The “How Not to Behave” Edition.
So, here’s the scene; I’m sensing, from more than a few of my English I/II students at CHS, that this writing thing is scary business. I’ve got one or two kids for whom writing is manageable – fun, even! – but for the rest of them, getting pen to paper is a chore along the order of mucking out horse stalls or cleaning up cat barf.
I decided to try to get to the bottom of that, so the other day, I ditched my lesson plan for half the class, dropped back, and punted. “Okay, you guys,” I said, “what’s your deal? Why do I see panic in your eyes when I ask you to write?”
I got the usual assortment of stresses – from I don’t know how to get started, through I have a hard time staying on topic, all the way to I just can’t spell. All perfectly reasonable – and manageable – complaints.
One boy, however, floored me. “I hate to write,” he confessed, “because my parents charge me for all the mistakes I make.”
That’s right, friends and neighbors! Forget the red pen! You want to REALLY kill a kid’s desire to write? Make him pay cash for his errors!
I think I managed to recover my composure pretty quickly, though I do have to say that my first response was something along the lines of “you’re kidding, right? Please tell me you’re kidding!” (He wasn’t. At least he’s not being thrashed for his errors, but still…)
Look; you all know how I feel about proper grammar, and if you don’t, well, then you just haven’t been paying close attention. The thing is, though? I expect proper grammar from people who’ve had the chance to learn it. I expect it from people who should know better, not from people – kids especially, but any ESL student, regardless of age – who are still trying to figure the rules out.
I told this boy to quit showing his mother his papers. He’s certainly never going to learn proper grammar if he is too scared to write in the first place, now, is he?