Thursday, November 13, 2008

Just a Moment, Mr. Substitute, I Have More Important Things to Do

I am a substitute teacher. As such, I expect a certain amount of trying to get away with nonsense. Some of the littlest things don’t matter to me and I let them slide. Seating charts, for instance.

Most of the time teachers have seating charts they are up-to-date and correct, but you always have some students try to sit with friends. Mostly, if they are silent during instructions, I let it go. It isn’t worth the fight. I put my energy into more important things and school rules.

Typically, no cell phones in class is a school rule. I warn the students I will take phones I see. I usually get a nice collection. The first couple periods in a new school or class have the most offenders. I average two confiscations a period. My record is four in five minutes. I give the phones back at the end of the period if they don’t make a fuss, and I don’t report the students. They usually give them up.

That kind of behavior is expected with any sub. I don’t allow it, but don’t hit too hard, either. Consequently, I have never had any real severe, dangerous actions while subbing.

Some things are just plain stupid. I question the intelligence of some students. I’m not even speaking of the students who get all the questions wrong or don’t use punctuation. I’m also not referring to the students who do nothing in class and lie about how they will do it at home. Some of those students may genuinely have issues.

No, I’m speaking of students who do things everyone knows should not be done.

The other day I taught in a science class of a first-year teacher. Between two classes I was in the hall, greeting students (as a good teacher will). About a minute before class started, I turned back and entered the classroom to check on the students inside (another good teacher tactic). A girl had entered the room, gone to the back of the room, plugged in a hair straightener, and proceeded to straighten her hair.

Of course I told her to knock it off. Her response was to tell me, “It’s already warmed up,” as if that explanation was enough and I should not question her. She seriously had the expression and tone of voice that indicated she felt she did nothing wrong. She clearly decided her job was to look good (good luck to her, she’ll need it) instead of getting an education. I suppose being smart is so over-rated. She seemed to think I was dumb for even suggesting she was wrong. Good thing she never said that, though.

I was surprised to have any student bring out a potentially dangerous fire-risk tool. I have seen lots of girls doing hair or make-up, but this was a new one.

Anyway, I then told her again to turn it off and sit down or go to the office. Clearly that girl has a couple brain cells since she stopped with only the subtlest huff of breath. At the end of class one of the students told me the class was actually better for me than the usual teacher. (I feel very sorry for the usual teacher.) This same student said several girls regularly use class time as beauty-shop time.

I have now met the next generation of welfare recipients.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Eat Me! Please

My wife brought me home a treat the other day. It was cute little marshmallow treats shaped like ants.

They taste good, too, thought probably not worth the price. I gave my daughter the queen ant to eat before I thought to take a picture.

First of all, this product shows the ants as cute critters clearly desiring to be devoured. That is either amusing or sick. It is like they are saying, “Eat me, please!”

I had not thought of that application until I went to the Suicide Food blog. That site is great. It seems that all sorts of animals want to be consumed. (Don’t tell PETA!)

Aside from that, the producer of this candy has clearly never seen an ant. Perhaps the research for the candy came from watching “A Bug’s Life.” (Clearly it didn’t come from “Antz.”) This is clear when you count the legs. Each ant has four legs sprouting from random parts of the anatomy.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Check Your Work

When you were in school, did your teachers tell you to check your work? I cannot think of any teacher who would say you should not.

Checking work comes in handy for professional life, too.

Check out the name of this store:

Le Bon Vie

I took French in high school and lived in France for a while. I can see exactly what is wrong with it, but I understand most people would not. I can guess what the person did who named the store. This person thought, “I’ll call the store, ‘The Good Life,’ but I’ll do it in French.” This person then looked up the words in a French-English dictionary.

Unfortunately, French has masculine and feminine words. This means lots of confusion for non-French.

The sign should read: La Bonne Vie.

This would have been avoided by having someone who knows French check the work. It is possible the person who named the store did know the difference but decided the named looks better the way it is and that people wouldn’t understand it otherwise. In that case, the store considers its customers ignorant. It might be so, but I don’t think that is a very smart philosophy.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Commas ARE Important

One of the many paperwork activities at my part-time job is a communications log. This is for messages between staff members, and isn’t really formal; however, it can be subpoenaed if a lawsuit were to come against the company. All the paperwork we do, including more important documents, is full of grammar problems. I will withhold making fun of the person responsible, and I ask you to as well. I do this for two reasons. First, these papers are not intended for the public, and not really professional. Second, just about every sheet of paperwork we have in the company has a grammar error somewhere in the printing as well. The bosses don’t take the time to clean it up, why should the low-paid pawns?

All that said, I will copy one sentence from the communications log, changing the names, but nothing else.

“Susan Billy and JOE gOT There BalloT’S In the Mail TO day”

Now I will put the sentence the way it should be except for the commas. I’ll fix the capitals, misused apostrophe, and incorrect word choice.

“Susan Billy and Joe got their ballots in the mail today.”

Alright class, how many people got their ballots? Three?

I actually corrected the sentence in the communications log by adding one comma. It now reads:

“Susan, Billy and Joe got their ballots in the mail today.”

Now how many got their ballots? Still three? Two?

The problem is that some people don’t put a comma in front of the “and” when listing items in a series. Often, this doesn’t cause any problems. (It is, I admit, technically allowed according to the writing manuals.) In some cases, however, it will confuse the reader. Here Susan is a staff member who needs information about Billy and Joe. Two people got ballots. If three people got them, a comma should be placed after Billy’s name.

In the sentence in question, the comma is used to separate the person addressed and the information being given. When people don’t put a comma before the and in list sentences, confusion can occur.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Elementary Capitalization

I know there are some obscure rules of capitalization people rarely use and so they don’t really get it right when they need to. But most capitalization rules are ones we learn in early grades. For example, you always capitalize the names of months and the days of the week. Whoever made this sign I found at K-Mart apparently failed first grade.

This person capitalized the manes of the months, for which we need to give credit. But that means the person knows where the shift key is. No excuse remains for the missing capital letters on the days of the week.

I see this kind of problem all the time. It is extremely common. It shows a lack of thought and/or education. My question is what supervisor approved it. It is up in several places, each one in a plastic sleeve.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

So I’m Self-Righteous? At least I’m Not a [Expletive Omitted].

I want to be absolutely clear about my blog. I know that many of the mistakes I point out are innocent or could be made by anyone. I also know they can be avoided by having people look over something before making it public. The mistakes I make fun of are common ones that anyone beyond elementary school should not make.

Am I overly proud? I hope not. I have plenty of problems and I am constantly trying to improve. I have posted my comments at times with grammar mistakes that readers point out to me. I then change it.

I was reading The Perplexicon yesterday—I check it everyday—and found that the author of the blog was singled out by this article.

The article is called: “Mum, How Do You Spell Self-Righteous”?

I read it. This reporter thinks that people putting up these blogs are self-righteous and overly nit-picky. Look at the blogs used as examples. They are also blogs I check daily. They are funny. None of them are focused on the tiny details this article indicates are worthless. None of them are “grammar Nazis” either. That just shows how idiotic the article is—and possibly the writer.

Most people continue to try and learn new things. These grammar blogs (mine too, though it is not just grammar) can help people learn. Also, they are really amusing.

In fact, I am thankful for the article because I learned what “beg the question” means. Check it out. Incidentally, the article identifies that site as a blog, when it is not.

So, in the end I might demonstrate a little unintended pride by my posts. This article and the people who believe good grammar is only for people who think they are better (in other words, prideful or self-righteous) are even more prideful than the grammar bloggers.

Too many people who blame others for pride are even more proud and self-righteous. They are proud of their willful ignorance.

Which is worse: being proud of learning, or being proud of willful ignorance?