Don't let the ink run dry over apostrophes

IS anyone else concerned with the waywardness with which the young and old alike apply apostrophes? I go through a vat of red ink a year deleting or replacing this tiniest of language components. What can be done?

KINGSLEY Amis called this phenomenon the "greengrocer's apostrophe", where a plural is confused with a possessive, as in "apple's". The Blairite dream of re-skilling the workforce must not exclude those who ply their trade in the market. In the meantime, I would make time to address some of the basic rules of grammar, regardless of what subject you teach. Marking will be less onerous and you will be doing your bit for key skills.

Stress of teaching is driving me to drink

I AM drinking a lot, not the sort of social drinking portrayed in the BBC's Teachers, but private drinking both at work and at home. I am aware of this problem getting worse, but cannot bring myself to do anything about it. I do not believe I am an alcoholic, just very stressed out by work and in need of something to take off the edge. My job is simply consuming me.

HEAVY drinking within the teaching profession is an increasing problem that has yet to be properly addressed. Firstly, without alluding to the drinking, speak to someone about your workload and the detrimental affect that it is having on your life. Also talk confidentially to a professional about the drinking. If you are surreptitiously drinking at work then you must get some help from others who have had similar experiences, and this might mean attending Alcoholics Anonymous.

Union should butt out of Middle East

AS a British Jew and lecturer, I am disgusted by my union's stance against Israel. In the UK, particularly from those on the left, we are always criticising others, above all the USA for interfering in the political matters of other countries; and yet here is a teaching union that has decided to take sides with the Palestinians. I do not remember lecturers'

union NATFHE taking up the plight of the people of Tibet, or East Timor, so why the Arabs? Would you not agree that NATFHE should be concerning itself with issues closer to home and stay out of what it does not understand.

YES, it is inappropriate for a teaching union to take a stance on the situation in the Middle East. There are enough problems at home for Paul Mackney to concentrate his efforts on, problems to do with education. Given the multiculturalism of FE staff and students, it would be best to avoid any policy that might cause further division.

Liaison leaves staff hot under the collar

I AM in a difficult position concerning the behaviour of two male colleagues. It has been brought to my attention on more than one occasion, and as their line manager I now feel that I must address it. Their nascent relationship is being conducted rather too openly in the staffroom. Any thoughts on this?

I WOULD spell out the fact that the staffroom is supposed to be a place of sanctuary where colleagues can feel comfortable - and not an appropriate place for a quick snog. Be quite clear that the issue has nothing to do with their sexuality. By censuring their conduct you are open to allegations of prejudice, so have a supportive colleague witness the proceedings and keep a record of what is said.

Teach them to tell us in their own words

WHY isn't more being done to combat plagiarism? Every year students succeed in further education largely as a result of having inadvertently or deliberately transcribed other people's work to support their own. In my experience, the problem is so bad that staff simply choose to ignore it. What can be done?

PLAGIARISM should be a word that every student knows, but they do not. Many students are unable to paraphrase, having never been taught to do so, and therefore plagiarise text because they do not have the skills to put text into their own words. Incorporating quotations and referencing to support arguments is equally difficult for them. The issue must be seriously raised at the highest level if FE is to remain credible, and young and old must be taught the skills required to produce original work.

Your future lies in your own hands

AS a support worker with students with severe learning difficulties, I find my job often involves a hands-on approach. I am a loving and tactile individual who thinks nothing of putting my arms around a student, whether I am comforting them or simply showing my affection. My team has recently been told to desist from touching students in any way for fear that our actions might be misconstrued. Are we really entering an age when teaching becomes so cold?

A STORY recently covered in this paper charted the appalling experience of a teacher accused of sexually molesting a child. If that wasn't enough to put you off teaching, it was certainly an incentive to teach at barge-pole length, although how many of us can actually do that remains to be seen. Such is the sexual crisis enveloping this country that "hands off" is the order of the day.

Questions to: shortbuttall@hotmail.com

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