Am I stifling your creativity?


 There is a teacher’s blog I read that I really like. His philosophies are extreme, and I kind of like the unbalanced, spinning-my-head feeling after reading his writing. I certainly don’t agree with everything he believes, and I would guess he wouldn’t agree with anything I write. But I’m just trying to figure this out, and am a work in progress myself as a teacher, so maybe he’d be kind.

One recent post caught my eye, and it’s about how we teachers stifle creativity by expecting correct spelling. Well, there are two schools of thought on this one: The first is that when teachers expect correct spelling, or we stop your meanderings, scribblings, writings, and attempts at communication with correcting your spelling, punctuation, and grammar, we are making you feel bad and stifling your creativity. You proudly show us your efforts, and we then put on our stomping cleats and punch holes in your beautiful work. I’m sorry. My cleats were at the cleaner’s, so there hasn’t been an opportunity to step on your work. The second camp says that all work is good work, correct or not, and any attempt you make is worthy, valuable, and should be encouraged no matter what.

There is really a third option, which is where I think most teachers and parents are: your work is wonderful. Your drafts, sketches, pre-writes, discussions–all of that, is worthwhile and valuable. I sincerely believe that. I respect your thoughts. Every day I teach, I find new insights, and learn from you. Really – you rock on ice. But understand that the world is full of conditional love. And to find strength in your voices, you will need to learn how to communicate in standard English (at least in North American countries). I don’t give two potatoes if you spell “humor” like “humour.” But please try to know the difference between “their, they’re, and there.” Please?

 He makes an excellent point – he sometimes has a few mistakes, typos, and misspellings in his blog, but says he always has readers (over 8,000!). I make mistakes, too. Quite often I’ll re-read a post and edit it when I see something is amiss. No biggie. And yes, people do continue to visit his blog repeatedly, including me. But I wonder if I would be so inclined if the entire thing was consistently full of errors? Would I have the level of respect for him that I do? Probably not, and that’s just how it is.

And students of the new techno age: there are plenty of humorous ways to learn how to spell correctly. The blog, Hyperbole and a Half really sums up the use of “a lot” among other typing issues:


4 thoughts on “Am I stifling your creativity?

  1. I really like your take on this one. I might also point out that it’s not all about conditionality. Creativity happens within the confines of rules. Anarchy is sadly very uncreative. It’s all bricks through Wal-Mart and wearing black. Hierarchy is also not too terribly creative. Now democracy, true democracy, well that’s creative – and that requires rule-following. My philosophy is freedom to learn, meaning I want student choice as long as it involves learning. Using crappy spelling, failing to do drafts and casting aside grammar are all examples of failing to learn. The most creative writers who found their voice had to learn decent spelling and syntax and punctuation.

    idk i lmao when tchrs h8 qramar & punc bc dey

    take freedom to the extreme of banal anarchy.


  2. I appreciate this post. I, too, am challenged by the blog to which you refer and agree that spelling and grammatical/mechanical errors shouldn’t simply be ignored by teachers. We live in a world where impressions matter, and poor word choice, misspellings, and lousy punctuation don’t make a positive impression. I can and will forgive the occasional written mistake, but too many mistakes and I find the writer no longer worth my time.

    However, the blogger makes a good point. As a young English teacher I often struggled to quantify why some work was superior to other work as far as the content was concerned. It was much easier to focus on misplaced modifiers and faulty comparisons that it was to explain why a particular argument or analysis was weak. Years later, I wonder what disservice I may have done to my students by focusing too much on their mechanics and too little on their ideas.

    On a separate note, I appreciate your blog – specifically the humble approach you take to teaching. Thank you for sharing.


    1. Thank you, Philip! I really appreciate your thoughts. Upon reflection, I’m a little heavy on the “ideas” side of things, and need to work on the mechanics/conventions. It’s probably my fine arts background. However, I stress the “it’s about clear communication” to my students – I want them to be heard, respected, and understanding the pathways to clarity and articulation are essential. If I splice a comma or two, oh well. During a meeting today, a colleague told us that a high school student didn’t know how to spell “he.” And he thought “we” was spelled Wii. Transition and (de)-evolution of language? Perhaps.

      We carry on…


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