My earliest memory of discouragement happened when I was in 5th grade. I clearly remember having two teachers that year; one teacher I thought was amazing, while the other, I tried to avoid as much as I possibly could. Some might wonder how I remember these things; truth be told, I remember everything. In the moment in question, the 5th grade teacher whom I disliked called me to the front of the class and told me that I would be receiving a 0 on my book report simply because I had ignored the margin on one side. When I explained that I needed more room to write my thoughts, the teacher said that if whatever I had written went beyond the margin, then it wasn’t worth reading. This kind of discouragement followed me throughout my school years, and beyond.
Throughout my school years, I had a mixed bag of various teachers, though none of them were supportive nor disapproving of my writing. It was a period of time which was simply pass/fail, “rubber stamp” system.
In 11th grade, my high school English teacher would present my writing to the class as an example of crappy writing. Writing, that for whatever reason, was a perfect example of amphigory. So up until this point in my life, I had faced nothing but discouragement whenever it came to my writing. I don’t believe I will ever know if my teacher was using this discouragement to inspire me to improve my writing skills, or if he was simply trying to stifle my writing completely.
I sometimes wonder if my 11th grade English teacher ever bothered to read anything I wrote, or if he was just so taken with the idea that no matter what I wrote, it wasn’t anything special. At this point, it really makes little or no difference to me whatsoever; it’s wasteful and useless to ask such a moot question for which there will never be an definitive answer.
My 11th grade English teacher became so out of control that by the end of the school year, he was sending complaint letters to my parents on a somewhat regular basis, bashing my writing and threatening to fail me in his class because my writing, as far as he was concerned, was sub-par.
Eventually, copies of the letters, and samples of my writing reached the English Department Chairman, and I immediately secured a seat in highly coveted Honors English Class in my senior year of high school. It was in my senior year of High School, that I also secured a seat in the exclusive Independent Study Computer Class. These two small but important factors were instrumental in my early success and exposure in writing and designing on the Internet.
During my senior year, my English teacher encouraged me to write as much as I could, and as often as possible. During class, he would often go off on random tangents, talking about his college drug use, and participation in Vietnam War protests. On one occasion, he claimed to have traveled across the United States in a camper van with only his writing notebook, and two changes of clothing. Although he was often stuck in a much earlier time, his genius and passion was unquestionable. Many of the things I have accomplished as a writer were, without question, due to the respect and encouragement I received from my senior year English teacher.
In my senior year English class, I wrote many pieces; as well as some works of poetry. I learned early on that my best writing genre is non-fiction. There are often moments in my life which even the most skilled and spirited writer could never dream up. Those are the moments I remember, take copious notes about, and often document. There was one poem that I wrote titled, The Misunderstood Child. I submitted the poem as a weekly project in English class, and later that day, my teacher all but begged me to submit it to the annual poetry contest.
I was hesitant at first, fearing ridicule and rejection from my peers and of course my English teacher from the previous year. My senior year English teacher begged and pleaded with me to submit my poem, and knowing the circumstances, allowed submissions to be anonymous until a winner was declared. A week before graduation, it was announced at lunch time that I was the winner of the poetry contest. A week later, during my high school graduation ceremony, I was asked to read my poem, The Misunderstood Child in front of the entire school.
It was a defining moment for me; the first time I was ever asked to read something I had written to a large audience. The reaction was mixed, some laughed, others cried, though a few people came up to me afterwards to congratulate me on writing such an evocative piece. The following year I was a freshmen in college, and I developed a passion for writing and website design, though photography would later follow. To this day, I credit my senior year English teacher for inspiring me to write, regardless of other peoples thoughts or opinions.
The header image, Stand Here. was taken by meddygarnet on Flickr. If you wish to have your photography considered for use on this blog, please submit it to the TomSlatin.com Group on Flickr. This piece was inspired by a conversation I recently had with a friend who asked me if I had a degree in Liberal Arts, simply because my writing reflects that of a Graduate of Liberal Arts.
Ridiclous Humanities Writing Assignments | My High School English Teacher, The Lunatic Genius | Playful Beginnings: My Writing Career | The Misunderstood Child | Authors Answer 46 – Promoting with Blogs or Websites