Foreword Communications

Monday, June 23, 2008

why cant kids write rite?

Filed under: CULTURE, EDUCATION, FAMILY, LIFE, MODERN LIVING, RANDOM, RANDOM THOUGHTS, THOUGHTS — Tags: , , , , , , , — forewordcommunications @ 10:22 am











My daughter has elected to complete a couple of extra academic credits toward her graduation requirements via a reputable online school this summer.  One of those credits is an English III credit.  The course focuses on grammar, punctuation, and capitalization.  A week before the course began, the teacher, we’ll call her Madame English Teacher, placed the following message on her site: 


“Welcome to English III.  I’ll be posting a discription of the course soon.  This class is defenitely harder than the regular version because it is much shorter, so be prepared to work a lot harder.” 


Now, my degree isn’t in English, it’s in Psychology, but even I can see that Madame English Teacher has two very glaring misspellings in those three short sentences.  And this individual is teaching high school seniors! 


So, anyway, I called the school principal listed on the website and although she seemed unconcerned about the errors, she promised to point them out to the instructor.  My daughter informed me later that day that the blurb had been removed and the English III home page was now blank.  I also received a call from Madame English Teacher herself explaining that the Science teacher had written the contents of the page because Madame English Teacher herself was busy trying to wrap up her end-of-semester duties from the regular school year.  I’m wondering how the Science teacher managed to pass English herself. 


My daughter has since completed the first unit and taken the unit quiz.  The quizzes are teacher-generated and then loaded into the online system.  During the regular school year, my daughter earned a perfect grade in English.  She does well in all of her subjects, but she’s an exceptional English student.  But this summer school course has her ready to pull her hair out, and here’s why: 

Quiz One, Question 3…

Select the option that best completes the sentence. 

The librarian _______ _______ work long hours.

a.      do not

b.      does not

c.       doesn’t not

d.      can’t not


My daughter, being a veritable genius, selected option “b”.  Her answer was marked wrong.  Thinking “what the…?”, my daughter emailed Madame English Teacher and, trying not to sound like she thinks the teacher is a complete moron, worded her email as such. 

Hi, Madame English Teacher.

I just took the unit one quiz and, maybe I’m tired, but it seems as if some of the questions might be scoring incorrectly.  I’m not sure but I think I got question three right even though the system said I got it wrong.  Can you take a look at it?


Genius Daughter


This is the reply she received from the teacher… 

i think youre just tired ill reset the quiz so you can take it again 


Ok, is it me or is something very wrong here?


I believe that the above written communication from Madame English Teacher contains two separate sentences, yet there is no placement of periods or capitalization that would indicate such.  Also, last I checked, the “word” youre is supposed to contain an apostrophe indicating that it is the product of two separate words; you and are.  Ditto for ill.  Although, “ill” is a word, I believe that the teacher meant to write I’ll, to represent “I” and “will”.  I don’t believe she was trying to tell my daughter that she wasn’t feeling well.  And shouldn’t there be a line of greeting such as “Hi, Genius Daughter” and a closing such as “Thanks, Madame English Teacher”?  I seem to recall, way back in the dark ages when we were expected to communicate correctly, actually studying how to write a letter.  Emails are electronic letters, not an invitation for sloppy written communication; especially on the part of a teacher!  Hello!


The ongoing inability of this teacher to communicate effectively using good written English indicates that she may have told a little fib about the Science teacher.  Either neither teacher can spell worth a darn or Madame English Teacher just needed to divert blame from herself.  Additionally, the fact that the English teacher cannot seem to recognize that there is a significant problem with the quiz indicates that, like my daughter suspected, the woman is far from qualified to teach the course.  And, finally, it scares the bejesus out of me that Madame English Teacher sent my daughter a reply email that was completely devoid of capitalization, punctuation, and proper grammar.


Shouldn’t English teachers, heck, teachers in general, be held to a higher standard? 


No wonder we’re raising a nation of people who can’t spell, write, or communicate effectively; or even adequately.  When even a teacher can’t manage to make the effort to set a shining example of proper use of the rules of the English language, something is very wrong.  One of the first things we learn – in psychology, in education, heck, as parents – is that children learn by example.  What kind of example is Madame English Teacher setting for her students?  How can she possibly correctly judge the standard of a student’s work when she obviously doesn’t know what such work should entail (as evidenced by her inability to display the standards in her own communications)? 


And, please don’t make the argument that teachers are overworked and underpaid.  First, that’s the state of most employees these days.  Second, that’s no excuse for an inability to do one’s job properly.  And, third, it’s not true.   


I spent several years working in the human resources department at a local urban school district and most of them were paid nearly twice what I was making, and I was making pretty good money.  Our human resources director used to say that teaching was the only profession where you could make more from year to year merely by virtue of staying alive.   


And, summer school teachers…!  Forgetaboutit!  They got paid their regular daily rate plus a premium for teaching summer school.  Teachers would actually fight to be placed in a summer school position!  It was like earning double-time plus.  Now, to be fair, beginning teachers weren’t paid a whole lot, but because of union rules, teachers got what was called a step increase every year, plus, because of contract negotiations, they received regular cost of living increases (those of us who worked in administration, at the time, had not seen a cost of living increase or a raise in more than five years).  Additionally, teachers had a top-of-the-line health care plan which included dental and vision coverage (they paid less than $50 a month for this superb coverage!), they received a certain number of free sick days, got winter and spring breaks and summers off, worked less than seven hours a day, got one free period for “planning”, and received numerous “bonuses” for any perceived extra duties they performed.  For instance, a teacher would receive extra pay if he or she had to cover another teacher’s class, even if it was for mere minutes.  Teachers were also paid their daily rate for taking professional development classes and received what was called a “schedule” increase once they earned a higher degree (i.e., anything above a B.A.). 


I’m not saying that teachers don’t work hard.  I could never do the job.  I would never want the job.  Still, being overworked is no excuse for the poor performance of teachers such as Madame English Teacher.  And, I don’t believe that this teacher is performing poorly because she’s overworked.  I believe that she performs this way because; first, she obviously doesn’t care; second, she’s not held to a higher standard; and, third, she’s not good at her job. 


The quality of my daughter’s education depends on the quality of the individuals who provide that education.  If a teacher can’t be bothered to facilitate a quality educational experience for every child, they should find another profession.


I don’t have all the answers either.


©2008 ForeWORD Communications


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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Public School Safety

Filed under: EDUCATION, FAMILY, LIFE, MODERN LIVING — Tags: , , — forewordcommunications @ 10:21 pm







 The recent rash of college campus shootings has overshadowed the ongoing violence that has become an unwelcome addition to the nation’s primary, intermediate, and secondary classrooms. In some urban areas, violence in schools is so common that children have become somewhat desensitized to its presence and may no longer view violence as something that should actually be rare within the educational environment. This speaks volumes about our public school system, but the problem may be even worse than imagined.




·         One Cleveland, Ohio elementary school classroom erupted in violence when students, unhappy with a substitute teacher’s disciplinary practices, bombarded that teacher with books and other objects, sending the teacher to the hospital with minor injuries.

·         One six-year-old boy in Flint, Michigan shot and killed a female classmate.

·         One Indiana second grader used his shoe to pummel a teacher.

·         One kindergartener in Philadelphia attacked a pregnant teacher, punching her in the stomach.


Although the chances that any one child will be the direct victim of in-school violence is still relatively small, the chances that he or she will witness such violence is nearly 100%. And the reality is that such violence has progressed from what was once the common schoolyard scuffle to altercations between students, students and teachers, and students and security that may send one or more of the participants to the hospital for treatment – or worse.


While some experts argue that school violence has always been a problem, especially in urban school districts, others insist that the problem is becoming more pronounced, particularly in the lower grades. Regardless, the number of assaults on children and adults in the nation’s schools has reached what can only be called epidemic proportions. When our children cannot attend school in a reasonably safe environment, education suffers and childhood is sacrificed.


Competition and conflict between peers has led to some minor physical altercations throughout the ages. Perhaps what is most alarming is that not only are children attacking each other with increasing ferocity, but they are attacking the adults who are there to teach them as well. To many, this complete lack of regard for authority signifies a much larger underlying problem.


Undoubtedly, children are bringing significant stressors into the classroom. Single-parent households, abusive home environments, economic hardships, and mild disabilities are only a few of the factors that haunt our children even during the hours when they should be concentrating on education. Yet, it can be argued that these factors have always been present and children were not shooting their classmates or stabbing their teachers.


It makes sense to adjust some of the present school violence statistics for the “overkill” factor. Suspensions for assault have skyrocketed within almost all of the nation’s school systems, even at the lower grades. For instance, in a two-year period, Minnesota suspended more than 4,000 kindergarteners, first graders, and second graders statewide. News reports of suspensions for minor infractions of zero-tolerance policies abound, but we must remain aware that these suspensions and disciplinary actions are understandably skewing the statistics a bit higher than they should be. This, in no way however, should minimize the fact that in-school violence is a very real and growing problem within the nation’s academic environments.


Obviously, parents cannot keep their children out of school. Many schools have implemented programs that teach children about bullying and about what is considered appropriate behavior. Still other programs concentrate on emphasizing the rights of others and encouraging a school-wide atmosphere of respect. Yet, most experts agree that, without the help of parents, schools, the children who attend them, and the adults who work within them, will be forced to deal with violence as a daily standard.


As helpful as many anti-violence programs are for students and faculty, children need to also be taught how to avoid situations that may become violent and how to protect themselves from becoming victims of school violence. First and foremost, the zero tolerance policy of non-violence that exists within schools must also extend to the home. Children who are permitted violent outbursts at home, are likely to continue such behavior in other settings as well.

Apparently, school suspensions, expulsions, and other current disciplinary practices are not working. Therefore, while school administrations consider how to deal with school violence, children must be taught how to recognize a potentially explosive situation in order to avoid the fallout.


School violence is not cool, funny, or acceptable. Children who believe this and speak out against violence are more likely to avoid violent situations. Children who fail to remain firm in this belief and who participate in violence because of peer pressure are more likely to be caught up in violent situations. Peer pressure is a mighty sword for adults and children. Therefore, children who exert positive peer behavior can have a significant effect on their schoolmates.


Be a tattle tale. Children are often faced with the difficult decision of telling on another student who may be considering violence, who may have brought a weapon to school, or who may be behaving in an unacceptable or threatening manner. Early on, we teach children that being a tattle tale is annoying and undesirable. Additionally, peer pressure teaches children that it’s not cool to inform adults of another child’s activities. However, all bets are off when it comes to school violence. Children need to be taught that the repercussions of withholding information from teachers and other adults of another child’s unsafe activities can lead to irreversible consequences for that child and those around him. Adults are often kept in the dark about situations that are preventable. Communication between school students, parents, and school officials is crucial for keeping schools as safe as possible for everyone.


Listening. All threats of violence should be taken seriously; especially in today’s current environment. Children and adults must work together to end school violence. Children must feel as if their school administrators are not only willing to listen to their concerns but that they take those concerns seriously. When school violence erupts, children often know beforehand. Therefore it is imperative for every adult to build trust through communication with students in order for everyone to feel safe in school.



©2008 ForeWORD Communications     All Rights Reserved


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