EDUCATION: More than job-training

All Teachers are English Teachers


A way to identify written work.
On way to present written work. Left: front page of the assignment. Right: name on the outside when the paper is folded for submission.

I’ll never forget a junior high faculty meeting in which I suggested that we agree on an all-school policy for the presentation of written work. I’d just returned to the States after teaching in England for several years. My school there had such a policy.

I was astounded by the immediate and explosive reaction to my suggestion from a colleague who taught math and science. She equated the idea of uniform layout with Nazi oppression. To her the idea of requiring students to put their name and the date in the same place on papers for all subjects was tantamount to fascism. She said that she didn’t care where a student put his name, so long as it was somewhere on the paper.

Too often the teachers of subjects other than English balk at the notion that they can or should contribute to their students grasp of English skills such as spelling and grammar. That’s an unfortunate situation that needs to be addressed.

When all teachers agree on policies that include the same standards for written work in every subject, students will learn to write legibly and spell the words they use.

Children are in school to be educated. The mastery of their native language is the most important aspect of their formal education. It’s unreasonable to expect children, especially those from homes in which a nonstandard dialect or a foreign language is spoken, to master Standard English from their English classes alone. Every teacher of every subject has the responsibility to model standard English, and to require correct spelling and usage from their students.



3 Responses

  1. Your points are very reasonable. I home school my daughter, and I require her to use a standard heading on her papers. She dislikes writing in cursive, so this is one way I can get her to exercise that skill, and it does focus her on her assignment. Recently she has started taking more pride in the neatness of her headings. I can see no disadvantage to using a standard heading.

  2. Repetition is at the heart of learning. Students won’t arrive at college misspelling the months of the year if they’ve been required to spell them correctly on their daily papers. I’d like to see math teachers require their students to spell out the numbers from time to time, particularly “forty.”

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