Disclaimer - I love reading, writing, spelling and all things associated with the written word!
Recently I have found myself wondering about the literacy levels in our profession. Countless social media posts and comments have led me to shake my head in disbelief.
"Hi everyone i waz wundering if u can tell me wear pacifically u got that puzzle?"
"Do other educators make children keep there shoes on outside? If they take them off do they loose them?"
These are made up examples based on similar questions/comments I find myself reading almost daily. These are not just typos (which happen to all of us!) or even just shorthand. These are blatant spelling and grammar mistakes and they are extremely prevalent in early childhood forums.
I have had friends share notes, newsletters and even portfolios from their child's centre with me and have been dismayed by the spelling and grammatical errors in them. The parents have often commented "and these people are educating my child?"
This post is not designed to shame or judge educators and I am well aware that there are brilliant educators out there with low literacy levels or English as a second language. The reason I make this point is that something needs to change. I have seen educators use the wrong "their/they're/there" on forums and when another educator has pointed it out, there has been calls of "how rude" and "that's unnecessary" but is it really? Correcting people on their spelling, pronunciation or grammar is often considered condescending, but surely as professionals we can take on some constructive feedback (particularly if it is delivered kindly!) in the way that we do in other areas of our practice? Often I have heard "it doesn't matter, she is a great educator" but I worry that if we don't support these educators to improve their skills, we are doing a disservice to our profession and to the children. While in the early childhood environment we do not directly "teach" children to write or spell, the writing that we do is important in this time where literacy skills are emerging.
I find myself wondering how we got here. Some may suggest that it is a result of a reliance on digital technologies and a decline in the handwritten word, but if that were true shouldn't the spelling and grammar used in notes, newsletters and portfolios be of a higher standard thanks to spellcheck? Is it purely "Facebook laziness", where people simply don't care about or pay attention to how or what they type? I wonder if students (both in school and tertiary education environments) are being taught to pass the exam/assessment/practicum as opposed to actually learning and retaining (yes, I realise that there are many amazing schools and tertiary environments!) I have had university students who are unable to differentiate between "their/there/they're" or 'your/you're" and write a full paragraph with no punctuation at all.
Whatever the reason - it needs to change. We need to support educators with low literacy levels to develop their skills to match the professionalism that they show in their practical work with children. We need to ensure that they have access to professional development, training and guidance. How this happens in your service is up to you, but I would suggest that directors review the written work of their educators and if issues are identified, discuss them confidentially and respectfully with the educator and come up with a plan together. Seek out services and resources via the Reading and Writing Hotline.
Let's stop saying "it doesn't matter" for fear of offending or upsetting. By raising the literacy levels of educators we will go a long way to raising the status of our profession.
By Nicole Halton
Providing inspirational professional development opportunities for Early Childhood Educators