What’s selling from my “used” collection? Old grammar books!

I’ve been selling off my “teacher” stuff for about five years. During my on and off teaching career (at both private and public schools, in grades 6 through college) I did manage to accumulate a lot of books. One thing that surprises me is that really old books do sell, especially grammar books. Today, I received notice to ship an eleventh grade grammar text, published in the early 80s. Believe it or not, that one is modern. For whatever reasons, during the mid 80s, grammar began to gradually fall out of fashion in the classroom. Budgets seemed tight, and textbook price inflation was just getting started. Our school, like many in that era, bought new lit books, and each of those generally had lots of ancillary materials, including “daily grammar” lessons— usually one concept illustrated via a handout or a transparency for an overhead projector, and grammar books were either not used, or we used old ones. My friend, Janet, used a set of Warriner’s until the covers came off. Then she got the administration to find her some more of the same one on eBay. Until I left teaching high school, I used the same ones, over and over. I taped them together each August, and hoped they would make it another year.

My current teaching gig is as an adjunct at a local technical college. (For readers outside of Georgia, you would probably term it a “community college.”) Anyway, our institution pays for students to take self-paced grammar lessons online. The reason we do it that way is that we never know how much grammar the students might have already mastered, so they take assessments and are required to do lessons based on the topics they did not pass initially. From my experience, there are many students who have to take all of the lessons (known as modules) which is probably due to their teachers having been trained in the “non-grammar” era. The lessons are quite basic, including each part of speech, sentence structure, and so forth.

From time to time, I do sell grammar books, usually really old ones, and that lets me know that some people are either teaching themselves, or someone else, English grammar. I’m glad, because I see a lot of bad grammar in student writing these days. Actually, I see it in many other places, too!

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Are Teachers Professionals?

As I’ve cruised news sites lately, there have been some articles about teacher in NY who was “tardy” more than a hundred times and yet managed to keep his job. This seems to be an outrage to the press, but I think it is much ado about a minor problem. If your doctor is ten minutes late arriving at his office, you are probably glad that is all. Same thing for the judge who hears your divorce. Why is that? Because they are professionals, that’s why. According to the articles I read, the teacher was never late to class. So, who suffered because the teacher liked to dawdle over breakfast? Not the students, apparently.

So why is this a big deal? The teacher went to arbitration, stating that he had only once been later than 10 minutes, and that was due to a broken down car. And the teacher kept his job. Certainly, being punctual is a virtue that the teacher should demonstrate, but if teachers are professionals and they do a good job in the classroom, then “punching a time clock” should not even occur.

Many years ago, when I first began teaching, there was a “sign in” sheet in the front office, and we would all have to line up to jot down our names. Then, we got a new principal who said, “You are professionals, and I expect you to be professional in all of your dealings with students, parents, and anyone else you encounter in your work. I am going to treat you as professionals, and professionals don’t line up to sign in or punch a time clock.” Cool. And, as I recall, we didn’t have any problems with instructors being late. Instead, we reported directly to our classrooms to help students, instead of waiting to sign that sheet of paper on a clipboard.

The news media should report on good and bad aspects of education. But leave the “tardy” teacher story alone. It’s a stupid story.