With the exception of top brass, very few reporters and editors in newsrooms have offices. Our desks are so close that if I stretch too far, I could knock my colleague Kyle Wingfield in the head. (Not that he couldn’t use a friendly thump to the head now and then. You can read his political blog here.)
So both praise and proscription are often overheard by all in newsrooms. I find it more painful to be a bystander to a pillorying than to be a victim.
One of the worst lashings I ever overheard was directed at a reporter who confused “it’s” and “its” in the lead of an important story, a mistake that also slipped by the copy desk. The editor lamented that the piece could have been a contest entry but for that mistake.
His critique must have stayed with me because I can’t get past the misuse of the words to this day.
And that includes a presentation of new standards in my own school system a while back. The audience was handed examples of excellent student work. And the writing and reasoning were impressive. However, what I remember most was that the 8th grade paper featured an opening sentence that contained both “it’s” and “its,” neither used correctly.
Should it matter?
I remain surprised how often student work chosen for display suffers spelling or grammatical errors. At a school open house, I watched a student PowerPoint on international poverty where I stopped counting after the seventh misspelled word.
Here’s my question to teachers and schools: If you are choosing student work to showcase, is it appropriate to ask students to correct any errors?
The teacher showing us the PowerPoint told us how impressed he was with the perceptions and insights of the sixth graders who created it. I was surprised that he didn’t reference the spelling mistakes, perhaps to explain that he was more concerned with the students’ insights. I couldn’t celebrate their original thinking because I was too busy wishing they knew how to spell “separate” and “Eritrea.”
I understand that the top goal is to prod students to write, but exquisite writing can be undermined by spelling errors.
Should only perfect papers/PowerPoints be shared or should parents see the students’ original work without prettification?
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog