means to gather, and the noun assembly is the gathering together of something, often people. Technically, a birthday party for your mom is an assembly. An assembly can be in a private home or a public area like a park or sidewalk. The more people involved, the bigger the assembly. In today’s language, we generally use the noun “protest” rather than assembly. Often times, these assemblies are organized into a March, where people gather and walk to a particular place or on a particular route, rather like a parade of protest.


To petition is a verb that means to ask. When you see the signs in a protest, these could be considered petitions. They are expressing the requests or demands of the people. Here also, we often use the verb “protest” rather than petition. Regarding language usage, one petitions or asks for something but protests or fights against something.


Redress is a verb that means to remedy or fix something. So if you cut me off in traffic, causing me to have an accident, you might redress the situation by paying for my car repairs. In the case of the First Amendment, it is the government that is being asked to fix a situation.


Grievance is if a formal noun that means a wrong or damage that generates complaint or protest. You have a grievance or complaint against something or someone.

Restating the First Amendment in simpler language gives us

a guarantee that people in the United States can come together in numbers great or small and demand their issues be heard and addressed by the government.

On January 21, there was a Women’s March on Washington, in other cities around the country, and in other countries around the world. People were protesting for the protection of rights, safety, health, family, and diversity. People were and will continue to protest some of the statements and promised policies of the newly elected President Trump.

In the United States, the people have the protected right to express their feelings in public and to stand against situations they feel are wrong. The First Amendment guarantees that right. If you would like more information on what these rights are and the practical application of them, I found this informative Know Your Rights Faq sheet published by the ACLU.