Subversion through punctuation

Teaching at a new high school, Miss Eyre defied the zeitgeist and dared to teach a lesson in 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.

She might photocopy workbook exercises and make her students do them.

I know. I’m a terrible teacher. 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.

. . .  I have realized that teaching usage conventions the stupid way has produced, for me, fifteen-year-olds who can’t use commas properly and aren’t even sure what they are. So I’m going to teach them. Because that’s what I do. Ignorance is not bliss.

. . . Jeez, what will I do next? Make everyone in the class read the same story? Force kids not to copy research reports from Wikipedia? STOP ME BEFORE I TEACH AGAIN!

In an earlier post, she tries to persuade a dozing student that he won’t be able to go to college or get a good job if he never does any work in school.

You only have to graduate from high school to become a garbage man,” commented Hector, who sits behind Ross. “That’s what I’m going to do.”

What if the city isn’t able to hire as many trash collectors in the future?

“I’ll just live with my mom,” Hector said.
“Me too,” Ross added.
Mothers of New York City, Miss Eyre wants you to have a talk with your children: What are their plans for the future?
About Joanne


  1. To photocopy a workbook is to violate copyright. It’s illegal. There is no exception, as there is, often, with a textbook. Teachers probably offend more than any other profession. If only their students knew what lessons their teachers teach.

    Dunno ’bout other subjects, but anyone with a BS in Math can compose more useful worksheets ad lib than s/he can copy from US Math textbooks or workbooks. You control the content and pace of instruction.

  2. True, but Math has the rare advantage of being easy to make lessons for AND being easy to grade. Science is somewhat worse for wear, but not too bad. I feel for the poor Social Studies, English Language Arts, and pure Arts teachers, though…

  3. Robert Pondiscio says:

    Most workbooks published for classroom use are designed specifically for photocopying. I own dozens of them. Administrators often look askance at worksheets as inauthentic. Publishers do not.


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