Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A misspelling in the news

In Maryland, Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS, motto: “Expecting Excellence Everywhere”) has fired Katie Nash, a “web experience coordinator,” apparently for a reply to a student on Twitter. The exchange, from January 5, followed a forecast of a winter storm:

Student: close school tammarow PLEASE

Nash, writing as @FCPSMaryland: but then how would you learn how to spell "tomorrow"? :)
The student’s comment on Nash’s response, tweeted the next day: “i didn't take it like personaly.”

I have four thoughts:

1. Students are always hoping that school (or classes, if they’re in college) will be canceled. That’s a fact of educational life. I think it’s safe to say that a tweeted request to a school system to close up for the day is a cheeky, joking gesture. Replying with a degree of cheek is not necessarily inappropriate.

2. Nash’s response was meant to be cheeky and joking, not mean-spirited. The smiley makes that clear. Twitter is a medium that lends itself to jokes and banter (and, of course, to much else). Whether jokes and banter are appropriate in a school system’s communication with students is a good question. Tone can be tricky. Perhaps FCPS should develop guidelines (or clearer guidelines) for its use of social media.

3. Nash could have responded without acknowledging the misspelling. Using tamarrow or tacitly correcting the misspelling by writing tomorrow might itself have seemed sarcastic or mean-spirited. Instead, Nash corrected the mistake and offered a gentle reminder about the value of school: there are reasons to show up, kid; there’s stuff that you need to learn. The correction serves as a reminder, too, about how words represent a writer in social media.

4. Whatever one thinks about Nash’s response, it certainly doesn’t merit firing. A more reasonable response: “Ms. Nash meant no harm by her tweet. FCPS will be working to develop clear guidelines for our future use of social media.” End of story. Instead, Nash is the focus of two hashtags, #FreeKatie and #KatieFromFCPS.

Related reading
All OCA misspelling posts (Pinboard)

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