A special situation exists when a subject seems not to agree with its predicate. For instance, when we want each student to see his or her counselor (and each student is assigned to only one counselor), but we want to avoid that "his or her" construction by pluralizing, do we say "Students must see their counselors " or "Students must see their counselor "? The singular counselor is necesssary to avoid the implication that students have more than one counselor apiece. Do we say "Many sons dislike their father or fathers "? We don't mean to suggest that the sons have more than one father, so we use the singular father. Theodore Bernstein, in Dos, Don'ts and Maybes of English Usage , says that "Idiomatically the noun applying to more than one person remains in the singular when (a) it represents a quality or thing possessed in common ("The audience's curiosity was aroused"); or (b) it is an abstraction ("The judges applied their reason to the problem"), or (c) it is a figurative word ("All ten children had a sweet tooth ") (203). Sometimes good sense will have to guide you. We might want to say "Puzzled, the children scratched their head" to avoid the image of multi-headed children, but "The audience rose to their foot" is plainly ridiculous and about to tip over.
Workshop 8. Planning and Professional Development
In order to grow in their careers, teachers need a great deal of sustenance. In this program, the teachers talk about the ways in which they fulfill this need as they develop individually and as members of a professional community. The group invites us into their classrooms to look at the way they have grown professionally, stimulated by their peers, their membership in professional organizations, and their willingness to seek out new thinking on literature and teaching literature. Dr. Langer also describes the personal and professional benefits of an active professional life. Go to this unit.