5 reasons why you can’t count on school to teach your child how to write properly
- 1Tiger moms' efforts hide what's really happening in the classroom from teachers.
- 2There are NO specific standards for what children are supposed to know.
- 3Teachers don't know how to teach grammar. Not even English teachers with lots of ESL students are required to know how to teach grammar.
- 4Most of what is taught in English is irrelevant for 98% of students.
- 5Widespread grade inflation hides what's happening in the classroom from parents.
1. Tiger moms, not school, are responsible for high grades. Moms' efforts hide what's happening in the classroom from teachers.
I went to Teacher’s College at the University of Toronto when Ontario was ranked near the top of the world in academic achievement. In a special presentation, the professors showed us the true statistics behind these achievements. The students with the highest English scores in Ontario were those in Chinese, Korean, and Russian households! Native English speakers were in fourth place! Why? Tiger moms push their kids and arrange tutoring. It’s not the classroom teachers but the tiger moms who should take credit for these achievements!
2. There are NO specific standards for what children are supposed to know.
At Teacher’s College, we did peer marking exercises where the professor handed out essays for the teacher candidates to mark. Marks ranged from “As” to “Ds” for the same assignments. What’s worse, there was NO FOLLOW-UP even though many of the teacher candidates clearly had no idea what they were doing. They all graduated and went on to become YOUR CHILDREN’S TEACHERS.
3. Teachers don't know how to teach grammar. Not even English teachers with lots of ESL students are required to know how to teach grammar.
Even in Toronto, the most diverse city in the world after New York City, English teachers don’t need to know how to explain the rules of grammar. There is no such requirement and I can tell you from experience as a teacher trainer that very few teachers have any interest in learning these rules.
4. Most of what is taught in English is irrelevant for 98% of students.
In the United States, only about 40,000 out of 2 million students take English literature in university. The ratio is similar in Canada. That’s only 2% of students, but this is what elementary and high school English focuses on.
The problem with high school English courses is that they focus on essays about literature: plot development, characterization, and themes. However, only about 2% of students study English literature in university, so they are not well served by how English is taught in high school. 98% of students will never use the particular essay writing skills they pick up in high school English after they leave high school. What's worse is they will not have the writing skills they actually need for college or university.
5. Widespread grade inflation hides what's happening in the classroom from parents.
There are no standards for marking in English, and most teachers have no idea how to teach grammar. For these reasons, it is easier for a teacher to hand out an “A” than to give a lower mark and have students and parents bother them with questions about how to fix grammar problems.
One grade 12 student’s parents asked me to help him with his university application letter, a personal statement. What he’d written was barely coherent, jumping from idea to idea without any clear organization. I helped with the letter and then told the parents that their son needed help with fundamental writing skills, or he’d be in a lot of trouble the next year in university. The parents replied that he was getting a 90 in grade 12 English, so why should he bother getting tutoring?
In contrast, when I was in elementary and high school, almost NOBODY got over 80 in English. Your work had to be truly exceptional to merit an “A”. Today, “As” are common and meaningless. Universities and employers know this.
Note: Your child's grades are 100% determined by the classroom teacher. There is NO objective standard in Ontario.
A brief history of grade inflation in Ontario
According to research by Cote and Allahar:
- Until the 1960s: No more than 5% of students received an A. 30% received Bs. C was the average.
- 1967: Standardized exams were eliminated
- 1983: 38% of students admitted to university had an 80+% average.
- 1992: 44% of students admitted to university had an 80+% average.
- 1995: 53% of students admitted to university had an 80+% average. 9.4% had an A+ average.
- 2004: 61% of students admitted to university had an 80+% average. 14.9% had an A+ average.
- Since 2007: 90% of students in Ontario have a B average or higher.
The rubric system designed by the Ministry of Education in Ontario is DESIGNED TO INFLATE GRADES.
This is the rubric template for grades 9-12 English from the Ministry of Education website.
Do you notice what the lowest grade option is? That's right! There's nothing under Level I performance, so the lowest grade is 50% on this rubric.
This is also how we were taught to design rubrics in Teacher's College at the University of Toronto. We were told that we could have a <50% column, which is how I design rubrics for my courses, but I have NEVER seen another teacher include a <50% column. No professor at Teacher's College ever did either.
While teachers are allowed to assign grades below 50%, they almost never do. As you can see from the rubric template that teachers are taught to use, the design of the rubric deliberately hides this option. This is NOT an accident.
Parents KNOW that something's not right...
I see this all the time: parents are suspicious of their children’s high grades in English, and rightfully so. Many students who join my program are “A” students in English, but their writing is full of grammar mistakes and it’s not well organized. The reason is simple: it is easier to give your child an “A” than it is to teach them how to write properly.
A student who joined my class recently had gotten 97% in grade 9 English, yet the writing she showed me had many grammar problems and was difficult to follow in places. I asked her how it was possible to get 97% in English with such problems. She replied that she knows that she has lots of grammar problems and she had asked her teacher for help. However, her teacher replied that in her class, “we only focus on big ideas – we don’t worry about little things like grammar.”
There’s school, and then there’s the real world:
Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2012/07/i-wont-hire-people-who-use-poo
I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why.
Grammar is relevant for all companies…. Good grammar is credibility, especially on the internet. In blog posts, on Facebook statuses, in e-mails, and on company websites, your words are all you have. They are a projection of you in your physical absence. And, for better or worse, people judge you if you can’t tell the difference between their, there, and they’re.
Grammar signifies more than just a person’s ability to remember high school English. I’ve found that people who make fewer mistakes on a grammar test also make fewer mistakes when they are doing something completely unrelated to writing — like stocking shelves or labeling parts.
In the same vein, programmers who pay attention to how they construct written language also tend to pay a lot more attention to how they code. You see, at its core, code is prose. Great programmers are more than just code monkeys; according to Stanford programming legend Donald Knuth they are “essayists who work with traditional aesthetic and literary forms.” The point: programming should be easily understood by real human beings — not just computers.
And just like good writing and good grammar, when it comes to programming, the devil’s in the details. In fact, when it comes to my whole business, details are everything.
I hire people who care about those details. Applicants who don’t think writing is important are likely to think lots of other (important) things also aren’t important. And I guarantee that even if other companies aren’t issuing grammar tests, they pay attention to sloppy mistakes on résumés. After all, sloppy is as sloppy does.
That’s why I grammar test people who walk in the door looking for a job. Grammar is my litmus test. All applicants say they’re detail-oriented; I just make my employees prove it.
Founder of AEM Academy
Don't worry: Good writers are made, not born
Despite attending one of Canada's most elite high schools, and despite being a passionate creative writer, I struggled to get good grades in university until I learned the secrets of academic essay writing.
When I went to university, I struggled. Even though I was a good writer, I earned mediocre grades on most assignments. This was a shock to me as I had even taken three English credits in my final year of high school. Moreover, I was a passionate reader and writer: I spent hours every day reading classical English literature and writing short stories and essays. However, when I got to university, the feedback I often got on my essays was…
Overall, this is very well written, but it’s not written in the right format. Your thesis is not stated properly and it isn’t clear how all parts of your essay are related to the prompt.
The worst part was that I couldn’t figure out what the professors were looking for, and THEY COULDN’T EXPLAIN IT TO ME EITHER! When I spoke with their teaching assistants, they were also of little help and sent me to the university’s writing centre, where students that were only slightly older than me proved to be completely useless. I was frustrated and depressed.
The situation only changed in 3rd year university when I signed up for a brutally hard Philosophy of Western Civilization class. In detail, we learned about the history of western thought and argumentation, and finally all the pieces fit together! Eureka! I understood EXACTLY what was expected of students in university classes and started getting “As” on my essays.
However, I wasn’t getting “As” because my ideas were brilliant. I was getting “As” because I was giving professors EXACTLY WHAT THEY EXPECTED of me in an easy-to-read format that they could skim. As one professor said, you can argue that the moon is made of cheese as long as you follow the right format.
At that point, I felt liked I’d climbed to the top of Mount Everest, but I couldn’t believe how difficult the journey had been. I’d attended one of the top high schools in the country, St. Michael’s College School, and I’d finished three years’ worth of university classes in Psychology and Political Science, but no one had been able to explain, in simple terms, how to write an essay, yet this was the writing format of nearly every assignment! I had a new mission in life: instead of going into counselling or politics (I was doing a double major in Psychology and Political Science), I decided to go into teaching and share what I knew about academic writing.
This journey to teach academic writing skills began in 2000 when I started as a peer tutor at York University. I loved explaining how to write an essay and then seeing people’s grades shoot up just as mine had shot up after I finally understood the writing conventions expected of me by my teachers. I found work tutoring teenagers and children and then taught ESL after graduating from York University. In 2005, I moved to China for two academic years where I taught English and Business English at Henan Agricultural University. Shortly after I came back to Canada in 2007, I got my TESL Ontario certification, which allowed me to teach LINC (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada) courses funded by the Ministry of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada. Then I completed teacher training at the University of Toronto, where I was certified to teach intermediate and secondary grades.
Since 2007, I have been working non-stop to help newcomers to Canada improve their language skills. As a result, my students have achieved extraordinary results in elementary school, high school, university, and in their careers.
- As a corporate trainer, I have helped accountants, IT engineers, administrators, scientists, and MBAs improve their speaking and writing skills. Many have been promoted as a direct result of their training.
- I have worked long term with graduate students to improve their writing skills to native speaker levels so they can publish professionally.
- I have worked with many elementary and high school students whose parents were determined that they should write flawlessly.
- As an IELTS trainer (I’m also a former IELTS examiner), I have helped high school students, graduates from foreign universities, and professionals get the scores they need on the IELTS examination for PR, professional language requirements, and college and university admission.
- As a high school teacher, I’ve been teaching grade 12 English and Writer’s Craft since 2013, helping hundreds of ESL students prepare for the toughest programs in university.
AEM (Academic English Mastery) is a program that brings together everything I have learned to help your child achieve extraordinary results in school and professionally.
The world is flooded with people who have outstanding technical skills: employers receive hundreds of applications for every opening. For that reason, the most powerful way to distinguish yourself and surpass your peers is through your communication skills. I have seen this repeatedly as a corporate trainer: talented engineers, programmers, and scientists are stuck in technical positions because their managers won’t let them communicate directly with clients due to their grammar problems in writing. You can't get into management without exceptional communication skills because managers spend a large portion of their day writing emails and directing employees. Learning to write well, without grammar mistakes, is the key that unlocks the door to positions of leadership.
20+ Years of Experience Helping Students Achieve Extraordinary Results
It's not magic. We use a systematic approach to teach kids the fundamental writing skills that will turn them into effective writers, and help them raise their grades IN EVERY CLASS. Remember, in Ontario, communication accounts for 25% of the grade in most classes (and only slightly less in math and science)!
When you master fundamental writing skills, writing becomes a pleasure and a source of pride!
This skill-building course focuses on fundamental writing skills that make the most difference. Until you master these skills, writing will always be a confusing, anxiety-provoking chore. After you master these skills, writing becomes a source of pride!
Hello Sir, I am excited to tell you that I got 94% for grade 10 English. I just received the marks and I want to thank you for teaching me English and helping me improve. I never thought I would get 94% and I am extremely happy with my marks. I got this mark thanks to you Sir, so thank you again, Mr. Jan!
Grade 11 student in Mississauga
My writing has greatly improved since I started learning from Mr. Waginski. He taught me how to properly structure my essays and improved my sentence structure.
Michael from Toronto just graduated from UCLA is now working at Microsoft.
Jan not only helped me refine my essays; he also changed the way I write. I owe him so much!
After completing his PhD at Rotman School of Business at University of Toronto, Jaewoo is now a professor at a prestigious Korean university.
I am just sending a message because I thought about you when I got an offer from Ryerson University. I really want to say thank you! All of this could happen because of your kindness and help. It did give me a strength to live in Canada… It’s really hard to contain my appreciation to you in a text but I am trying to ha ha. I was really afraid of confronting different people but your support helped me to overcome it. So thank you again
MJ from Markham was just accepted to Mechanical Engineering at Ryerson University.
I am writing to share my latest IELTS result with you. I got band 7 in writing and 6.5 in Speaking. I am very excited to see my improvements. I’ve learned so much from you and I will keep learning English in my daily life. Thanks for every thing you have done for me!
Mango from Hong Kong now has the Band 7.5 overall she needs for a Master’s program at University of British Columbia.
I want to thank you for all your help and support for the last four months!
University of Toronto and Ryerson accepted this results. If you don’t mind, I would like to continue attending your class online to keep improving my writing.
Rama from Toronto just got the Band 7 she needs to study Architecture at University of Toronto or Ryerson.
How do our students get these results? They focus on the fundamentals:
Non-fiction essay writing: Students master the standard model of essay writing required for ALL university courses.
Complex sentence mastery (our secret sauce): Students make their writing more engaging by learning a wide variety of sentence structures and how to assemble them like Legos.
"Visible" writing: Most student writing is vague and abstract. Students learn how to add specific details and vivid descriptions to make their writing come to life
Critical and creative thinking: Powerful thinking tools including integrative and lateral thinking help students see problems in new ways and generate unique ideas.
Writing as a process: Students master the process approach to writing used by professional writers: brainstorming, research, organizing, outlining.
Memory and learning skills: Students radically improve their memory and learning skills. The techniques are easy and fun, can be applied immediately in every class, and massively raise kids' confidence in their learning skills.
Our students also write a lot because learning to write requires LOTS of writing and feedback
School is NOT equipped to provide this level of support, and without this level of support, students CANNOT reach their potential.
100% Satisfaction Guarantee
You are fully protected by our 100% Satisfaction Guarantee. If you aren't happy with the program for any reason, just let us know and we'll send you a prompt refund for the entire month, even if it's after the last class of the month.
Start with a free evaluation of your child's writing. Get in touch for a free writing evaluation and planning session for academic success in writing.
Use the form below or call 416-822-2637.
Send me (Jan) a message describing the typical issues your child faces with writing. You can include a recent writing sample with or without teacher feedback (please include the OneDrive, DropBox, or Google Drive link), or I can provide an appropriate prompt. Within 24 hours, we'll set up a telephone or Zoom call where we'll go over your child's writing in depth and talk about how to help your child get far ahead in writing.