Teachwell | The Heretic Speaks…
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The Heretic Speaks...


Twitter gets strange at the best of times but today’s Twitter was a little bit weirder.


I read this post by Michael Rosen, which consisted of the following statement that was sent to him by a child’s mother:


“My 6-year-old daughter was crying at bedtime tonight, utterly inconsolable. When I asked her what was wrong, she said: “Mummy, I tried hard to write a whole page in English today, but it wasn’t good enough because I didn’t have enough subordinating conjunctions.”


No one wants a child to be upset, but this one incident does not mean that the national curriculum should be changed or is, as Rosen puts it, ‘crap.’ The discussion that followed was basically what is the problem in education. Any child is upset, and a thousand liberal hearts start bleeding. Is it too much to ask that the brain is engaged at some point.


For a start:

  • We don’t know anything about the school this child goes to.
  • We don’t know anything about the teacher.
  • We don’t know anything about the child apart from the fact that according to her mother she was upset because she was told she didn’t have any subordinating conjunctions in her writing.
  • We don’t even know the home situation.
  • We don’t even know if this is real. It’s a message sent to an author anonymously, which he has willingly reproduced as evidence for what he already believes.


Even if we accept the person is real:

  • Why would you message an author before talking to the teacher?
  • Why would you not check if this incident even happened? If you are from the school that says a child’s word is gospel then please just block me now as I don’t need to interact with someone who’s understanding of reality is that poor.


I have yet to know or meet a child who has not lied at some point or another. It is a normal part of growing up, and there are many reasons why we do it. Even if it were the gospel truth,

  • The child could have misunderstood the task.
  • Maybe the task was not explained well.
  • Maybe it was the first time she had done a task like this, and she didn’t get the hang of it.
  • Maybe she was looking out of the window instead of listening.
  • She wrote a page which may not have been the task she was asked to do.
  • Maybe she just got caught up with what she was writing and forgot to include them.


There are a million and one reasons why a child does not achieve. There is no need for a full-blown political response to this or to send a message an author before talking to the teacher.


It could also be that:

  • the feedback was given insensitively.
  • the teacher was having a bad day.
  • the child had a bad day.
  • it was not the child’s normal teacher – yes we don’t even know if it was her class teacher, a PPA teacher, a supply teacher, etc.
  • the child is a bit sensitive to criticism and needs to learn how to cope with it. Yes even at 6 – what do you want people to do lie to children when they get something wrong and pretend it’s correct? There’s this thing called trust which takes a hammering if you constantly lie to another person, regardless of age.
  • the child is a bit of a perfectionist already and struggles if she gets anything wrong. In which case some guidance is needed to learn how to cope.
  • the teacher/parent is a perfectionist, and the child worries that if she gets things wrong, it will upset the adult or has learnt that it does.
  • we don’t even know that the child was spoken to by the teacher!!! It could be that the teacher read another child’s work and pointed out the subordinating conjunctions that had been used. The child realised they hadn’t used any and understood that they hadn’t completed the task as was expected. It may be the fact that she is worried about what the teacher will say the next day.
Is it too much to think that maybe there are many reasons, more plausible even than the idea that teaching grammar is wrong, that could explain this situation? Apparently not!


Someone else posted an example of a child ,who when asked to review a book, talked about the sentence openers and adjectives.


Again a million and one reasons.


Bizarro twist of the night goes to the supposed grandmother of the 6-year-old child who managed to send about ten passive/aggressive tweets before stating who she was. WTF is an expression invented for such an occurrence. So, instead of clarifying the situation, you go on the offensive? Most of the tweets were not even about her grandchild; they were about this second child, but hey why bother to read the conversation at all when you want to get angry about the fact that a child ON ONE OCCASION as far as we know got UPSET.


Here’s the thing that is even better – we don’t even know the child goes to a school which follows the national curriculum!! Let’s all condemn the national curriculum, the teaching of grammar, and the teaching of subordinating conjunctions, regardless. Which by the way, I taught to Year 2 children five years ago. Regarding words, subordinating conjunctions is a bit posher than connectives, but it doesn’t matter what you call them – it’s still a bunch of words that we are teaching children to use correctly. And sometimes they don’t. And sometimes they get upset.


Have we lost the art of helping children to cope when they fail at something or don’t get it right? Because that is what is the problem here – the inability of the adults to help and support.


If this one incident kills off her ability to write ever again, I doubt it’ll be because she was told to include the words ‘because’, ‘if’ and ‘when’  in her writing.


It’ll be because she is surrounded by hysterical adults who think the appropriate response to this situation is to contact an author to publicise the incident, and make a royal song and dance about it, rather than simply talking to the teacher and finding out what happened.


But what am I saying? Hush heretic!! We all know that when a child gets upset, the national curriculum should be changed this instant. We all know that we shouldn’t teach children anything that they may get wrong because occasionally children will get upset if they get things wrong. And that is the real reason there is illiteracy and innumeracy in our society.


UPDATE: It turns out that the parent of the 6-year-old was actually following the debate and cheerleading Rosen’s tweets from the sidelines. At no point did she state she was the child’s mother, just like the grandmother waited a whole heap of tweets, or that the child had used two subordinating conjunctions but that was not enough. 


Being oversensitive when your child is upset is one thing, but to use your child to score points against a curriculum you don’t like is a whole other level of craziness. Shame on any adult who can’t debate their ideas in the cold light of day, on their merits, and has to use tactics like this. 


Lies, damn lies and Michael Rosen’s posts.

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