Monday, October 12, 2009

She Talk Pretty One Day

When I pulled the note out of Blair’s folder at school, I decided that the future of human civilization was crumbling right before my very eyes.

Here is what it said:

“This is a reminder that all children must get there Flu Shot by the end of December.”

I tried to convince myself that it was merely an innocent typo. But then, I read on: “Please bring in there immunization records with proof of there flu shot.”

I knew that my gasp of horror (because I gasped in horror) was slightly unfair, for several reasons:

1. I am a writer. And, before that, I was an editor. And before that I was an English major. And before that, I took No-doze to properly cram for spelling tests. If I didn’t know the difference between “there” and “their,” I should be forced to parade through the Acme wearing nothing but pages ripped from Strunk and White. Or something.

2. Even spell-check can’t tell the difference. And spell-check is God.

3. I figured out “that” and “which” only last year, though I suspect that I use a rule--“which comes after a comma and that doesn’t”--that I made up.

4. I needed an ex-boyfriend--a college-drop-out, stoner, ex-boyfriend--to explain to me when to use “it’s” and when to use “its.” (“Think of the apostrophe as replacing the ‘i,’” he said. And I do that. Every time. For example: “It is hard being so smart and important” can contract into “It’s hard being so smart and important.”)

5. Words I write are typically copyedited. By professionals. So there will never, ever be proof. Like in a note. From a school.

But this was in a note! From a school! And not just any school--the school where my kids go daily! To be schooled! Okay, it’s technically a “learning center.” But we pay big bucks for the learning center’s learning. I may be able to look beyond some of the things Blair brings home, things that are wrong on far more complicated levels. (For example, “Firecracker, firecracker, boom boom boom! The boys got the muscles. The teachers got the brains. The girls got the sexy legs. And we won the game!”) But I can not sit idly by while my child (who, incidentally, can't yet read such notes) even breathes the air where such affronts to the English language are left unproofed and unfettered and unabashedly written on notes to the very parents who are writing the checks.

The larger question was this: what should I do about it? In fact, I was puzzling out this very issue--my best plan, so far, was to write a note about it to the owner, though unsigned, perhaps using letters cut out from magazines, in order to protect Blair and Drew from any “their mom is a total bitch from hell” retribution--when I got an e-mail from a friend. She was passing along a note that one of her friends had just received from a preschool teacher:

“E. has not been wanting to participate in Music--she removes herself and set out when she decided she is not like the song. M. follow her. I spoke to them early on--telling them this was not an option and that if it happened again not only would Mom’s be told be them would be remove from Music. So yesterday the teacher brought both of them to the class room where they laid their heads down until the class returned. E. also lost her job. In taking her job I'm hoping she understands her actions had consequences.”

And, with that, I suddenly felt better about everything--our learning center, “their vs. there,” the future of human civilization. Because, now, I knew one thing for certain: Thirteen years from now, Blair and Drew would totally kick E. and M.’s asses on the SAT.


  1. I'm also a writer of sorts. And I have a tough time dealing with rogue typos. For example, I can't stand menu typos. If it is especially bad, I won't go back to the restaurant. My husband hates it. I tell him that I can't turn it off.

    PS I just did my first book review on my rinky-dink blog and I picked "The Second Nine Months." I loved! Come check it out if you have a minute:)

  2. Your write too bee upset. That be to much.

  3. The only thing worse than finding those kinds of mistakes from the teachers responsible for educating our kids is finding them, commenting on them and then having your own child jump to the defense of the teacher who made the mistake. Because, after all, she is a teacher and I'm just a mom. (Thanks, six-year-old).

    I, too, am a writer and have a REALLY tough time digesting those kinds of mistakes from teachers. I appreciate your objectivity about your own perspective as a writer. But come on!

  4. This is utter foolishness. If the whole world knew the difference between "their" and "there," and restrictive and nonrestrictive relative clauses, you wouldn't have a job. Just be thankful that your skill is useful and stop boring us with your elitist ramblings.

  5. I feel your pain. I'm a teacher and a writer, and I frequently see fellow teachers (in the humanities, not the sciences!) make those mistakes. I can't stand it! When those not in education make mistakes like that, I try to be understanding, but TEACHERS...these are the very people responsible for making sure others learn proper spelling and grammar!

  6. Pet peeves all. I'll bet you $20.00 they also say "couldn't care less" and think a black fly in their chardonnay is ironic.

    ---A former neighbor

  7. Ah, I completely understand your irritation. I am a nurse, a 'non-reader', and hate detail, BUT I cannot stand when people get the simple, and obvious spellings wrong. It irritates me too, to think of the spelling and grammar education that our kids are going to get in a public school, but I like how it will spur me on, to teach them what I was taught. I have this fear that the 'texting abbreviations' such as, 'LMAO', 'RUKM?', 'LOL', and 'ROFLMAO', are going to enter our dictionary. Not to change subjects Vick, but look on my dropshots, first picture on Oct. 13. I grabbed my camera from my pocket, (while doing a mundane activity), and titled it... 'What I see when I pee'. I don't know why, but it made me think of you... As for Anonymous #2, 'there' obviously feeling a little defensive...

  8. Being from the old school of "anything worth doing is worth doing right", thanks for trying to maintain the standard. Two other common sins are: "your" for "you're" and "accomodate" for "accommodate". A fun book for grammarphobes is "Woe is I" by Patricia O'Conner.

  9. irma ( 20, 2009 at 10:45 PM

    Nothing is wrong with letting the teacher know about it - So let the child stand up for what is right and start earlier in life to strategies and cope with life situations.

    I'm an immigrant and English is my fourth language, which I don't master very well. In fact, not sure that I master any of the languages I had to learn for survival purposes!

    But I do believe that specially teachers must, must be accountable to wonderful experts like you that may influence greatly, and that voice will benefit many kids and adults. So what if they call you a bitch! You will be the righteous bitch who stands for the benefit of all, for my kid and yours.

  10. oh my GOd I am laughing out loud. (And frankly, a bit mortified as well....)

  11. Vodka Mom's tweet sent me.

    The first...bad. The second...cringe

    The other note? HILARIOUS.


  12. A few weeks ago I had a letter in the mailbox from a neighborhood teenager. She was trying to sell herself as a potential babysitter. I am DESPERATELY in need of babysitter, but I had to toss it...after laughing. I just couldn't bring myself to trust my kids with someone who wrote like an 8-year-old - heart shaped dotted i's and everything!

  13. We homeschool and belong to several e-mail groups. Sometimes, something will come across the screen that makes me want to reply, "For the love of literacy and all that is good in the world, send your kids to school!" This makes me feel marginally better. I stick at math and history, but those are easier to hide. ;) Poorly presenting yourself with badly written English is like coming out of the bathroom with your skirt stuck into your drawers.

  14. Seriously? I "stick" at math? See. That's what I get for being pompous.