May 27, 2010


I have been an English teacher for long enough that I can see why students make certain mistakes. Most of them are quite predictable, so I typically try to address the common problems before I see it too much. Usually the students are quite shocked to find that they are even making errors. Often my bilingual students are the worst because they do not understand that what we say is not what we write.

The evolution of cause (worse: cuz) is easy to explain to students.

Incorrect usage: My sister boyfriend is a tool cause he dropped out of school.
Of course, that sentence does not make sense because, technically, cause is the wrong word. It makes no sense in the context.

So, I show students: because --> 'cause --> cause --> cuz.

I don't need to give you the details; you know how this disaster happens. It has to do with how we speak. No big deal, right? Just use the real word in your writing. Are you imagining me in front of the classroom explaining this devolution? I always like those days because I see light bulbs going off all over the classroom along with a chorus of "Oh! I didn't know!" From juniors and seniors! Hilarious!

In the last few years, I have seen of joins the verb ranks, nearly putting poor have out of a job. This one is frustrating and harder to explain to students who simply want to use the language well enough to pass their proficiency writing exams and get a job. Even more, it's absolutely entertaining seeing students who know the difference interact with students who don't.

A conversation between two students in my creative writing class:

"'My brother should of given me some money.' This is suppose to be have not of."
"It's should HAVE, not should OF."
"Are you sure?"
"Uhm. Okay. I guess--Hey, Ms. HappyChyck, is it should have or should of?"

And then a series of eye rolls follow (between me and the students who know the answer to this easy question) as I calmly answer, "Yep, it's have."

It's during time like those that all the suffering I endure being a blasted English teacher is worth it.

As in tune as I am to these common writing issues in my classroom, so much that I hardly blink an eye over them, this week one of my students who just joined my class this quarter introduced me to a new crazy devolution of language.


As in, "Ama miss you next year." This is what the student wrote in a letter to a teacher she was thanking for helping her in her education. A letter, I need to add, that would be given to her teacher--not just a random writing assignment. A real letter on nice paper! Time to make a good impression!

I called her over to so I could help her revise, and I said, "What the heck is this?"
"You mean, 'I am going to,' right?"
She shrugged her shoulders.
"You should change it. Nobody is going to know what you're saying. Use some real words, even if they are contractions."
"Oh no, Miss, she'll get it!"
"I doubt it."
"No, she will!" And then the girl went bouncing back to her seat like she had no worries in the world.

Does anyone have a gun? A needle? Please, shoot me now!

I just sat like the speechless, powerless fool I am.

Sometimes I hate being an English teacher.

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