How Important are Teachers?

1062_4347856Think back a bit. Can you remember your favorite high school teacher? Especially the one who taught you how to value, enjoy, and use the English language? The one who may, or may not have been your English teacher?

I certainly remember mine. She was a dragon of a woman – all of 4’10”, and maybe 70 pounds on a good day – who struck terror into the hearts of those gargantuan football players, pierced each student to the very core with her sharp blue eyes – and by sheer dint of her will, taught us English! Well beyond retirement age, she had stayed on at my high school, almost as though the administration had forgotten there was anyone at all occupying her classroom. We definitely knew she was there.

And what a great teacher she was. How fortunate we were to have studied with her. She was fair. She gave simple, honest feedback so that you knew exactly what she was saying. She taught so that you had to understand her if you were paying any attention at all. And heaven help you if you were not!

Who was your favorite teacher? The one you really learned from, although he or she might not have been the funniest, the easiest grader, or the one who was not very strict about discipline in the classroom?

I had a great email from a reader last week, responding to the Use Grammar, Spelling, and Punctuation to Demonstrate Professionalism and Build Credibility with Your Business Writing post. He said, “I could not agree more. My colleague is quick to spot grammatical errors – and lets me know if I’ve made one….”

Harry remembers Mr. Benjamin, his high school English teacher, who “…taught us that any verb with ‘re’ (e.g., report, refer, recycle) does not require ‘back’ (e.g., ‘Bill will report back to the major)….” He concludes with, “…just a peeve of mine based on the profound influence of a terrific sophomore English teacher.” A memorable teacher with lasting influence indeed.

Referring to a very bright, very accomplished radio host, Harry commented, “Intelligence notwithstanding, he stumbles over personal pronouns….Every time I hear him…I pause and wonder just a bit, ‘so how smart is he?’”  (Click here for an easy to check whether this is an error you may be making.)

Concluding his very thought-provoking email, Harry added, “…accurate grammar…reflects a deep respect for one’s reader. Getting the grammar…right removes one barrier to…clarity – and it avoids confusing or annoying some of our most attentive readers.”

There you have it, my friends – not just from me (see previous post) but from a highly successful veteran consultant as well.

So who was your favorite teacher – the one you really learned from? What did he or she say or do to “anchor” those lessons about writing in your mind? How can you help your co-workers, friends, and family to succeed on the job, or at school?

Let us hear from you! I look forward to sharing your comments.

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