Anticipation and Imagination

This morning I searched the etymology of “anticipate” since I, and many other teachers, are well and truly mired in it. I sometimes find comfort in the analysis and deepening in my understanding of a word, its connotations, derivations, and anatomy.

The Online Etymology Dictionary states,

1530s, “to cause to happen sooner,” a back-formation from anticipation, or else from Latin anticipatus, past participle of anticipare “take (care of) ahead of time,” literally “taking into possession beforehand,” from anti, an old form of ante “before” (from PIE root *ant- “front, forehead,” with derivatives meaning “in front of, before”) + capere “to take,” from PIE root *kap- “to grasp.”

Later “prevent or preclude by prior action” (c. 1600) and “be aware of (something) coming at a future time” (1640s). Used in the sense of “expect, look forward to” since 1749, but anticipate has an element of “prepare for, forestall” that, etymologically, should prevent its being used as a synonym for expect. Related: Anticipatedanticipating.

I like the use of anticipation as a form of “taking care” rather than preventing; it is the hopeful sense of the word that I want to feel right now. And even though, there is anxiousness, undeniably, I did experience a sense of lightness return as I prepare a shell of a course, a shell of an evidence record of learning, both which may serve for any English course that any English teacher, including me, might be teaching. It’s liberating in a way, not being confined to one predetermined timetable as our school boards wrestle with the pandemic school plan. This educational freedom to step back from the specific content of the course is forcing me to focus on the much sidelined, more important approaches, more humane ways of building community, creating equity, and bringing social justice to the forefront of everything that I do.


Yesterday’s webinar with Dr. Robin Kay on Remote Teaching felt like the pulse of a defibrillator which converted my anxiety to anticipation. The workshop was an experience in meta-teaching; he taught a group of 80+ educators remotely while modelling for us what works and how to pace the content, keep engagement, and differentiate. All my previously scheduled afternoon plans evapourated as I fell into the tech vortex of experimentation trying Perusall, and Edpuzzle, and exploring shared websites from generous participants in the workshop. I returned to my former playful self full of curiosity rather than concern.

This state of not knowing what I’ll be teaching or specifically how I’ll be teaching has also allowed me to employ what Cornelius Minor refers to as”radical imagination”. I am creating a shell which radically imagines social justice, student voice, and a community of inquiry framework. The chaotic part of pandemic teaching has allowed me to break out of the prescribed English teacher’s “do this” list and, instead, forge ahead with ideas that I’ve allowed to be sidelined because they are seen as “woo woo” or “not effective” or “the latest trend” or “not rigorous enough”.

I returned to the online etymology dictionary and typed in “radical”.

late 14c., in a medieval philosophical sense, from Late Latin radicalis “of or having roots,” from Latin radix (genitive radicis) “root” (from PIE root *wrād- “branch, root”). Meaning “going to the origin, essential” is from 1650s. Radical sign in mathematics is from 1680s.

That’s it. The anticipation of teaching that has roots grounded in the individual student experience and identity which is essential to realizing one’s genius. There is a vision that I can anticipate and radically imagine for teaching this year.

16 thoughts on “Anticipation and Imagination

  1. I also like the idea of taking care of something by anticipating it. Sometimes it’s just taking care of myself, anticipating different ways that something that could happen. Sometimes it allows me to actually prepare for different options. We are certainly doing a lot of anticipating these days. Thank you for sharing your thinking with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Melanie,
    I can really relate to the way you are stepping back from the course content to really think about community building. I’ve been trying to do this. I think I know what I am teaching, but at this point anything could happen! So thinking about those universal needs and the routines I believe in so strongly that I’ll use them no matter where I end up has been really good for me. I love that you are using your anticipation energy to radically reimagine what your classes will be like. This really is the perfect time to do that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reminding us that students have “universal needs” not separated by Elementary and Secondary designations. That’s wonderful that you know what you’re teaching next year and you have some predictability!


  3. Love your deep dive into the meanings of these words! I think anticipation is often coupled with joy and wonder. I hope this teaching year proves better and mightier than all our fears. Certainly, you and so many others have fortified themselves this summer – you will be radically imaginative, as the times require! As Cornelius Minor says, “We got this!” We just need to keep rock-steady on our beliefs, what we know is right for students.

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  4. I am in love with the etymology of “radical” – I think this might actually get me writing today. And I love playing with you as we try to create these courses. Let’s call our next get together a play date & see what happens 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. First: I love word study and frequently look up definitions just as you did here. There are so many nuances or shades to words … love the taking care/liberating aspect of “anticipation.” As humans we really dislike and fear unknowns… the ending line is beautiful, in how it ties anticipation and imagination to student-centered teaching.These lines, accordingly, strike just as deep: “The chaotic part of pandemic teaching has allowed me to break out of the prescribed English teacher’s “do this” list and, instead, forge ahead with ideas that I’ve allowed to be sidelined because they are seen as “woo woo” or “not effective” or “the latest trend” or “not rigorous enough”.” So much of what’s “prescribed” for teachers is counterproductive to student growth (maybe even deadly to the imagination-!) – and breaking out of it is exactly what I hoped to see happen across the board, a return to things and ideas that excite students and make them hungry for learning … for that is when they really grow. Those who realize this gift offered by the pandemic…well, seize it! It’s the springboard from compliance to creativity for kids AND teachers. I am cheering you on.

    Liked by 1 person

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