I Teach English Good: A Number of Questions

May 6, 2008 at 10:37 pm 1 comment

Having completed the student teaching portion of my student teaching, I have been spending some time observing other teachers (in and out of my school). Doing so has raised certain questions about what is expected from teachers of English/language arts.

I find myself baffled by English teachers who make errors in what seems to me to be very basic grammar and language usage. It’s not that I’m perfect; my speech is littered with Southernisms (most recent perpetrator: “where is ____ at?”) and other quirks, and I have a predilection for starting sentences with conjunctions. But (see?) that’s casual language – oral language, emails. Goodness knows that, since I’m writing about this, I’ll include all kinds of substandard syntax. When I make a handout, worksheet, or sign, however, I compose it correctly. I don’t think about it, I just do it. It’s an unfair advantage I bring to the table: an innate sense for good writingfulness. What can I say…?

This week, I’ve been witness to some disturbing English teacher gaffs, including:

  • four instances of “it’s” instead of “its” in a single packet
  • easily half a dozen other scattered and inappropriate apostrophes in “its”
  • myriad comma splices
  • sentence fragments
  • questions that end in periods instead of question marks
  • bunches and bunches of subject-verb agreement issues
  • two separate instances of incorrect MLA format
  • misidentified parts of speech
  • mispronounced and incorrectly-defined vocabulary words
  • wrong form of their/there/they’re (only once, thankfully)
  • and my favorite… which is so good that it deserves its own blog entry (coming soon!)

I have known many people who majored in English despite a decided lack of talent for written communication. I suppose it’s their (its there?) love for literature that carries them through and inspires them to become teachers. After all, if you love reading, what better career than to share that love with future generations, right? And honestly, how much grammar do you need to know to analyze literature?

BUT. Could you successfully major in math if you weren’t very good at math? If you’re tone deaf, can you major in music? Moreover, should you?

Do these teachers know that they aren’t doing it right? Would they be embarrassed if they did know?

How many bad habits are they passing to their students? When a teacher writes “it’s” instead of “its” on handouts and classroom signs, students internalize that. Even when it isn’t a lesson, it sticks.

Is it acceptable for a teacher of English to make this kind of error? What, exactly, is the standard to which we should be held? Is it okay for any teacher to mistake to for too or there for their?

And if not, what’s to be done?

We take the Praxis, but potential employers are told only that we pass – not our scores. Only a fool would submit a cover letter, resume, or application essay without poring over it for usage errors. (Not to mention, most hiring administrators around here are erstwhile math teachers who wouldn’t notice some of the more subtle mistakes.) And while those of us with “closed” placement files don’t get to review our recommendation letters, we don’t ask someone for a letter unless we’re confident that they’ll have positive things to say about us. Even so, with all the things a cooperating teacher or supervisor wants to cover in a recommendation, I doubt they’d go into an evaluation of a student teacher’s grammar mastery. The point of this is to say that a hirer (is that a word?) will be unable to discern between a potential teacher with excellent grammar and one without. There is literally no measure being taken of the mastery level of a scholar of English.



Entry filed under: JOB HUNT. Tags: , , .

I am never assigning essays again. Adverb Problems

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Clix  |  May 12, 2008 at 7:18 am

    If this is the middle-school level, you may be dealing with teachers who did NOT major in anything like English, did not want to teach it, but got stuck there by the district and are doing the best they can.


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The Bee’s Knees

This is the teaching journal of a student first-year second-year THIRD-YEAR (!!!) English teacher. I am writing this blog as a reflection for myself, a way to keep friends and family updated, and a sharing-ground between other educators online. I love comments!

I am striving to maintain anonymity on this blog so that I may more freely interact with my fellow edubloggers. If you know who I am, please help me protect my anonymity in your comments. I use pseudonyms or initials for everyone I write about to preserve their anonymity as well.

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