[The following was sent to me by one of my many readers, a high school teacher. He wishes to remain anonymous.]

So this 9th-grade girl in my school, involved in Student Senate, decides to distribute a letter to all the teaching staff (in our mailboxes) about putting recycling boxes in each of our rooms. A great idea, one I support wholly. My problem was not with the idea, it was with the delivery. The letter in my box (in all out boxes) was about 120 words long and contained over 20 spelling errors, 2 run-on sentences, 2 fragments, and some truly egregious grammatical errors. It was painful reading it and many teachers simply threw it away. I decided not to throw it away but to “correct” it.

So, like I’ve done to countless papers, I proofread it, red-marked it, circled the errors, added comments, wrote at the bottom that I would not agree to have a recycling box until I recieved a proofread letter. Not an unreasonable request, I thought. I placed the marked-up letter in the Student Senate’s box and didn’t think anything more of it. Until today.

This morning, in all of our boxes, was an apology from this girl about the poor quality of the letter. An apology!? What?! I read on in disbelief this totally unnecessary letter. This student claimed that she only signed her name to a letter that another student typed up. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t sign my name to something until I thoroughly read it. She also claimed that part of the poor quality of the letter was due to the fact that the spell-checking system was down on the computers. Oh my, but it gets richer yet. Yup, the apology letter contained several spelling errors and run-on sentences! I kid you not.

It was all pretty humorous up until this point until I learned later in the day that some fellow staff members were angry at me for being “insensitive” to this girl and for “humiliating” her. Oh, this ruffled some feathers! Apparently, this student was crying in the hallway and really upset because her errors all came crashing down on her. These people were casting the blame on me for being “insensitive”! Forget that this letter (and the “appology” too) were poorly written and obviously not proofread. Forget that this letter is supposed to represent the Student Senate. Forget that this girl did not learn from the mistakes the first time through. Gee, let’s all complain about the person who made the effort to fix the mistakes in the first place. See, it’s the teacher’s fault. It’s not the student’s fault anymore or the parent’s fault. It’s always the teacher’s fault, regardless.

See, that’s the problem in education today. It’s never the student’s fault anymore. It’s ADD or ADHD. It’s dyslexia. It’s poor nurturing environment. It’s LD. It’s short-attention span. It’s incompatible classes. It’s too difficult work. It’s the job after school taking up the time. It’s my dog ate my homework. It’s my computer crashed. It’s the spell-checker wasn’t working. It’s sports after school. It’s the student not understanding the teacher. It’s parents not at home. It’s latch-key kids. It’s the buzzword. But, it’s never ever, and I mean never ever, the fault of the student himself. It’s never because Johnny was too lazy to study or read the assignment or practice the math problems. Never.

Damn it, no one is held accountable anymore except the teachers. It’s bitterly ironic: teachers are held accountable for their teaching methods, their subject competency, and are judged by the scores on a poorly written standardized test. Yet, the students themselves are not held accountable for not studying, not learning, not trying.


[The very reason why I did not go into teaching, even though I come from a long line of teachers….grandparents, parents, brother, sister….]

Posted by Cameron Barrett at May 4, 1998 11:59 PM

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *