Interesting Letter to the Editor in today’s Greenwich Time, submitted by Begona Coella Goodspeed of Greenwich. Here’s what the writer says:
Regarding your article “English class levels could change” (Thursday, Dec. 6) let me respectfully say we are discussing the wrong issue. The problem with English teaching in the Greenwich public schools, and that means from elementary to high school levels, is the curriculum. There is no teaching of grammar or spelling and no structured teaching of writing. The philosophy seems to be that computers will take care of spelling mistakes and that learning what a verb or an adjective is adds very little or nothing to your English skills. Not only does it add, in my opinion, to your English skills, it also helps, and I would say, is indispensable, in learning foreign languages, in particular Spanish and French.
As for writing, there is too much focus on “creative” writing, and very little, or none, on developing a well-thought, well-argued, and well-structured piece of writing. That is not an easy task. Writing well is one of the most difficult things one can do. And yet, it is indispensable to do well in higher levels of schooling and in life. Writing essays may be assigned as homework in Greenwich public schools but in my experience there is no systematic feedback from teachers with written suggestions on the side of the page, or corrections on wrong syntax and grammar. All these skills could be introduced progressively from elementary school onwards, but they are not, leading to a gap that becomes problematic in later years.
As for the choice of reading books, there is too much fantasy and very few classics. Fantasy books may be entertaining but reading classic books has the added value of learning about history, geography, mores and beliefs of different times in our world, and all that contributes to widening our horizons and developing critical thinking.
Ms. Goodspeed is right when she says that we need to teach grammar, and that writing mechanics and spelling must be taught and reinforced. Unfortunately, we’ve allowed computers to take over. As a result, while verbal communication and the written word are on their death bed, teachers are in bed with technology.
Here’s where I’d challenge Ms. Goodspeed. I just spent all week providing “systematic feedback…with written suggestions on the side of the page, or corrections on wrong syntax and grammar.” Furthermore, I assign analytical essays all the time. So those are inaccurate statements.
Furthermore, I happen to teach the classics, but I know that schools are full of reluctant readers who should have the opportunity to read books that will help make them engaged readers. I earned my Master’s Degree proving this.
One more thing, Ms. Goodspeed. Based on this letter you wrote one year ago, it appears that you’re a proponent of weighted grades. I trust that if I provide “systematic feedback,” and give you the grade you deserve, not the inflated grade some think they’re entitled to, that you’d be OK with this. Or should I correct that?
Nice job overall, Ms. Goodspeed. You raise some valid points.