As a previous blog post announced, I’ll have a year’s worth of articles in an AQS publication spanning 2016. I am super excited, moreso for each of the interviewee’s and their charities in the articles than for myself.
There is definitely some anticipation on my end, though. And there is a story behind the articles…
When I was in high school, I was part of the “business office” students. Every school year, I had at least one (though usually two or three) different elective courses that prepared us for the big bad business world – as a secretary. LOL But I was good at it. In fact, in my junior year, I was awarded a certificate for typing 120 wpm and taking shorthand at 120 wpm. Both records at my high school.
One of my fellow students (I shall call her CF) was destined for greatness as a court reporter. Her dad had a very successful court reporting business and she was the chosen one to follow in his footsteps and eventually take over his business. She received good grades in our office classes but never could reach the great milestones that I did. But she was my closest competition and when I received my 120 wpm certificates, she received 110 wpm certificates.
Before the end of my junior year, someone (either a teacher, CF or even CF’s mother) thought it would be fun to knock my psyche down a peg via a ‘friendly’ competition. I have never understood why it was necessary. Here I was an orphan, currently living in my fourth foster home – separated from my siblings and extended family with little or no communication from a lot of them. I was the only foster child that school had seen, at that point. Very few friends. I was already a nobody in somebody’s world. Why was it necessary to take away the one thing I was good at? Why would a (supposed) adult think this was a good idea? Why is it that when someone is confident in their abilities that others need to raise the bar to an unattainable level? I’m still stymied at this whole concept.
CF’s dad brought in his stenotype machine. The teacher read the text of a letter at 120 wpm. While I took down her words via shorthand, CF’s dad used his stenotype machine to do the same. We both felt confident we got everything on paper that my teacher had read. We then, with our audience of peers, went to the typewriters to decipher our chicken scratches into a usable letter. I am not kidding when I say that CF’s dad had completed his letter before I even got the address and salutation typed on my letter. I’m sure you can guess which peer of mine laughed the loudest that day and then lobbed the most jokes at me for the remainder of our junior year of high school.
In my senior year of high school, CF’s mother (aka Teach F) was my English teacher. She taught English to all seniors, so I wasn’t in her class because it was my choice, it was the choice of the school powers-that-be. After learning all we needed to know for our first homework assignment, we had to write an essay using that knowledge. When the essays were graded and handed back to us, this was my grade:
And just like the year before, CF was in my class. She was one of the last students to leave the classroom, just so she could get in my face about her beautiful A grade vs. my pitiful F grade. And just as before, she never tired of teasing me about it…and sharing the hilarious story with our classmates.
Teach CF allowed me to re-do the paper and I was able to bring myself up to a passing grade but the humiliation had already made its mark. I also believed I was a horrible writer and shied away from as much essay writing as I could, for as long as I could.
I did get one last opportunity to laugh, though. I was ranked seventh in our high school graduating class, out of 200+ graduates…and well in front of CF. Except I didn’t laugh. And I didn’t tease. I was just humbled to be among the best and brightest of the KHS 1982 graduating class.
When it came time for college courses, English composition is a core class. It was back when I was in college and it remains the same at colleges now. It is advised to take it in your first year of college so you could put that knowledge to use to write essays in other classes thereafter.
I couldn’t do it. Because of that failed paper, I firmly believed I was incapable of writing an essay. If I had to write one for a class, I continued to follow the guidelines taught by Teach F, and did well on all of them, but the papers were for non-English professors.
When I was getting very close to my college graduation, I finally had to grin and bear it – English composition was required and I had to take it. No excuses. No fear of failure. Just sit down and learn how to write an essay correctly and pray I passed the class.
After we had finished learning what each paragraph of a basic essay was about, I noticed that it wasn’t any different than I had learned in my senior English class in high school. Which made me even more anxious because of that failed essay.
I was in a class with just about a dozen students (a summer session class) and all of them were either freshmen or sophomores. I was the lone senior signed up for that English composition class.
I have no clue what that first essay was about but I do recall our TA telling us that a title can make or break an essay. It needed to hook the reader and make them want to read the essay.
On the day the TA was to hand our graded papers back to us, she chose the best one to read aloud. No student name was mentioned before she started reading…and the papers weren’t given back to us until after she read that best essay aloud.
She hid the paper from us by putting a large book behind it so none of us could see who wrote the essay. But the minute she started reading the title, my face turned as red as a tomato and with my classmates all looking around the room (because they knew that title was not theirs). Then they noticed my embarrassment and knew exactly who wrote that essay. It wasn’t like high school, though. This time, they wanted to make plans to study with me so they could learn the way an essay was to be written. And the TA took note of me more, too. We sometimes visited after class or if we’d see each other on campus. I do remember I received a B on one of our essays but she was able to explain the grading of it and I knew exactly what I did wrong. Lesson learned. Never made the same mistake again and I cruised out of the previously feared English composition class with a solid A grade.
What was the title to my first essay, you ask?
Every single article and/or essay I have written since that fateful grade in high school has been dedicated to Teach F. She didn’t teach me how to write an essay. She taught me that by throwing her daughter’s competition under the bus, she could truly hurt a child while giving her own daughter a false sense of security (and this came to play in college for her daughter). A child who had already endured a whole lot of hurt in her 17 years of life. A student who never wanted to compete with anyone, especially her daughter. A student who just needed a break, needed compassion, needed understanding, needed to own something good in her life. Needed a teacher to be impartial. Needed to grow with positive reinforcement instead of the negative kind.
That former student (ME) who went on to write articles good enough for a few of essays in books, a large number of articles about working from home and a national quilt magazine – who will publish not just one but six of her articles.
P.S. This blog post is dedicated to Teach F.