As my spring 2020 semester winded down, I thought about my favorite student questions. Naturally, my thoughts gravitated towards those questions that forced me to rethink how I was teaching.

This is the one that comes to mind. On an online quiz on grammar and syntax, one of my students asked this question: “If the rules of grammar and language keep changing over time, why do I use them at all?”

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I had gotten versions of this question before, but this is the first time I had been asked it in an online format. In the onsite classroom, there are many ways for me to approach it. But now, in the online classroom, I found myself deprived of many of the tools (humor, a de-escalating smile, the ability to have a constructive back-and-forth) that usually make the resulting lesson possible. All I had was the space in front of me, the comment section on a student quiz.

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About the Author:

Jason Gulya is a Professor of English at Berkeley College, which has campuses in New Jersey and New York. He has worked in higher education for over 10 years and has taught at a variety of colleges and universities. He has published widely on literature, composition, and pedagogy.