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Should I complain when my child’s teachers make spelling and grammar mistakes? Add to ...

The question

My daughter regularly brings home missives and reports written by the teachers or principal at her school. Invariably there are misspellings and grammatical errors; I am always disappointed the educators do not take more care. It also leads me to worry about the quality of education my child is receiving. I have brought my spelling and grammar concerns to the attention of my daughter’s teachers, but I sense there is little resolve to address these issues. Am I wrong to complain? Should I lower my expectations? And are there some standards or guidelines set out by the provinces (mine is British Columbia) to which educators must conform as a minimum standard? – Parent in Coquitlam, B.C.

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The answer

I’m not sure what’s worse: Trying to make sense of your doctor’s hard-to-read handwriting or witnessing glaring errors made by an educator on your child’s report card. Teachers expect children to perform at their highest standard. So, as a parent, it is not unreasonable to expect the same from your child’s educator.

If spelling mistakes and grammatical errors are a common occurrence, the first step would be to take the report card or copy of the communication to the teacher, express a concern that a student may see this and make it clear that this is unacceptable. There are no guidelines, per se, for grammar and spelling skills of teachers, but there’s no question that they should be held to high standards.

Shirley-Ann Teal, co-ordinating superintendent of instructional support services at the Peel District School Board in Ontario, said if the conversation with the teacher is respectful, in most cases, changes will take place. And if it doesn’t? Teal advises parents to follow up with the principal if nothing is done to rectify the situation.

Typically, in elementary schools, principals sign report cards before they are sent home. They may also review grammar and spelling. Kurt Heinrich, a spokesman for the Vancouver School Board, said if there is a pattern of errors, and if the issue still remains unresolved after a parent speaks with the teacher and/or principal, the next step would be to contact the district office.

Paul Olson, president of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society, said educators strive for perfection, and he understands where the parent is coming from. But Olson said parents need to prioritize between their children receiving a solid education, versus a dangling participle or misplaced semicolon on a child’s report card. “If I make a grammatical mistake and otherwise I give your kid a great day, I’m going to call that a good day,” Olson said.

Yes, mistakes occasionally do happen. Still, it is not unreasonable to hold educators – role models, in many ways – to the highest standard when it comes to properly using the English language.

The Guidance Counsellor is a column that answers reader questions on navigating the education system. Send your questions to guidance@globeandmail.com.

Follow on Twitter: @calphonso

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