30 September 2013
Literacy in a Nutshell
There I was, sitting in class junior year of high school, not really listening to a word that was said. I was more captivated on the horrific long skirt my teacher wore with the unattractive floral patterns; her T-shirt that didn’t even look like it belonged with a skirt, and her terrible shoes that unfortunately reminded me of Crocs. She wore her hair up in a tight bun, which matched her personality quite well. While picking apart her attire, I wondered why SAT’s mattered in the first place and why I suddenly didn’t have a taste for writing anymore.
She wanted us to write essays in a certain way, prepping us for SAT’s or other standardized tests. I had passed in a paper that I thought had an excellent, different, and unique way about it. However, when I got it back, it turned out my prediction was wrong. I received a rather red paper with ugly meaningless marks that I didn’t understand. She had crossed out my entire introduction and a bunch of my thoughts on the particular subject that I had found rather interesting. On the top it read in scarlet: See me after class.
When I stayed after class, she explained to me that she has a certain way and style of writing that she teaches, and that her way was the right way, and my way of writing was wrong. She rewrote everything in her own words and told me exactly how it should be done. She told me to use her intro and conclusion verbatim. Discouraged but motivated, and also a bit infuriated, I followed her instructions and turned in the paper exactly how she told me to write it.
A week later, to my surprise, I had received a C even though she told me exactly what to write and where to put it and why. I couldn’t comprehend how this could be possible. I wasn’t used to getting anything below a B minus. I confronted her after class the day I got my essay back so that I could ask her why I had gotten such a low grade. She tried to explain to me that what I had written was still the wrong way. I wondered if she had even read it. She told me that I could use her words, and even when I did I was still wrong. It didn’t make sense. I wondered if anything ever made sense.
The same exact thing happened for the next essay, and the next. She did this to almost every student in the class as well. I hated getting C’s when my normal grades would be A’s and B’s. I hated her for telling me that I was wrong every time. I hated the way she talked. I hated the way she dressed. I wished I didn’t have to have her class anymore, so I changed my honors level class to a regular level class, which forced me to change my teacher.
At the time I didn’t realize it, but looking back now, this bad experience made me have an extreme change in the way that I viewed writing. I used to keep a journal but I ran out of time. High school was a busy time for me. Here was my life in a nutshell: School, then sports, then work, then sleep. I barely had time for homework, so how could I continue to keep a journal? These are all excuses. If I actually wanted to keep journaling and writing, I could have found the time.
I used to love writing. I probably slowly stopped writing on my own because a lot of the writing and essays in high school was so incredibly painful, and I sometimes question why we were taught to write in such specific ways, and so formally. I felt that my writing probably got worse during high school rather than better. Reading novels that are so descriptive and pleasurable to read made me want to be a great writer, but instead it was the same format, boring topics, and so formal. I used to want to write a book someday if I ever got better than my teenage writing.
Looking back on my really early years, way before my unfortunate experiences from high school, I remember being taught how to say the alphabet by singing my ABC’s. I mean, everyone knows that song, right? Turns out not everybody knew how to read when I learned. My mother and father…