If you grew up with Bert and Ernie, grammar rules are as reflexive to you as blinking. You don’t have to stop and think if you should use is instead of are, ate instead of eated, or let alone ponder the twelve verb tenses –yes–TWELVE–before opening your mouth. You know if something sounds wrong, even if you don’t know the rules to explain why.

You wouldn’t know these rules unless you moved to China to teach English.

When I started teaching English in 2010, I had to learn grammar all over again. Why? I don’t remember learning it. I remember Kathy Lawton throwing up in the fifth grade, Richard Elliot drinking the water in the fish tank, but the rules deciding when to use raise or rise?

Forget it.

Oops. I mean forget them.

Most of us learned grammar through the thousands of hours we had listening to our parents. Sure, we learned a bit from underlining subjects once and predicates twice, but for the most part? We entered the classroom with an ear for what’s right and what ain’t. So, there were only two rules that I shared with my language sponges:

1. Avoid the pronoun, as this wannabe noun causes more grammatical problems than a bootleg phone purchased on the street.
2. Chickens lay eggs, and people lie down.

My list expanded into three with the onset of the Smart Phone:

Emojis are not punctuation.

Growing up in the age of Alexa and not Dewy Decimal, many of my students rely on Grammarly to find their errors instead of mastering grammar rules themselves. What do you think this website is, your mother? It won’t find dirty socks under your bed, either. As their papers attest, grammar checkers can be about as useful at finding errors as a strainer is for holding water. Fortunately, I stumbled upon Grammbook.com. This website is used for practicing SAT and now for legalized torture of eighth and ninth students in English classes in Kunming.

Upon exploring this site, I learned that Jane Straus, the creator, died of brain cancer in 2011. One of my students surmisd her illness was caused by a severe case of comma drama. There’s only so much grammar your brain can hold before the dang thing explodes.

Yesterday was the culmination of my students’ mastery of rules. Rules that really don’t apply when speaking Mandarin. The prize was an ice cream party featuring a tub of tara ice cream, which I purchased because of the price, not the taste.

Trust me on that. While Tara ice cream may be exotic flavor in the States, it’s the lowlife of cool n creamy concoctions on the flipside.

While the eighth-graders were the winner of this cool ‘n starchy tuber, what they were really craving was the bragging rights.

In your face, ninth grade!

PSST! If you’re curious about the Oxford comma…

The Oxford Comma is the non-essential comma that precedes the word and in a series though Grammarly will tell you otherwise. Example: Red, yellow (the Oxford comma would go here) and blue.

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