Once you get an English degree and take the plunge to become an English teacher or professor, people get afraid.
You think I’m kidding, but I’m not.
Regardless of my ability to engage folks in conversations or put others at ease, once my profession comes up, people become self-conscious about talking to me.
“Oh no! I’m terrible with my grammar. Don’t want to mess up!”
“Why not?” I say, “I’m not working right now and it’s not like I’m going to correct you when you speak.”
Aside from not wanting to be rude, there are only a few grammatical mistakes that truly fit in the pet peeve category that may make me cringe on the inside but I wouldn’t dare want to make others feel uncomfortable. And even when a little fixing is in order, I don’t directly “correct” my son or my students, I merely restate what they’ve said differently when appropriate or I wait for them to realize it didn’t sound right and self-correct.
When I was a child, my father used to ask me how to spell words and ask me questions about how to say things. He liked it when I corrected him; it was evident to everyone closest to me that teaching English had been my calling since I was a child when I started writing. Sometimes now, my dad even writes things incorrectly on purpose, just to see if I’ll fix it.
The fact of the matter is, just because I’m an English teacher, doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes. It also doesn’t mean that I know everything there is to know about the English language, written or spoken.
A while back I was publicly taken to task on social media for making a few grammatical mistakes in one my posts and it was suggested that somehow this made me less credible. Okay, I can appreciate that some people feel that I should be “perfect” in my ability to compose posts, proofread and be flawless, but I take a different approach.
Doing my best to always achieve a well-crafted and thoughtful article, I write what I feel or know. I take a break. I reread and review for meaning and for correctness. Most of the time I read it aloud to make sure I didn’t miss anything when I was rereading silently. I take another break. I spell check and then I hit publish.
Sometimes mistakes slip through.
One of the things that has made me a successful teacher and writer, is my acknowledgment of my humanness. Although perfection was something I used to strive for, I realize I’m better when I’m open about the truth of my imperfections. This is more relatable and disarming.
The writing process is one that happens over time. As I have taken to saying to my students, not everything you write will be awesome, but it is a part of something larger that can develop you into a more awesome writer overall. This same process applies to adult writers and yes, even English teachers who write.
Admittedly, however, my grammar isn’t perfect and my spelling isn’t either. The same way my students have become reliant on tools, I have as well. When I was a student, I used books as references and I still do. If I don’t know, I look it up. When I make a mistake, I correct it and learn.
Reflection upon writing is a valuable asset and release as I continue on my path as a teacher, writer and person. Mistakes happen. It’s easier and more productive to embrace them. Fortunately, I do have readers who are kind enough to contact me privately when those errors are glaring and I promptly make the necessary revisions. I’m grateful that they care enough to read what I’ve written and care enough that they want me to be the best me I can be in writing.
The same way I wouldn’t publicly discuss one student’s mistake with a class full of students, I would hope that when my humanness is exposed and mistakes are made, readers can remember I’m just a person who is still learning too. We need to model for our students how best to handle situations like this so that they can become more helpful and compassionate people
Making mistakes publicly is hard and sometimes it even paralyzes some into not trying at all. I’d rather try and fail with the opportunity to try again than not give it a whirl because of fear.
What mistakes have you made publicly recently and how have you learned from them? Please share
The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.