Monday, February 11, 2013

A Grammar Gripe from Half a World Away by Courtney Young

"I'm bored." Elizabeth complained. "Yeah Miss. We need something to do,"  Lisa chimed in. Without looking up from my paperwork I said, "Well, you can file some of these papers, organize my desk, clean the office, clean your room, do your homework, or read a book. You have plenty of options." Elizabeth rolled her eyes and retorted, "read book is olden days." I stopped writing and looked up at her. My blank stare didn't strike her, nor did it urge her to repeat what she said. Questioningly, I asked her to repeat her statement. Without any editing or correcting she boldly repeated, "read book is olden days." My ears did not deceive me, and from the look on her face I knew she was serious. It was not a joke, she thought that her statement was valid and correct in every sense.

I let out a sigh of grief as I reached for a miniature white board and a dry erase marker. I wrote her sentence on the board and proceeded to ask her and Lisa what was wrong with the sentence. Lisa was giddy in answering, "it should be reading books miss!"

Here in New Zealand I have survived several experiences where students misuse grammar. Some mistake the word "use" for the slang term "yous", and others don't understand the comma concept. There are children who will pick up a can of spray paint and deface public property, yet they don't know how to read, and they tag misspelled words in visible places. Although the Ministry of Education has made a proper education easily accessible to every child, many children are not adequately learning. It's not that the government has failed the students, or that the teachers are not teaching, but students have been cultured to believe that education is not important. This fact is reflected in the amount of students that are found to not complete high school; it's no secret that New Zealand has "one of the highest school dropout rates, with the sixth-lowest high-school completion rate in the developed world".1 Can you imagine 74% of the population being high school dropouts? Those that stay in high school can at times decide not to sit exams, and they barely achieve the standards they need in order to pass.

This means that my students are at risk of dropping out and never learning the precious concepts of grammar. They'll scowl at me now for correcting their sentences, but I know that one day they'll find themselves correcting someone elses grammatically incorrect statements. For this cause I will keep calm and correct on. 

*Names of the students have been changed to protect their identities and embarrassment. 
1. Collins, Simon. "New Zealand Youth Losing out in Health, Education, Jobs." New Zealand Herald, 31 Mar. 2010. Web. 27 Jan. 2013.


  1. Dear Ms. Young. This is your grammar teacher writing to ask you whether or not you have your Weaver or Anderson books at hand.

    1. Dr Brotton,

      Unfortunately, I did not think to pack any of my grammar books. I now realize how essential they are, and I'll be sure to pack them for any trips in the future.