I’ve done a little thinking about this – thank you all SO much for your comments, please keep ’em coming – and I’ve come to a couple of conclusions. Recognize that the jury is still out – I’m not sure I ever really make my mind up about anything (I think a closed mind is a terrible, terrible thing…):
* I can completely understand Kizz and Elena’s comments. It’s important to me that I set up a classroom environment that is safe and supportive, and I can easily see how my using old student emails would undermine those efforts.
That being said, however, I think that the emails that I’ve chosen to highlight are so far out of the realm of believability that it would be hard for most people to be overly concerned. I receive tons more email that are mildly annoying – along the lines of “hey mrs chili could you plz tell me what the homework was cuz i was asbent yesterday” – that I just let fly right past the guards.
Despite the image that I might portray here, I’m not a wicked grammar witch. I don’t correct my friends’ grammar, I don’t go around in the comments correcting incorrect comma use, I don’t roll my eyes when someone makes a spelling mistake. Want to know why? Because I’m a human being, not a dictionary or a style guide or a computer. I make mistakes, too.
My readers – and my students – rightly get the impression that I eat, sleep and breathe grammar because of the environment I’ve set up here and in my classrooms. That’s what I do HERE. My students are with me for eleven short weeks, and my job is to get them closer to understanding the rules and conventions of clear and proper communication during our brief time together. The things I write here are centered around the work that I do as a teacher, so of course I’m going to be focused on rules and conventions, and on noticing when they’re being ignored (or outright butchered).
THAT being said, I think it’s important for people to understand that this is not the ONLY part of me. I’m not the Grammar Gestapo. I’m sorry if ANYONE feels intimidated out of leaving comments here. While I recognize that I can’t control my readers’ feelings about my work and writing, I also don’t want to stifle anyone’s desire to communicate because they’re afraid of me. I don’t correct comments unless someone emails to ask me to do that (I find all KINDS of mistakes in my own comments on others’ sites that I don’t see until AFTER I hit “publish,” and I’ll email the blog author to ask them to fix my gaffs. California Teacher Guy has done that here, too – see above, re: human). I’m far more interested in getting a dialogue going than about whether or not all the commas are in the right places.
* I’ve been wondering why it’s okay for me to use shining examples of student work, but not the duds. I feel as though the pendulum has swung pretty far into the “we only want to accentuate the good – if we ignore the bad long enough, it’ll go away” mentality, and that’s not serving anyone. I’m betting no one would have objected to my using positive examples of really stellar student writing, and I’m not sure how comfortable I am with the attitude that goes alone with that.
* I DON’T ridicule my students. While I may go a bit overboard here, that is my right – this is my forum and it’s the perfect place to let off steam; it’s safe, it’s anonymous, and I get to hear back from other teachers who experience similar things, so I know I’m not out here alone – I never, EVER do or say anything even REMOTELY disrespectful in the classroom (or in the real world, even). You’re just going to have to take my word on that.
* Finally (for now, anyway), I think I’m going to continue to use the handout, at least for the short term. One of the most important points I try to get across to my students is that it is vitally important to understand what kind of image they make for themselves; I want them to be aware of how they seem to the professionals they’ll be dealing with in their careers. I want them to start with me.
The head chef tells the story of a young man he had in the culinary program a year or two ago. This boy worked hard in his classes, earned decent grades, and wanted to do his internship at the Ritz in NYC. He worked diligently on his resume, wrote a great cover letter, and sent the packet off via registered mail. Then waited. And waited some more. Finally, after a few weeks, he went to Chef and asked him why he’d not heard back from the restaurant. Chef knew the manager of the place (Chef knows EVERYONE who is ANYONE in the culinary business) and was told that the student HAD been called. The manager reached the student’s voice mail (can you see this coming?) and heard “Hey, I can’t come to the phone. Leave me a fucking message and maybe I’ll call ya back.”