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Rant about writing skills

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    04-13-2013, 01:49 AM
I think the worst thing that has been quite common in novels (hands are shaking, am I going to make an error?) is speech without speech marks! What is with that?
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    04-13-2013, 01:55 AM
I really do feel as if our schools fail students and don't prepare them for life. My first year of Uni was hell. I actually had to study and manage a schedule and couldn't just skip classes, skim the textbook and ace exams. I however have yet to graduate a school without distinction. Uni really taught me how to write, not the BS English classes in high school. I really had to succeed in writing, even though my weakest thing is English and writing. And now that I'm doing a thesis I'm glad I know how to write well and that its easy.130 pages will be a piece of cake!
When I was a kid, my mother didn't trust the school system to teach me to read, and she taught me herself with phonics games and things. I was an above average reader for my first years of school and even now am able to understand new words (when I find them lol) better than many of my peers. However because I don't have a language brain, learning a second language is actually reeeeally hard :( good thing its German so at least is phonetic!

But yes, overall I agree that public education is a wash. Being a smart kid, I didn't have to put effort in to get As. So I struggled with time management and scheduling. And without a few Uni degrees, I'd probably still be there. But then I know kids who struggled with the material in high school. It's not fair to anyone to have these kids in the same classroom. I went to school when we still got segregated into above average, average, and below average abilities. And still I don't think that recognized the needs of the kids enough. I certainly did not get what I should have out of public education. I wish I had been pushed at a Uni level and finished HS in under 2 years. But that was never an option. Same with kids who struggled, in 30 person classes? Really? How is that helping them learn?
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    04-13-2013, 01:59 AM
Originally Posted by Muppetgirl    
I think the worst thing that has been quite common in novels (hands are shaking, am I going to make an error?) is speech without speech marks! What is with that?
I know, right?!

The only thing that I really get tripped up over (I'm an aspiring novelist) is writing out a character's thoughts. I had two college professors who were instructors for my Independent Writing: Fiction professors. They both gave me different rules on writing out a character's thoughts. One said use italics to denote the thought, the other said not to. To this day, I have seen it done both ways, so I've come to the conclusion that it is a personal preference.

Tiny, I've noticed the excessive commas in posts written by some of our UK members on here. Not all of them, but quite a few of them.
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    04-13-2013, 02:06 AM
Originally Posted by ~*~anebel~*~    
Being a smart kid, I didn't have to put effort in to get As. So I struggled with time management and scheduling.]
This!! I suck at time management and scheduling! I was one of those kids that could sit down the morning a paper was due, write the whole thing, and get a high B or a low A. In my world history class in college, we had a paper due every Wednesday. It was a short two to three page paper on a question our professor gave us. I would literally sit down on the Wednesday the paper was due after my 9am sociology class and write my paper to turn in for my 1pm world history class. I never got lower than a 95% on any of my papers that I wrote this way.
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    04-13-2013, 02:08 AM
Well, Drafts, if you could find it in your heart and spirit to become a high school English teacher, you might be able to change , in some small way, this terrible trend. I think many of us can recall some teacher in our past, whose committment to the vocation made a difference in our lives. Could you not be one of them?
    04-13-2013, 02:11 AM
Originally Posted by tinyliny    
Well, Drafts, if you could find it in your heart and spirit to become a high school English teacher, you might be able to change , in some small way, this terrible trend. I think many of us can recall some teacher in our past, whose committment to the vocation made a difference in our lives. Could you not be one of them?
Don't think it isn't something I've gone back and forth on with myself for the last three years (since I dropped out of college). I actually have a list of pros and cons on my laptop. It's something I need to look at again, especially now that I have someone in my life and we want to start a future together.

My band director that I mentioned in my original post once told me that I should be a teacher. He said "Paige, it doesn't matter what you teach; you just need to teach."
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    04-13-2013, 02:40 AM
Originally Posted by DraftyAiresMum    
I am two hard semesters away from my bachelor's degree in English lit or three hard semesters away from my teaching cert as a high school English teacher. However, I have second-guessed my decision to be a high school English teacher. Why, you ask? Let me explain.

When I was in high school, our teachers expected us to have a basic understanding of the English language and its rules. They were not there to teach us the basic grammar and spelling skills we were expected to have mastered by the fourth grade, they were there to teach us about literature and help us learn to write pre college-level papers. Because I have always been good with words, many of my classmates came to me to help them proof-read their papers. I also helped my mom grade papers from her fourth graders.

Fast forward to a few years ago as I was helping my niece (then a sophomore in high school) edit a paper for her English class. My niece is a very smart girl. Imagine my confusion when it seemed as though a third grader had written this supposedly high school level paper. There were grammatical atrocities, spelling errors, and she used text speak, even! I asked her, not unkindly, why it was that there were so many errors in her paper. She replied that she had never really learned about grammar from any of her teachers and didn't understand why using text speak was wrong.

Thus began my quest to find out where the disconnect was between what was supposedly taught in grade school and what was being used in high school. I found apathetic teachers whose hands were being proverbially tied by the system. I found students who had no accountability for their lack of interest or inability to process and use what was being taught. Finally, I spoke to my high school band director (who is now a high school vice principal, but who was, at the time, a history teacher). He shared my disgust with what the education system had come to. He also let me in on the secret that it has become the parents who have taken a lot of the joy out of teaching (not all parents, of course, but the ones who feel that their Johnny is entitled to an A because he's "speshul" and shouldn't have to do the work required because it was too "hard").

That was when I decided that I didn't want to be a teacher anymore. I wanted to be a teacher to share my love of literature and the nuances of the English language with my students. Not to teach them basic grammar that they should have learned in elementary school.

I'm right there with you on having trouble reading posts with run-on sentences and the like. I have found myself many times having to hold my inner "grammar nazi" in check. Heck, I'm so bad that I have been known to point out grammatical errors in already published works by well-known (and some not-so-well-known) authors. Maybe I should become an editor...
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What I've discovered is pretty much every English teacher assumes their students had already been taught the basics by previous teachers. Unfortunately that ends up leaving a whole lot of wholes in education. Toss in teachers that think using cuss words, l33t speak, text spelling and such and we have a lot of kids that are going to struggle in the real world.

For myself, I know when I read a properly written sentence but don't ask me why, how to map that sentence or to write one myself. I use the left side of my brain not the right. I would rather sit down and do some calculus then try to explain the difference between a verb and noun.
    04-13-2013, 10:10 AM
Green Broke
Another huge issue is the classes themselves. It has been shown time and again that different kids learn different ways. Instead of putting them in a class designed to teach the way they learn best, they are lumped together and expected to learn it no matter how it is taught (or NOT learn it, as the case may be). If they assigned them to classes based on their learning strengths, some parent would yell discrimination instead of realizing it might actually help their child learn better. Instead of everyone working together, it has become the government threatens the schools, the teachers and parents are at odds, and the kids slip through the cracks.

I have a BA in English with a minor in Creative Writing and had considered teaching as well, but I would have only agreed to teach at a small private school where politics weren't a factor and the kids could truly be helped. I hated the public school system. I went to private school for a year and a half, and learned more there than I did the entire seven years prior. When I went back into the public system for high school, it was a joke. I was so far ahead that I just coasted through. College was a wake-up call for sure.

I use the forum to practice my english skills, not to forget about them. I was darn proud of that degree, even though I have never really used it. (Even more-so since I crammed all 4 years of English classes into two and a half. I started out as a Biology major and HATED it, so I switched to English the middle of my sophomore year.) The horses don't really care about proper grammar, lol. But like anything else, if you don't use it, you WILL lose it.
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    04-13-2013, 10:28 AM
All this talk about how our education systems get a failing grade in English is right on the mark. However, that doesn't help us with the people that were and are put through the current system without writing skills. We all know that we should, could and can help those immediately around us when they are young. But what about the young adults that have their GED but can't compose a grammatically correct sentence? What do we do to help them?

Can we do anything, right here on the forum? Do they want to improve their writing skills?
    04-13-2013, 10:37 AM
Green Broke
I think at that point, they have to WANT to help themselves. Most of the ones that have made it that far without those skills see no reason to try and get them now. As we've seen in other grammar threads here on hofo, most of those that need help most don't care enough to get help, or are too defensive to even entertain the idea. There is always some excuse why they shouldn't try.
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