22

An email I received from my daughter's 2nd grade teacher has a grammatical error. The teacher wrote "your daughter can meet with Amy and I" where he should have written, "your daughter can meet with Amy and me". The email was cc'd to other teachers but not other parents.

I do think that it's important for teachers to use correct grammar, but I don't wish to embarrass or antagonize the teacher. FWIW, the teacher is a native speaker of English, and we are in California. The school year is just starting, so I don't know the teacher well; nor do I know if he makes English mistakes often.

How can I make sure the teacher is taught the correct rule in the least offensive manner? (I personally would want someone to correct my English mistakes, privately if possible, but I know from experience that not everyone responds well to correction.)

Update

I decided not to correct the teacher. He was so kind to my daughter at their meeting that I don't want to risk hurting the relationship. If he makes the mistake again and again, I may say something gentle, along the lines of some of the suggestions. I appreciate getting answers both to the question I asked (How do I correct my daughter's teacher?) and the question I should have asked (Should I correct my daughter's teacher?).

  • 2
    Keep in mind that if it's a brief email it doesn't reveal a huge amount about their mannerisms in the class. – Haibo Li Aug 23 '17 at 17:46
  • This isn't truly an error in the sense that he said "adverse" instead of "averse," or used an apostrophe-s to form a plural. This is a violation of a prescriptive rule, and one not worth correcting. Would you correct him if he had said "who" instead of "whom"? – Azor Ahai Aug 23 '17 at 20:47
  • Just wondering - what do you plan to get out of it by correcting them? If it's just trying to make the point that you're intellectually superior, what do you expect the reaction of the teacher to be (remember that their reaction may extend towards your child)? – UKMonkey Aug 25 '17 at 8:15
46

Don't.

It is a minor thing, and one that our (American) culture is used to. Forty years ago everyone said "Mary and me went to the store", and faux-erudite people jumped on that bandwagon so hard that the current generation grew up being taught to say "Mary and I" whenever a compound subject is used.

The reality is that language is flexible, and speakers using either construct are well-understood, and only a few snobs (like me) are annoyed by it, let alone able to recognize the error.

So the question you really need to answer for yourself is this: Is it really that important to correct another person's minor, culturally-normal grammatical tick?

The only 'pro' to this is that your daughter's teacher just may wake up and see the light of day and thank you endlessly for fixing an important part of her life.

The 'cons' are many, including time wasted to offend someone over something that really doesn't have any meaningful effect on your daughter's small pocket of the universe, except that now your daughter will be the child of a parent who cares more about I-vs-me than the greater work of your child's education.

If you find your daughter using it, correct her. Explain to her how to choose between "X and me" and "X and I" and expect her to speak correctly. Tell her also that not all people know or care, and to accept poor grammar from others. The more important task is understanding what is said, not correcting the delivery.

  • 3
    +1, but i wouldn't teach her to "accept poor grammar," but rather that people speak different, equally valid versions of English. – Azor Ahai Aug 23 '17 at 22:31
  • 8
    No, there is a difference between 'valid' and 'invalid' grammar, even beyond contextual variations. What is important is that she learn valid, context-appropriate grammar, and seek to understand what people are saying, even when they violate context or validity. – Dúthomhas Aug 24 '17 at 2:48
  • I would agree. I was taught to spell grey as grey. Today it is taught as gray. Things constantly change in English. I find it funny to hear someone complain about "aks" as a pronunciation of ask. It's not a new thing at all, in fact it predates ask, but most have no idea of that. smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/… – threetimes Aug 24 '17 at 5:06
28

There's no reason to correct the teacher, unless it is something you see often repeated.

Everybody makes miskates. And in case you wish to correct this, do so as an aside to something else, subtly.

I do not know what exactly you could write. Maybe you'll see a good suggestion from other answers.


My English teacher used to misspell tomorrow as tommorow, when I was little.

Her letters to parents contained it quite often, as in, "tommorow we'll be conducting so-and-so in the class, please send so-and-so materials for it."

My mother, herself being a graduate in the English language, couldn't stand this after it was clear that it's not a one-time error.

She one day wrote a mini letter of sorts and attached it to the acknowledgement receipt that parents had to send back to the teacher. I have no idea what the actual content of the letter was, but my teacher was very happy reading that after I gave her the envelope, I could see from her face, as if she was saved from an even bigger embarrassment in the future.

She wrote back to my mother how happy she was to receive that.

This was at a time when there were no emails or SMS. Phones, yes, but this wasn't a matter requiring an actual phone call.

Maybe you could try something subtle like this.

(I, my mother and my teacher; we're all Indians, and this incident was in a school I attended in the Middle East.)

19

I don't believe there is a way to correct him without a serious risk of causing embarrassment and/or offense.

Grammatical and spelling errors are unfortunately quite common, particularly in email, which is generally treated as a less formal form of communication.

Unless the teacher is specifically an English teacher (in which case pointing out errors in his specialty is less objectionable), pointing out this mistake is likely going to come across as petty and unnecessary. Unless I'm mistaken, in second grade, teachers typically teach multiple subjects, instead of focusing on a single one.

Even if the teacher is specifically an English teacher, I'd wait until you notice a pattern before considering it. It is still likely to cause conflict and tension.

If you decide to correct the teacher, do not do so by copying anyone else in. Send it just to the teacher, or, better yet, speak to them in person.

I would start by emphasizing that you are speaking to them in private because it is not your intention to embarrass or single them out. Then explain that your concern is simply that proper grammar should be modeled for the children.

As a disclaimer, I must admit that I frequently make the same mistake ("I" instead of "me" when someone else and I are not the subject).

  • 3
    English teachers make typos too. – user288 Aug 23 '17 at 17:46
  • 2
    @Hamlet Unpossible! I added some content to clarify that even if it is an English teacher, it's probably not worth it. – Beofett Aug 23 '17 at 17:49
5

This is not such a grave error. I occasionally do much more horrible errors in my language (which has much more space for them btw) when I'm in hurry. It's embarrassing for me even without anyone reminding me. Even if the grammar mistakes do turn out to be consistent, I can tell you: I never had a positive reaction warning people about their grammar.

If you want to do something, I recommend putting a very nice and subtle PS in your next email reply.

PS: I noticed that you wrote [grammatical error] a few times. Just in case it wasn't a typo, it's actually [correct expression]. It happens often to people, so I thought I would just mention it.

  • 1
    I agree on humbling errors. I once told someone it was nice to "ass" them again when I meant "see". I still am not quite sure how I managed to say that and to a client no less, but at least he found it funny and didn't get offended. It mortified me I had made such an awful error, but years later I can now laugh about it. – threetimes Aug 24 '17 at 5:08
2

How do I correct...

Privately. Do it, but do it privately.

As noted by Michael Thomas Greer's answer, the "always use 'and I'" rule has been widely taught (to many people and I). Fellow students and me have definitely been taught this in school. If this instructor is in the habit of remembering rules that are widely taught in academic circles, chances are that most of what this teacher teaches will be good and right.

Spreading knowledge should be a treated as a positive trait, particularly when this is rather verifiable. Just remember to point out the mishap respectfully, and that means privately.

Also, don't expect the teacher to instantly accept what you say before the teacher has had a chance to independently verify your claim. (The instructor may be rightfully reluctant to change behavior, or acknowledge your superiority, just because you made a claim. However, when you point out that modern standards specify that context determines the right phrasing, hopefully, that will sound sensible enough for the teacher to decide to verify whether that's right.)

  • Totally agree, correctly privately and compliment in public are guidelines that set you up for life. – Joel Harkes Aug 24 '17 at 7:44
  • 1
    You mean "Fellow students and I"? ;) – John Clifford Aug 24 '17 at 10:44
  • I just hope the second paragraph is a parody... – Tim Aug 24 '17 at 12:40
  • 1
    @JohnClifford : That were just as unnecessarily coerced as the prior sentence's really pointless ending (which I placed in parenthesis). The three of we (I, myself, and me) hope you caught that as well! – TOOGAM Aug 24 '17 at 13:56
  • There's a difference between the rule for putting yourself last in a list of people (which is done for politeness, not grammatical reasons) and using I/me. – Catija Aug 24 '17 at 14:14
1

Teachers are strange beings - I know - I worked with them, as one! Some will respond to being gently told, others will take offence - after all, they are teachers, and have reached the epitome of learning...

My approach, not knowing the teacher, yet, would be to encourage daughter to use the correct way in some of her writing in class. When that gets 'corrected', then you'll know for sure that the teacher has the wrong end of the stick, and needs enlightening. Bad 'corrections' are not acceptable.

For those readers who think it is acceptable to say 'Meet with Amy and I', just take Amy away. How many of you would be heard saying 'Meet with I'. My case rests.

1

How can I make sure the teacher is taught the correct rule in the least offensive manner?

To be "taught the correct rule" would be for him to know, forever thereafter and with certainty, the grammatically correct way to use the first-person pronoun.

The "least offensive manner" would be not face-to-face, not in front of others, and if possible, in a fun and interesting way.

Here is my very, very best idea: Somehow(*), anonymously leave him a note that says,

For your edification and that of our children, please follow these breadcrumbs:

  • Autobiography of Jane Eyre <-- FANTASTIC WEBSERIES!

  • Episode 59

  • 2:50 - 3:13

[hashtag]GrammarGirlRocks!

This idea might not work. He could just throw the piece of paper away. On the other hand, he might be telling his friends and colleagues about this "weirdest thing!" for weeks. For an extra measure of fun, you could also sign it "~ Me" or "I."

For your information (and for the above advice to make sense), this is where I got the idea.

(*) Personally, I like the idea of staking out the parking lot to learn which car is his, then leaving it under his windshield wiper ... but you have to choose something that is safe and works for you.

0

Why be such a shrinking violet? Just say what you think as tactfully as you can. If you want to make him feel better, confess that your own grammar also isn't perfect. Call him an ass, and buy him a beer to commiserate his folly!

If the person takes offense, they have much bigger problems than bad grammar to deal with:

  • arrogance
  • stubbornness
  • over-reaction
  • anger management
  • refusal to learn
  • social maladjustment
  • the pride that may come with a position of some power and achievement

You will be lucky to know to stay away from that person; and more importantly, to keep your kids away from a bad teacher and a bad example. Ugh.

Teachers spend hours each week correcting kids' work. If they can't handle a little correction or criticism themselves from time to time, this indicates a serious flaw in their personality. Yes it's a common flaw, but no, it's not acceptable.

I wouldn't want a stubbornly arrogant person to teach my children. If the teacher takes offense at a kindly correction to his grammar, get a different teacher, and make it clear to him that you're ditching him because his reaction was unacceptable, not because his grammar is poor.

This particular grammatical error is especially irritating to hear and embarrassing to commit. The person is trying to sound erudite by using "correct grammar", and yet they are stuffing it up. Any teacher worth his salt should humbly thank you for such a correction. If not, all they are is just another brick in the wall.

I really don't like it when people try too hard to anticipate others' thoughts and feelings. I think it's much better to just be straightforward. Not rude, not tactless, but not tip-toeing around to avoid causing some imagined mild offense. If someone's junk is hanging out of their pants, just tell them already: "hey mate, your junk is hanging out of your pants, might want to fix that, big guy".

Being straightforward and honest is the best interpersonal skill you can have. Your friends will thank you for it, and you're better off without those who don't.

0

DO NOT!!!

There is no value in doing so, only harm.

  • It's very unlikely that the teacher will be thankful for the correction.
  • The sentence was understandable, and transmitted an idea (that what language is for after all)
  • There are and will be far more important fights.
  • You don't know everything and you are counting on this person (the teacher) to fill in your gaps, for your daughter.

One day soon, you will need to fight, what I call, the "banana is not a fruit" fight. Essentially, your child will answer a question correctly, say "Circle all the fruits" leaving the banana un-circled. The teacher will mark it wrong, and you will have to fight. You will need to step up, and let the teacher know that she is wrong, and that a 2nd grader was right. You will need to be respectful, and tactful. You can not have that fight, calmly, if you have already been labeled "grammar Nazi", "problem parent", "jack ass" etc.

This issue is simply not worth the "political points". You gain nothing and loose a lot. Let it go, it's just not that important.

  • 1
    Still not worth the battle. Although bananas are herbs, technically, we still find them in fruit stalls and shelves. And 99% of the population consider banana milkshakes containing some semblance of fruit and not a herb. – user3114 Aug 24 '17 at 17:45
  • 1
    The yellow things you buy at the store are "fruits" using either the culinary definition (sweet, fleshy, often used in desserts) or the botanical definition (the seed-bearing structure of flowering plants). The fact that the banana "tree" isn't a true tree (no woody stems, therefore called an "herb"), is irrelevant. – pwcnorthrop Aug 24 '17 at 20:24

protected by Community Oct 23 '18 at 6:19

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.