Learning to Love English

October 15, 2010 at 8:32 am 3 comments

During my sophomore year of high school I wrote an essay that not only changed my view of English class, but helped me find my voice. In most teachers’ opinions I was not a very good writer, let alone a great one. I was the girl who wrote a good story, but because I could not spell or use correct phrasing I would only get a “B” on assignments. Not to mention, I hated being assigned a 25 page chapter to read on the significance of semi-colons.

Nevertheless, I loved to read. I would devour books like they were fruit from a tree of everlasting life. I would read anything that seemed to be at least semi interesting. I was so advanced that in the fourth grade; I was reading books at a seventh grade level.

Unfortunately, my school’s library was not very big. By the time I was in fifth grade I had already read all of the books for my age group. So, I resorted back to children’s books. In the morning I would go to the library and get two books, and by the time I finished lunch I would be back on our class list to go back. This went on all throughout elementary school. Before I knew it I was in Jr. High, and nothing had improved. It had just gotten worse!

Essays were longer and every grammar error was like committing murder according to the teacher. I remember one time in seventh grade, I was so proud of the summary I wrote on a story that we had read in class; we had to write about what certain things symbolized and our opinions about the story. When my paper got passed back the next day it was covered in red ink. My teacher had even stapled another piece of paper to the back of it. She wrote that I needed to go back to elementary school to learn to spell, and asked if I even read the same story.

It was at that moment that I gave up. I let go of any dreams I had of becoming an author, writing a book, or even passing a spelling test. I stumbled through the rest of that year not expecting anything different from the years to come.

Eighth grade, unlike seventh, flew by, but not because of the ease that came with it. No, there was no ease at all; I was struggling a lot at school; mainly due to the fact that I had a nervous breakdown. That year was full of mental hospitals, depression medicine, and late night trips to the emergency room. I owe making through that horrible year to my grandmother. She was my rock, the only one who really believed in me. For some reason she knew just what to do, when to call, or when to visit. I still have no clue how she knew, but I made it through that summer.

I was now a freshman in high school. I decided to start fresh. I would do anything in my power to get straight “A’s”, and show everyone who thought that I would fail how wrong they were. School was absolutely great; at least until the end of March. My grandmother, who had been perfectly healthy, slipped into a coma. When she finally awoke, she would improve for a while then days later she would crash. As a result I stopped excelling in class. In a few weeks time I went from an “A” student to a “D” at most. Only weeks after school ended, we buried my grandmother. I thought my life was over.

Eventually, school started again. As a sophomore I did o.k. Grades were “B’s”, except for Biology and Geometry, “F’s”. I had a really hard time even getting out of bed, but somehow I did. About six weeks into sophomore English, our first essay began. We were to write a personal narrative. I remember trying to find a topic. My teacher told us to choose something we overcame, and that we learned from. I felt like anything I went through I did not overcome, especially lately. After a week of struggling, and uncertainty, my paper was finished. It was funny, something that I needed. I figured the teacher would read it, say it was a joke, and slap an “F” on it. But, I did not care.
When the teacher handed back our papers the following week, I was surprised to only get a posit note that said to see the teacher at lunch time. “Oh, Great”, I thought, “I got a zero and she doesn’t want me in her class anymore!”

At the lunch bell I stayed in my seat until everyone had left for the cafeteria. I got up and slowly walked to the teacher’s desk. To my absolute surprise, she told me how she absolutely loved my story. She insisted that it was one of the best she ever read from one of her students. She told me how proud she was that I was in her class, and that I had some grand future ahead of me. She was the first teacher that truly believed in me

Before the year’s end I entered my story in Ohio Beta convention and won first runner-up. I also had a poem published in the young defenders section of our county newspaper. I also started to see a bright future ahead of me, something I had not seen in a long time.

It is still so surreal how an essay I wrote in high school changed how I thought so drastically. I say that it helped me find my voice, but it did so much more, it helped me find my path. I learned not to give up on myself and that my opinion of me is so much more important than anyone in the worlds.
(P.S. – Thank you Ms. Little!!!)




Entry filed under: Finding Your Voice, My Voice, Public Reading, public speaking, Reflecting on Experience, storytelling.

organizing your speech “Oh How the Nerves Kicked In”

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Shawn H  |  October 18, 2010 at 9:09 am

    Spelling is a very important issue. It not only makes something easier to read, it also makes the writer seem intelligent. Let me ask you a few questions. Would you want a surgeon operating on you that could not spell simple words correctly? Computers are great tools and spell check is a great feature, but it should not be substituted for the human brain.

    • 2. Candee Basford  |  October 20, 2010 at 8:30 am

      I’ve never asked my surgeon if he could spell – nor have I asked my mechanic, my dentist, my professor, my carpenter, my neighbor or anyone else for that matter. Why? Because spelling it not a measure of ability, potential or intelligence. Spelling is related to ….well, spelling.

      However, people who judge spelling errors and grammar have convinced many potential writers to give up, as Brittany almost did. That’s a shame. Even some of our most successful authors couldn’t spell but they managed to plow through the imposed stigma. Authors like William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway.

      So, I’ll add my thanks to Ms. Little.


      • 3. Brittany Harmon  |  October 20, 2010 at 1:20 pm

        Thank you

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