The Monsters Are Real. They Are Good For Us. They Can Be Overcome. Mamacita says: Once upon a time there was a girl who loved to write. She spent the first few years of elementary school standing silently beside the teachers’ desks, mutely holding out sheet after sheet of paper on which she had expressed what was in her head and heart and asked only that these grown-ups-who-knew-everything might pore over her pourings, look at her, and smile. That was all the girl asked for – a happy little girlsmile. Maybe a nod. Words would have been almost too much to bear, be they positive or otherwise, but when that random word did appear, the girl turned into a lighthouse.

In middle school, this same girl still wrote, but seldom let anyone see because middle school was largely populated with monsters whose power was “taunting” everyone who was “different,” and the girl knew, and had known for a long time, that if she was anything at all, she was certainly “different.”

If the other students’ power was “taunting,” the girl’s power was that she didn’t really care what they thought. Outwardly, the girl looked pretty much like everyone else who walked those halls, but on the inside, the girl knew exactly what she was, and this made her smile inwardly a lot. A whole lot.

In high school, the girl met her match with a teacher who taught writing but laid down rules that thwarted every impulse, idea, inspiration, technique, and expression the girl had. Oh, she tried in that class; she tried harder than anyone else in the class, but all she got in return were her ideas slashed to pieces and bleeding red even into the margins. That she knew more about basic grammar than this teacher only seemed to make him dislike her more.

The thing was, the girl saw through this teacher and knew he was wrong, and pompous, and power-hungry, and ignorant, but her power was not caring about what other students said or did,  not how to deal with an adult who was wrong, and she was literally cornered and cowering whenever she entered that classroom she had so looked forward to until she learned, on Day One, that the teacher knew everything about rules that didn’t actually exist and nothing about writing.

The girl shut herself down for self preservation purposes and devoted herself to shelling out straightforward essays about the teacher’s topics, using the small words he preferred and very little figurative language. Contrary to what you might think about the very practical and useful ability to write short, factual essays containing small words, this boxing in of the girl came pretty close to killing something wonderful that was trying to flourish inside her.

In college, on Day One of sophomore writing, which she took her freshman year because somebody saw something in her, a professor told her to, and I quote, “…screw everything you’ve ever been told about writing and just let it flow out of you.” Something heavy and cumbersome fell off the girl, something so heavy the girl thought it should have clunked loudly when it landed. When she walked out of the room that first day, she left whatever it was behind and never looked back at it.

She aced that writing course. She aced the next one, too. She aced them all. She became an stickler for common sense rules of grammar and an absolute spelling nazi, because she knew these things made sure she was saying what she meant to be saying.

And she to this day despises the high school teacher who tried to shut her in a box, and she adores the college professor who set her free.

And she still does. Both of those things.

And she still writes every day, mutely holding out her head and heart to the blogging public, hoping someone will pore over her pourings and tell her she matters.

The inferior teacher and the superior teacher are both her main examples, even today. One, to remind her constantly of what she must never do or be, and the other to remind her of what she herself hopes to do and be.  She used to have nightmares about the bad teacher, but she thinks now that he was actually good for her.  Real-life monsters CAN be overcome.  That’s a lesson we must all learn.

The college professor was Indiana University’s Dr. Edward Jenkinson.girl writing, Scheiss Weekly, writing He is the girl’s writing and general language mentor and idol. The high school teacher she won’t identify. Why? Because she is a classy chick.

How is she doing, teachers?


The Monsters Are Real. They Are Good For Us. They Can Be Overcome. — 2 Comments

  1. Oh, you matter! I don’t comment every time, because that feels kinda weird, but maybe I should. I am always so happy to see your posts in my RSS feed. You brighten my days.

    What you have to say matters, and you say it so much better than I can. I share often with fellow teachers. Mostly, though, I share with my students and my kids. Too many of the teachers are beyond hearing. And that breaks my heart.

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