We’re told to never start with an apology – I’m sorry. What can I say? I like to push boundaries and after all, weren’t rules – so many of them anyway – meant to be broken? I’m sorry to anyone offended by this post – I promise it’s the system not you. I’m sorry to anyone unable to accept that these views are my own and I’m sorry for planting them all over your social media feeds. But I’m most sorry for what we teachers are doing to the children in our care – or at least what we’re being forced to do.
Troops currently go into battle with fewer resources than our children take into a writing task. Not physically of course; just heads full of metalanguage, acronyms and the writing checklists so kindly provided as part of the DfE exemplification materials (UK). Like a once recording artist turned wedding-singer (I’m a massive fan of wedding-singers by the way!) we’ve sold-out a bit. We’re churning out cover-songs with originality a distant memory. What exactly is an exclamation mark nowadays!? Why does Thomas have to include a modal verb to be working at the expected standard of an eleven-year-old? When did the semi-colon become as important as life itself!? Schooling has gone mad. And the most ridiculous thing: there’s support out there for it! I recently had contact with author Joanna Nadin, who – for the record – is pretty damn awesome. I was involved in sharing her gorgeous response to an equally gorgeous six-year-old’s conjunction query. Let’s remember that Joanna writes for a job; she also teaches creative writing. Apparently, her bad grammar – which Joanna was so cutely alerted to – is offensive to so many. More offensive – it would seem – than her being called a d*€k£e@d by one disgruntled linguist. Naturally, the support for Joanna’s response was overwhelming. It isn’t just one author. People around the world are getting hammered for the way they place words on paper. So here’s a rant at no-one in particular. Just me getting things off my hairy chest.
Our six-year olds are writing to authors and song-writers to pull them up on ‘grammatical mistakes’. Bravo, Education Ministers. You nailed it. You got kids reading with clipboards making tally-charts of grammatical functions and devices. Bravo. You nailed it. You recruited our children to the Grammar Police before they could ride a bike or swim a length of the pool. Bravo. You nailed it. You produced a generation of skilled report writers and outstanding complainers. Bravo. You nailed it. You created an English curriculum as foreign to children (and many teachers!) with English as their first language, as those who use it as an additional one. Bravo. You nailed it. You introduced language as alien to children, as it is to actual aliens. Bravo. You nailed it.
You sucked the life and soul out of teaching writing to kids. Bravo. You nailed it. You stifled creativity; freedom of expression and left further education to undo the damage you cause to those with the passion to write for a job. Bravo. You nailed it. You turned writing into a paint-by-numbers exercise; created a climate in which many teachers no longer want to work or get out of bed. Bravo. You nailed it. You refused to evolve; to embrace change; to see any other way. Bravo. You nailed it.
I was one of those kids who read by torchlight beneath the bed-sheets until I either fell asleep or the torch batteries packed in. I hope these kids still exist; reading for total pleasure; writing for the love/heck of it. Not hung-up on how things are written down; just happy that its written.