8.11.2009

The One About Grammar

Soap boxes. I have a few. There are the heavy ones like cruelty to animals and children. But that's not all that surprising. It's just wrong. And I have animals and children. So it's also not unexpected.

With school starting I have climbed upon another. Speaking the Queen's English. That is a phrase I picked up from my mom. The school teacher. I wonder if she picked it up from her grandmother? Her grandmother lived with her family when mom was young and the woman was from Manchester, England. I suspect she spoke the Queen's English, accent and all.

Before I unload, I want to make it perfectly clear that I am pro-teacher. My mom taught elementary school, two of my sisters were teachers, I have many friends from college who are teachers, and so on. Teaching is a difficult and often thankless job. (Even though all my college friends said they were getting a degree in Education so they could have the summer off. So be it.) Being a teacher is awesome.

However, there are bad teachers just as there are good and bad of every other profession. Well, there are. I am sure you had a teacher at one point who, perhaps, should've walked a different road.

My bone of contention is this. If you are teaching children the English language. then you should speak it properly in the classroom. Intellectually I realize that people speak like those around them. If you were raised in a household that always uses double negatives, you will most likely use them yourself. It makes sense. You speak what you hear from the time you are an infant.

If that is the case, feel free. I honestly do not care one way or the other how anyone chooses to speak English as long as their point is understood. Unless they are teaching English. Then I really feel you need to speak it properly in the classroom so the kids realize that "I seen it" is incorrect. Speak properly in the classroom, teach the kids the proper rules of grammar and sentence structure and spelling, and test them on it. Then, if the kids grow up to speak it and use it incorrectly, that's their choice as adults.

I have often corrected my children's use of the word "ain't". That word isn't used at home and I know many of their teachers, but not all, use it at school. I have used it effectively on occasion. But I'm all grown up. My kids are just learning. They don't need to think that ain't is a viable option. Not in my house. (My husband concurs by the way.)

This is not new behavior on my part. I recall correcting the neighborhood kids when I was nine. Jim said I must've been a pill. I just thought they would've wanted to know that they were speaking English improperly. They weren't nearly as grateful for my corrections. Maybe they're thanking me now.

But back to the teachers. I know plenty who don't use proper grammar and such. Jim told me about a school friend of his who was "dumb as a rock" and is now a school Principal. Mind you, many people appear to be dumb as a rock next to Jim, but it does happen. I remember a school Vice Principal who made an announcement using the phrase "no mo' radio." Good times.

Jim told me a story of a teacher who used the phrase "I done learned you that" in English class. See, that's what I'm talking about. Granted, that sounds like the teacher was a bit frazzled to say it anyway. But be ticked off in a more elegant manner. It's really more effective. Maybe if they had said "I have already taught you that you Cretin" then the kids would have remembered whatever it was they were being taught.

In my view, speaking whatever language you are teaching improperly in the classroom is just as wrong as teaching someone that two plus two equals five. And do Spanish teachers teach kids the wrong grammar? I don't know. I took Latin. (Which should be taught more often, but that's another complaint for another time. A few more Latin classes would do everyone a world of good.)

So, there you have it. My girls are three and four. Next year Anna Grace starts kindergarten. And you had better believe it that if I hear her learning English wrong, I will be all over it. I may become the most hated parent at the school. But my kids will speak properly. Why is it so important to me? Because I have spent my adult life working with people who think that making a noun plural means adding an apostrophe "s" to it. I've worked with people in the past who cannot write a cohesive memo. When I hear English spoke wrong it is so jarring to my hears. For real. It just screams out at me, lack of noun verb agreement. Double negative. You need to learn how to communicate effectively. Otherwise, some "pill" like me will point it out. And you don't want that.