Miss Eyre willfully engaged in a subversive act at her New York City school–something “so controversial, indeed so dangerous, that it might have cost me my rating.” Her crime? She taught the-skill-that-must-not-be-named: writing mechanics.
I photocopied handouts with rules. I circled mistakes on students’ papers. I made them write down proper usages of punctuation marks. I did all that and so much more. And it felt GOOD. In fact, I bookmarked some EXERCISES in a WORKBOOK that I might photocopy and make my students do.
Perhaps she can still be saved. She is not wholly unrepentant. Indeed, she seems to understand the depth of her depravity, even if she’s not quite able to control the demons within. “I’m a terrible teacher,” she confesses.
“I’m supposed to assume that my students will magically figure out the rules of the conventions of the English language simply by being wide-eyed ingenues before the great literature of the world and writing about their lives, this despite the fact that relatively few of them have learned any great life lessons at their tender ages. This is what I’m supposed to do.
But faced with fifteen-year-olds “who can’t use commas properly and aren’t even sure what they are” Miss Eyre has gone rogue, left the reservation. ”Jeez, what will I do next?” she asks. ”Make everyone in the class read the same story? Force kids not to copy research reports from Wikipedia? STOP ME BEFORE I TEACH AGAIN!”
Teaching grammar. How can something so wrong feel so right?