So what if I can't spell? I'm still a good teacher

16th May 2014 at 01:00

I am not a good speller. It's embarrassing but I have learned to turn it to my advantage.

First off, I always give one student a dictionary, and when I am unsure of a word I get them to check it for me. If an error does sneak in, I explain that I will write the word out 10 times so that I remember it and say that they should do these things, too, and check the work of their classmates to spot errors. We should all be ready to help each other to improve.

This approach has an enormous impact on the students who have problems with writing and spelling. Seeing that the teacher struggles with spelling but has a successful career is vital for building their aspirations. Similarly, seeing me constantly working to improve my skills makes them want to get better and reduces embarrassment about their issues.

I am not suggesting that teachers should pretend not to be able to spell. What I am asking for is acceptance that lacking this particular ability does not make you a bad teacher - provided that you recognise errors, check when you are unsure of a word and work to fix your mistakes.

I mention this because a senior manager at my school is on a one-woman mission to get me out of teaching. She comes into my classes constantly and reads every written word in the room seeking out errors. If she dealt with this in a professional way, it would be welcome. But instead she ridicules me in front of my class if she finds a mistake on the board, despite the fact that we are usually in the process of correcting it as a class. Afterwards, she tells me that I am failing the children.

It is really getting me down and making me doubt myself. Even more so because I know that many, if not the majority, of teachers would agree with her. But should teaching only be open to those with a perfect grasp of spelling? And if so, how good do you have to be at it - should the profession be closed to all except English literature graduates?

I hope not - I love teaching and I truly believe my spelling issues do not have a negative effect on my class. In fact, they bring benefits.

The writer is a primary school teacher in the East of England

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Email jon.severs@tes.co.uk

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