Can You Explain Explain?
One of the most difficult words to explain is: explain.
Even a teacher in communications, like I am, can't find the simplest, most understandable words to explain it well so it may be understood.
Mr. Webster defines explain thus, "To tell someone something in a way that helps them understand it better." Mr. Roget gives these synonyms: illustrate, interpret, elucidate (words that don’t make explaining any easier).
The learning outcomes (UK-based) prescribed in my class writing requirement were pretty simple: identify and explain.
What I got from one of my students was a jumble of many words identifying facts and figures, quotations from reliable sources of more facts and figures, but no explanation.
I showed him his work, and said, "You did not explain what you identified.”
"Where is your explanation?"
He pointed to the facts and figures and all the words he wrote that occupied two precious pages, totaling 500 words.
"But you did not explain them. What do these facts and figures mean? I borrowed Mr. Webster’s words, "Tell me in words that will help me understand these better."
He looked at me with such incredulity I felt like my IQ dropped to 12.
"You don’t understand these?" he asked.
The earth beneath me caved in. Only grace made me survive the moment, grasping words, “Oh, I do, but the instruction says, you have to explain. And if you don’t, you only get half a grade. You identified really well, but you did not explain.”
Mouth agape, he stared at me. Mouth pursed, I stared back.
He blinked, “Do I have to re-do my paper?”
“Well, not if you don’t want to. But if you want to get the other half of your grade . . ."
“I will re-do it,” he mumbled.
I released the breath held in my lungs too long.
“Let my teaching fall on you like rain; let my speech settle like dew. Let my words fall like rain on tender grass, like gentle showers on young plants.” Deuteronomy 32:2 (NLT)