I just received an excellent question about proper first-person pronoun usage. The issue is tough to resolve because sometimes grammatical correctness takes a back seat to common usage, and rightly so. Now, on to the question:
I am a teacher in South Africa and recently found a worksheet with the heading “Me and My Environment”. Is this heading grammatically correct and would it be appropriate to hand out to the children (I don’t want parents turning around and complaining)
Let’s start with the easier part of the question:
Is “Me and My Environment” grammatically correct?
The short answer is no. It’s not grammatically correct, in the most prescriptive sense of the term. Consider, though, another expression that technically isn’t correct: “Woe is me.” Would anyone in her right mind argue that the expression should be “Woe is I”? Of course not. In fact, Patricia O’Connor has written a book called Woe Is I that addresses a number of grammar issues that perhaps concern people a little too much. Another common expression, “Me and my big mouth!” would sound ridiculous in the grammatically correct form: “My big mouth and I!”
Would it be appropriate to hand out to the children
Only you can determine what is appropriate for your classroom in this regard. However, I can give you some suggestions based on what I might do in the same situation.
If you are an elementary school teacher responsible for instructing students in English as well as environmental science, you could use the handout’s title as an opportunity to teach a “mini-lesson” on pronoun use and see if they can rewrite it to be more proper. You could ask students to consider differences between colloquial English and formal English—or ask them to think about differences between the way people talk and the way people write. Sometimes it just helps to get children to think about the language and play with it a little.
I’m very interested to hear how you ultimately handle the situation. I hope you will find the time to post a comment and let us know what decision you made and how it went.
One more note: While I understand the fear of parental complaint, my experience has been that it’s nearly unavoidable. Some parents seem predisposed to pick a fight, even on the shakiest of grounds. Remember that you are the expert. Have confidence in the decisions you make for your classroom. But also be willing to admit a mistake. Your integrity and honesty will go a long way in disarming those who try to bully you.