My First

I was seven years old when my second grade teacher assigned us the writing project that completely altered the course my life would take. We’d just finished reading one of those Farmer Brown’s Barnyard books. My teacher told us that we had to write an extended ending, and then promptly plopped down into the chair behind her desk and opened a book of her own to read.

The book’s story line is fuzzy to me now, but I remember that I enjoyed it. I always have been an avid reader, and even back in early elementary school, I jumped at the chance to get my hands on a new book. Writing, though… that was different. I’m sure we did some little assignments where we pasted a couple of sentences that were packed full of misspellings and grammatical errors onto a poorly drawn picture, but I can’t remember any of the specifics. That day, though, I decided that I was going to try my hardest to write an ending that would do such a great book justice.

Finally, after working almost the entire class on my ending, I turned in three full pages of writing. I imagine that there was a gigantic smile pasted on my face, since just thinking about that day makes me grin like mad.

It was probably several days before we got our papers back, but for some reason, my mind is telling me that it was only a matter of minutes. Obviously, some of this memory is skewed, but I guess that’s to be expected from a memory nine years old.

When my teacher handed me back my paper, she smiled and bent down to whisper, “Yours was the longest. I liked it the best, but don’t tell anyone else.”

I assured her that I’d keep it a secret before turning back to the paper in front of me that had a gigantic red ‘A’ slapped on the top, along with a stamped-on smiley face. I then proceeded to parade around the room, bragging to every one of my classmates that mine was longer than theirs. I’ve never really been very modest, and thinking back on my behavior that day, I’m reminded what a bratty child I was. That’s irrelevant, though.

Honestly, I’m not sure what set that assignment apart from all the others that I’m sure I had to do. What I do know is that it was the beginning of my life as a writer. Since that assignment, I’ve written dozens of short stories and started at least that many books. Every day, I continue to grow as a writer.

It kind of makes me wonder, if I’d never received that writing assignment, would I still be considering pursuing a career in writing today? Would I still devote hours upon hours of my life to writing and rewriting the things that my imagination conjures? Would I still dream about one day publishing a book? Would my computer hard drive still be overloaded with unfinished stories?

19 thoughts on “My First

  1. Near the end of my teaching career my 11th graders(except for college bound)were 2-5 years behind reading level. The new paradigm was that every teacher is a reading and writing teacher. If they learned a little history, well that was a by-product. I’d post some kind of strange pic from a mag on the board and they had to write three short paragraphs: 1. what is going on? 2. how did it come about ? and 3. how will it end ?Then as they were doing other class work over the next several days , I called them up one at a time for word by word edit and then rewrite. Sometimes 2 or 3 times because could not edit all errors in first review, so it became a process of purification, if you will.

    Now this mean old teacher (me) would give Ashley an F and send her back to her seat. I said three paragraphs, not three pages. The lesson of “the student will understand and follow written and oral directions” is more important than history or mechanics. Apparently the teacher left what you would do open ended, so if that were the case I would correct the first page with you. Length was the issue because I had the efforts of 37 others to review.

    You may consider volunteering as a mentor at an elementary school to work with little ones doing this as volunteer service. It gives you writing awareness training for writing children’s books and looks very impressive on that resume for college as well as award possibilities. In Miami, high schools start at 7:30 and end at 2:30 and elementary is from 9:30 to 4:30 , so one could do that before or after high school day.

    • That’s a really great idea. I’m not the greatest with kids, but it’s definitely something to consider.

      The only issue is that where I go to school, the high school, middle school, and elementary school all run 8-3. I am going to be a teaching assistant next year, and it’s pretty likely that I’ll get the opportunity to exactly what you’re suggesting.

  2. I LOVE teachers like this. Thanks for sharing this story.

    I also got into writing because of a teacher. She assigned us a project to write our own book. She also had it bound for us and wrote us congratulation notes on finishing our book. I was very proud of it. It makes me laugh to read it now. I feel sad for people like my little sister because none of her English teachers ever did any fun writing assignments so of course she hates to write anything.

    • Oh, I wish I’d gotten to do something like that in elementary!
      I know what you mean. I’m not that old still, but it seems like as soon as I left elementary school, everything changed. Glad I was one of the people who lucked out, though. 🙂

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  5. I’m sure you’d still be the writer you are today without it, because if it wasn’t that assignment it might have been another. But I have heard stories of writer’s being squashed as kids, told that their writing is terrible, and it’d be hard to overcome that.

    • Yeah, that’s true.

      I guess I lucked out there. Nobody’s ever told me my writing was terrible. I’m not sure I would’ve been able to move past that. Words influence me more than anything.

  6. Teachers can be the makers and breakers of us! I remember a teacher telling me once when I drew a green flower that there are no such things as green flowers and my picture was wrong! Now I wonder if I would have taken up art instead of writing if it weren’t for her – now there’s a thought:)

    It’s great you had a teacher who left a good mark on you, but I think you would have been a writer no matter what – you’ve got the creativity, the talent and the drive!

    • That’s just sad! I don’t think teachers understand the impact they have on us, even when we’re so young.

      You know, it does seem to be the general consensus by everyone who’s commented that I would’ve become a writer no matter what the circumstances. That’s a good thought. 🙂

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