Friday, February 19, 2010

Stop me before I blurt

Okay, I admit it. I blurted again. I'm a regular blurter, constitutionally speaking.
I went to a department workshop at which a nice young fellow from CSUF discussed a class he teaches to writing teachers. Most of them are secondary English teachers, but now the program is being extended to some community colleges, though none have bitten as of yet. I don't think I have two or three whole days, most during the week, to spend at such a workshop, but it was interesting all the same to discuss the process of teaching writing. As usual, I got some clever new ideas and some inspiration.
But the blurting part came when the speaker admitted that when he was in high school, and wrote a paper (was it for English or for history? I don't know, but the teacher was named Mrs. Walls), the teacher gave him an A- but wrote at the top, "Very good, but who helped you with it?"
He found this devastating, and spent years searching for her, to prove to her, PhD in hand, that he had done it himself. But this spurred me to root in the cellar of my own seedy background and unearth something similar... . I told him, and the assembled crowd, that when I was in 8th grade, my English teacher, whose name I do not now recall, though I do see his moody, dark browed face before me as I write, I turned in an essay, only to have it returned with this missive: "You are too stupid to have written this!" with an F. There was no way I could convince him, not with the ballads I wrote for the class, in which we studied poetry. I recited "Patterns," by Amy Lowell, as I recall. Not with classroom discussion. I must have failed that class, for he insisted I could not have done the work I did.
I failed my way through school till my senior year, when the school relented and allowed me to take AP English. My math disability and problems with organization and untidiness had convinced the public school system in Philadelphia that I was not worth bothering with--not impaired enough for special education, and not outstanding enough to salvage.
College was the first time I was actually recognized officially as being promising. What a mercy.


Lou said...

I'm not sure why you feel that you "blurted," but sharing your experiences seems appropriate in a setting like this workshop.

Robbi said...

I have learned that despite this seeming appropriateness of context, people generally don't want to hear my sad stories. Unless I know them really well or am writing the stories down, I have learned to try not to tell them.