Dress Like a Word

Although I do indeed teach in communication and journalism and thus have a natural inclination toward words and language, dressing like a word is not (yet) an experiential learning activity in my courses. But the origins of dress-like-a-word did come from an academic setting: Highland Catholic School, where my 5th-grade daughter is a student. A few weeks ago each student at Hi-C had the opportunity to “dress like a word.” Ah … the possibilities!

Of course, being into language (and a seamstress in my free time), I had many opinions and much advice on how she could create an award-winning “word” costume. She rolled her eyes (pre-teen). But I was at-the-ready and insisted on helping. There were only two rules we had to following: no profanity (it’s a Catholic grade school, so duh …) and no telling your word until after lunch. No problem.

After paging through a few dictionaries and googling some more and their synonyms, she landed on the word. And thus began the designing of her get-up: borrowed crutches used for a recent broken leg, an old and crusty – but still viable – Ace bandage wrapped around her arm and hand, Bandaids of various shapes and sizes stuck to her body and a used-walking cast with Velcro fasteners for easy on/off. She looked much like she had been in a car accident or bucked from the saddle of a rather large horse.

ACCIDENT! That must be the word. Nope. Pain? No. Ouch? We considered it. Healthcare? Copay? Insurance? Too obscure for grade-schoolers. (I’ll reveal the word later; keep reading.)

What does this story have to do with campus life and St. Thomas? Not much, except that after this word-wardrobe challenge, I (no surprise to those who know me) find myself wandering about campus with a meandering mind about “dressing like a word.” How would I dress to best represent the feelings and experiences of my students and colleagues during these days of April following spring break and into the final stretch of the semester?

I’d for sure choose the word CHAMPION. Easy! Just secure and don the uniform of the UST men’s basketball team! (National champs … woo hoo!) For the word (ok, it’s two words) MIDTERM EXAMS, my wardrobe would include distressed jeans (emphasis on stressed). For SPRING … hmmm? Perhaps I’d get my best ideas by reading the two recent Scroll blogs by Lisa Weier and Dave Nimmer (a monkey or cardinal costume?). The word GRADUATION would be an easy word to outfit, but WORRY – about post-graduation plans, getting jobs, the future, friends and family in Japan – would be tougher. Indeed, how do you express WORRY in your outfit – a common word in the vocabulary, or at least in the minds and hearts, of many? There is also a sense of EXCITEMENT in the air: study abroad applications are due, summer grants are being applied for and next-year housing arrangements are being made. How do you dress up OPTIMISM? ADVISING? UP ’TIL DAWN? RIVER BANK SPRING CLEAN UP? MPR LECTURE SERIES? SERVICE-LEARNING? ARCH MARCH? So much going on around campus in April; so few outfits!

If you were given the assignment to dress like a word, what would you choose?  Comment below. (Oooo … how to dress like a COMMENT?)

My daughter’s word: “Mishap.” Clever, eh?