Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #48
My second breakthrough moment came in 9th grade English. That year we had a new teacher, Mrs. Christianson.
Whenever we had read stories in previous English classes, we usually got to answer the questions at the end of the story.
Mrs. Christianson did something different. We read a short horror story and she gave us creative options as an assessment. The one I chose to do involved writing an ending to the story.
I went home and worked all evening on it. It was so much fun.
I didn’t quite realize it at the time, but I was doing homework (a first for me back then) and I was loving every second of it.
You see, prior to this I had devoured every Stephen King novel and other horror book I could get my hands on via our library and the inner-library loan system (oh, what I wouldn’t have given to have had access to Amazon back in the day).
So this assignment hit a sweet spot for me - it combined my love for all things horrific and another love of mine, writing.
When we turned in the assignment the next day, Mrs. Christianson said over the weekend she’d read them all and then read her three favorite ones on Monday.
I was horrified. What if she read mine? I hadn’t done anything worthy of recognition for quite some time. Secretly, though, I so wanted her to read mine and like and read it.
Monday finally rolled around and she began reading the first one. Not mine. I judged it okay but totally not horrific or even gross. If Mrs. Christianson liked that one, there was no way she was going to like mine, which was quite gruesome.
The next paper she read wasn’t mine either. Worse, it was even less horrific than the first.
I had given up all hope when Mrs. Christianson pulled out the last example and explained to this class, “Now this one was my personal favorite. I read it last because it was the longest. I read it late Saturday night. This one actually spooked me a little when I read it. Let this be an example to all of you how to write and write vividly and well.”
Well, there is no way this one is going to be mine . . .
Then in the single greatest moment of my schooling up until then, Mrs. Christianson began to read my words.
I don’t remember much after that as I became light headed and woozy.
When she finished she walked right to my desk and handed me my paper. Best of all, there were comments scribbled all over it. That was another first. I couldn’t wait to read her thoughts on my writing, so much so that I didn’t even care what the score was! The point was she liked what I had written (I mean it even spooked her!) and she had commented on it!
I still have that paper in my desk.
Mrs. Christianson was the first to connect my love for reading horror and writing to the work we did in school. That changed my life. As soon as I looked at those comments on my paper, I had these thoughts: I want to do this for a living. I want to make students feel like I do. I want to show them how awesome literature, reading, and writing are. I want to be a teacher.
My path was set!