A few years ago, I had to do some proofreading for the school.

The material was the sixth form tutor reports that were about to be issued from our electronic reporting system for the first time. You might ask why I was proofreading them, and well you might. The teachers writing them had been asked to proofread each others, but had refused as “proofreading was not part of their job”. The position was that their own reports were perfect, so why should they have their time wasted proofreading someone else’s?

Bond’s opinion, to this very day, is that reports should be issued mistakes and all, so that the individual teachers who make the mistakes will be exposed for the illiterate morons they are. My opinion was that management should have told the teachers concerned to shut up and do their jobs. However, the school’s management, and the Head in particular, were unwilling to issue a diktat, but keen for the school not to look like it was staffed by nincompoops. This little dispute happened quite close to the deadline, so, one evening, I found myself proofreading.Joining me in this endeavour were one of our AHTs, the AHT’s secretary, Bond, and the facilities manager.

You will notice here that only 1 of the 5 people doing the proofreading was a member of teaching staff. Two were senior management. None had proofreading in their job description, the key tenet of the teachers’ objections. This meant that a motley crew of largely non-teaching staff were correcting reports written by apparently illiterate teachers, whose job most certainly includes writing reports about their students, yet apparently doesn’t include completing that task to any level of competence beyond “must try harder”.

I present for you now the most common mistakes, in order of occurrence:

  1. Not ending a sentence with a punctuation mark (full stop or otherwise)
  2. Not starting a sentence with a capital letter.
  3. ‘i before e’ spelling mistakes
  4. Incorrect uses of “your”/”you’re”

It’s worth noting that #1 occurred several hundred times. Even the number of instances of  #4 was in double figures.

Now, I appreciate not everyone is such a skilled and venerable wordsmith as I, but on an academic report is does look very unprofessional to be making such basic errors. Admittedly, the reporting system does not have a grammar check. It does have a spell check. It also (allegedly) has at the controls a group of qualified teachers at a respected secondary school rated as “outstanding” by Ofsted. These people are not idiots, but you would be hard-pressed to form that opinion if you were to judge them on their childlike mastery of English.

The icing on the cake? This proofreading session was taking place at 6pm on Friday night, at the exact time that most of the staff, illiterate morons included, were arriving at the annual Christmas party. Our drafting as proofreaders was decided solely on the basis that we were the ones without plans that night.

I lost a lot of respect for our teachers that day.

About The Angry Technician

The Angry Technician is an experienced IT professional in the UK education sector. Normally found in various states of annoyance on his blog. All views are those of his imaginary pet dog, Howard.

8 responses to “Proofreading”

  1. Ellira says :

    Really, really doesn’t surprise me. Either the selfishness, or the stupidity. Throughout my school career, and now in my job, I see teachers actively teaching incorrect English, and using teaching aids that are just plain wrong. It’s no wonder more children have problems learning now than they did before.

    • AngryTechnician says :

      What surprises me most is that when I was at secondary school, I had a high aptitude for English and would spot these sorts of mistakes easily even then. However, I don’t recall seeing my teachers make them. Have teachers become less able or was I just more forgiving in the past?

  2. A_User says :

    If, they are unable to write properly, or give it a cursory proof-read, as they go along, then they obviously require additional english lessons.

    We get the same complaints from staff (both form tutors and admin support), usually about the English staff, on the theory that they really should know better.

    I think years ago, when it was for MY reports, it was all handwritten in Doctor-scipt, so no-one had any idea what was actually written, and there was no way to tell if it was spelt right.

  3. Agent Spellcheck says :

    Your wordsmithing is indeed skilled and venerable, however one cannot avoid noticing a missing apostrophe (paragraph 2), and dubious punctuative delimitation of numbered lists. These, however, are mere presentation issues caused by innocent typo. Confusing “your” with “you’re” and vice versa, on the other hand, are crimes worthy of very serious punishment.

    It’s one thing for a British-educated human to make such mistakes – how dare they squandor their opportunity for education when the state pays – but it’s another thing altogether to have the audacity to go on to work within that same state education system later in life. Shocking!

  4. Agent Spellcheck says :

    Shitbags! I spelt squander incorrectly. “Touché”, you could say! Damned iPhone.

  5. Dragon says :

    Our reports went through two-stages of proof reading last year, and still there were glaring errors… (guess who’s been nominated as a proof reader this year – I’ve even built a new system to ease them through the process as painlessly as possible). This year we have three stages, and it is guaranteed that things will still slip through the net.

    The lack of punctuation, as you so rightly point out, is truly shocking. As is the (mis)use of the spellchecker when it is in plain sight for them to use.

    Some of the more interesting ones to arrive at the office “ready to send out” last year contained errors such as these:

    – A report for a lad named “Michael”, which contained the statement “She has been working well towards her target”

    – A science teacher who spelt the word “Bunsen” incorrectly (as in Bunsen Burner)

    – Several reports from a particular member of staff which contained not a single capital letter. Clearly this person had expected the reporting system to function like Word and autocorrect such things. Mistake.

  6. scaryman says :

    This is clearly something you should NOT be doing; and certainly not at 6pm on a Friday night before Christmas…

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