Why cant sum teacher’s spelling right?

So, a couple of days ago I dropped my kids off at school. I went upstairs into the open-plan grade 5/6 area to talk to my daughter’s teacher. Projected onto one of the walls there was a page of text, presumably for the teacher to work through with the students that morning. It was entitled “What are Hero’s?” I stopped in my tracks to stare.


Not heroes.

This was not, thankfully, the work of my daughter’s teacher. Nevertheless, I did find this grammatical and spelling boo-boo quite alarming.

This person is supposed to be teaching our children. How is a teacher going to teach our children properly if they don’t know how to do something this utterly basic themselves? Misuse of apostrophes is rife in our increasingly, it seems, illiterate society.

Just to be clear:

An apostrophe is used in a contraction in place of missing letters (ie. do not = don’t) or when signifying ownership (ie. Michael’s blog…).  Not when making a word plural!


The plural of any word ending in O has an E before the S. For example: heroes, potatoes, dominoes, banjoes, etc.

Why is this hard for so many people to understand?

The real problem here, as I see it, is that teachers are severely undervalued in Western society. Seems a rather big claim, no? But it’s true. Every day, we entrust teachers to educate our children. They teach our kids facts and figures and how to do things, but most importantly, they are supposed to be encouraging and teaching children how to think. Rote learning won’t get you too far, but knowing how to use your brain, processes for working things out and understanding the world, these are the tools that will get you through life. The better you are at it, the better stead you stand in to live a fulfilling life. We all agree, at least in principle, that education is vitally important.

But this agreement in principle doesn’t often translate into action. Teachers hold what should be one of the most respected positions in society, but they are underpaid, overworked, and are rarely provided with all of the resources they need to do their jobs well. Class sizes swell; schools, particularly state-funded ones, are always underfunded; teachers find their work hours bleeding out beyond school hours into their evenings and weekends. Governments at both state and federal level prattle on about the importance of education but don’t put enough resources into it. More often they are seeking ways to cut back.

Don’t they realise that the future of the state, the nation, the world is in the hands of today’s children? And if those children are not smart, the world is buggered?

From the highest levels, education and educators are not seen as very important. So not enough people want to become teachers. It doesn’t look all that appealing. This means that when it comes to teacher-training courses, lower demand means that tertiary entrance scores for the courses are lower. Which means that some dimmer bulbs get into the course. Which means that some really bloody stupid people are entrusted with teaching the new generation of fresh young minds.

Do you see the problem here?

I am in a position to pontificate about this because I studied alongside such people. In the early to mid Nineties, I completed a Bachelor of Education (Secondary) at one of Australia’s most highly-regarded universities. And believe me, I knew some complete and utter morons who were in that course. (No, I’m not looking at you, “Nana”.) Some of them were incapable of spelling their own name legibly. And these people are expected to bring out the best in our children?

A good teacher and especially a great teacher can inspire a child to go on to amazing things. A great teacher can change a student’s life, setting them on a path that takes them through the rest of their lives. Alternatively, a bad teacher can ruin a student’s experience, rob them of drive and confidence and change their lives in a detrimental way. Our kids deserve the best, don’t they?

My argument now branches out in two directions…

Firstly, it seems sensible for our teachers to know what they are doing. So they should be fully and comprehensively trained. My course was a four year one, and by the time I’d finished (after five years) I still didn’t feel all that confident in what I was doing. Maybe that was just me. These days, teaching courses seem to be shorter. You can get another unrelated degree and tack on an extra year to become a teacher. This seems inadequate to me. Would teachers who get qualified this way be prepared for the responsibility, and do it well? And if the most basic of things, like spelling, is not addressed in these courses (it certainly wasn’t in mine), then are we doing the right thing by our kids?

Then there’s the question of how well educated are the students who will become teachers in the future? Spelling is one area in which they are failing. The prevalence of TextSpeak has ruined the written word. Just look at any teenager’s profile on Facebook, MySpace or Twitter. Incomprehensible! It’s bad enough that the words are lost – I do understand the abbreviations – but the syntax is buggered beyond all belief.

When I was interviewed for my last job, the recruiters had to specifically bring up the issue of the use of TextSpeak in business. As in “it has no place in any professional communication yet half the people here can’t help themselves; we hope you can do better, having a degree.” It quickly became apparent that a higher level of literacy was expected from me. By higher, I mean at about the level I was writing in Year 7. My team leader put it quite succinctly when he said “if you can write two sentences without making a spelling mistake, you’re doing better than most.”

All of this is avoidable! Let’s encourage better education. Let’s expect a better standard from students. Let’s give teachers the respect (and pay) they deserve and better equip them to do their jobs. Let’s take the pressure off them and let them get on with the teaching. Let’s make sure only the best and brightest are entrusted with that job. We owe it to the good teachers, and to the students, and to our future. Demand better!


9 Responses to “Why cant sum teacher’s spelling right?”

  1. My own inability to rant is preventing me from commenting :s
    I get it, and it bothers me A LOT. It bothers me that this has been happening for generations – in my family we have the whole “we can’t spell because we went to a private school – ha ha ha” joke. And thats just it – we all did. The same school. All 3 generations of us. And none of us can spell or understand basic grammar – I know what a noun is, but that was hard work!
    I seriously think it should be part of any primary teaching curriculum – to learn basic english, spelling, grammar and punctuation. It stands you in good stead with whatever you want to do for the rest of your life. It means you can write a coherent email. But what hope do we have when even businesses are using txt speak to sell us things via our mobiles?

    • That last point is a good one. Pandering to the lowest common denominator? Or communicating with their audience in a way they’ll understand?

      Ha ha, private schools. This is one reason I’m not convinced that they’re any better than public schools.

  2. Loved this post. It is something that frustrates me everyday when I am at uni and I see a friend struggling, PC’s for every class. Yet she still continues on. How can a teacher be a person that cannot even manage to pass an entire unit?! Sure we all have off days, but parents are trusting us to know everything and teach it to their children.

    I agree that teachers do not get enough recognition, especially in birth to five sector, yes, early childhood. It is during those years when everything important happens in relation to a child’s brain developing as well as the discovery of new skills and knowledge.

    Yet, this country will pay a Diploma qualified 45K if they are lucky- that it running a room! An early childhood teacher – four year trained like me I might add – 55K or under. Then everyone wonders why ECT’s that can work in schools go into schools!! A first year out graduate is on 56K.

    Yet it is us in early childhood laying all the foundations for the primary and secondary teachers.

    I am at the best university for early childhood, for the simple reason that I love early childhood education and wanted the best education for myself.

    Sorry I got all ranty, an area I feel very passionate about and completely agree with you. I’m friends with your previous commentor 😉

    Ps: sorry for any mistakes. On the iPhone and it thinks it knows what I want to say sometimes…

    • Don’t apologise for getting ranty! This is a blog for ranting after all.

      I agree with you completely about Early Childhood education. If kids get off to a strong start there, it paves the way for later years. I think one of the major problems with that sector is that so many (stupid) parents regard it as just childcare, not a learning environment. Kids learn a lot of the most important things they’ll ever know in those early years.

      Thanks for your comment!

  3. Love this rant, as usual. The ubiquitous misused aphostrophe is something I struggle with whenever I am confronted with it, which seems to be increasingly often. Spelling does worry me less, but that’s possibly because I do comment/dash off emails etc in a big rush (like this one) so often make simple mistakes myself.
    I’m definitely unconvinced that private schools are any better than state schools….mainly because I have several close friends who attended private (Catholic) schools and have FAR less literacy than I, Ms State School.
    I think it is a generational thing…my mum learned Latin and the complete grammar for years at her state school in the 50s – obviously firmly a part of the curriculum back then. Yet when I attended tutorials in Editing at uni in the 90s, our lecturer (a professional fiction editor) was horrified at how little knowledge the majority of us had of nouns/verbs/adjectives/past participles, etc. The only people who had any soild knowledge were the VERY mature age students. Most of us did have near-perfect grammar in practice – we just couldn’t articulate what we were doing, because we had never dealt in grammatical names.
    The most important core knowledge comes from a child’s parents…..one or both reading for pleasure fosters the urge to do the same, and thus the child is subconciously schooled in correct grammar, punctuation etc. My daughter has “read” voraciously from the time she could pick up a book, obviously because she sees her father and I doing the same. I read from an early age for the same reason, as did both of my parents, and so on.
    I don’t know what we can do about the dearth of good teachers. I do know that my brother got a job teaching high school history because he had several degrees and had “tacked on” a year of a teaching degree. His salary was significantly less than mine as an average public servant. Hmmm….we just have to keep fighting the good fight, and make sure our children read.

    • I so wish that would work with mine – they see me demolish books but class reading as “boring” *sigh*
      Also felt the need to do this *jumps up and down waving arms saying “Ooh! Ooh! I learnt Latin too!* Not often I get to to that 😀

      • Katharine Says:

        I wish I had! Very few people our age get the chance “to to” that! 🙂 Mum has learned French, Italian, Greek, is starting on Spanish and picks languages up SO easily…..she says it is because of the Latin base. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with discarding boring books in front of your children…..it’s interacting, and allows them to see that whilst some books are very very good, some books are rubbish and that one can distinguish the difference. Lily has done this from 2.5 years onward anyway…..loves Eric Carle and “Crazy Hair”, can’t abide Dora (whoo hoo!!!!)…..as I love Persuasion but still have bad memories of being forced to read “The Red Pony” at school. (Shudder.) It makes me proud, and I’m sure my baby sons will show the same love of the written word.
        By the way, LSU, hurry up and blog, would you….those of us living in static storage units (ie packing and moving) and need distraction need something to read……no pressure! 🙂

  4. Love this rant. Going to have to return when I’m not being told “I’m on” by a large scary loft monster.

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