Ok, here goes…
My slog through academia didn’t really include memorable writing instruction. It was more of a hit or miss proposition. I couldn’t tell why A papers were As or C papers were Cs. It all seemed like a hazy mystery determined by an instructor who may or may not have eaten that day. My experience is not unusual; however, there must have been someone from my past who contributed to my interest and love of writing.
It couldn’t be second grade teacher Sister Patricia Anne who when I crossed the two ts in my last name with one line, she continually pronounced it ScoSH (extra emphasis on the SHHHH) – rather than Scott. Nor could it possibly be from endless sentence diagrams that delighted Mrs. Timson. I still remember her smiling as she drew lines and angles that seemed to branch off into some sort of code decipherable only by the most stalwart grammarian. It certainly wasn’t Miss Bingaman. I stopped in her room after school because I didn’t understand a writing assignment; she just told me that everyone else in the class understood it. Well excuuuuuse ME! Her heavily frosted eyelids haunt me to this day.
That leaves my eighth grade English teacher, Mr. Collins. He wasn’t particularly inspiring, just memorable. He was about five feet tall, and about the same in width. Writing assignments were his forte. He simply announced to the class, “Tk a pc of ppr.” Just like that. The class knew his spoken shorthand – take a piece of paper. On this particular day, we were to write on our favorite childhood Christmas memory. His next word, and his last for about an eternity was “begin.” Christmas trees past paraded through my thoughts. The paper remained blank. The girl next to me was heading quickly down her first page in curly Q cursive (a specialty of Jr. High girls – I never got the hang of it). She was writing so fast, and it was really starting to make me mad. She turned her paper over with a thud and proceeded to fill a second page. I had better get busy.
I wrote about seeing the Nutcracker and how much I loved ballet. I think I managed to etch out two paragraphs, maybe three. Miss curly Q over there was on her fourth page. What the heck is she writing about? She wasn’t stopping. Mr. Collins yelled time and we turned in our papers. The next day to my shock I got 10/10, while curly Q got 6/10. There really is something to this quantity vs. quality thing. Mr. Collins recognized raw talent when he saw it.
True writing instruction is the culmination of all experiences as a student. When I grade your paper, I hope you keep an open mind and know that we’ve all been there. Many of us are still there.