I have been catching up on my daughters other blog, “Wake up and Write,” and it has reminded me of my weekly writing assignments in high school.

My last two years in high school were in a small girl’s school. I had 16 classmates, many of whom had been together for years. Due to WW II, I had already been to five other schools not including any preschools I had attended. I was a “newbee,” and I sat in the back row, and said little unless called upon. It was years before I was able to sit in a front row and add to the conversation.

My English teacher at this school resembled a crow: tall, thin, black hair, sharp nose and very dark eyes peering through her glasses. You might say I was terrified of her, for no particular reason. I have learned many years later to appreciate her as a teacher.

Her assignments were tough. She graded all the work we did, correcting grammar and spelling. I recall one assignment to give a speech on a subject. We were allowed to have 3×5 cards as reminders of our plan. I stood in front of the class, all 16 girls, and placed my eyes on the cards and didn’t look up once. Mrs P would not accept this report and told me I had to do it again, on another subject. I went complaining to my mom hoping for sympathy. I got none. Do it again… and she suggested subjects. (My mom was a teacher too. The teacher is always right!)

On the weekends, the assignment was a theme… our choice. I can’t say I loved to write those themes but I have saved many of them in my pile of trivia. I have a theme about my mom losing her glasses all the time. Another about sailing, and one about just plain writing a theme. Needless to say I did not do my homework on Friday night. I waited until Sunday, of course. One theme was written on Sunday afternoon where I described the process of simply thinking up an idea, and I wrote about the thought process, ending with… just that..writing it as the sun set out the window and I could have dinner and enjoy the evening with my homework done.

It is hard to believe, now, that I was shy. But I was. I rarely opened my mouth. I spent my college years in the back row as well. It wasn’t until several years of motherhood that I should move to the front if I wanted to understand what was going on. As a teacher, I worked hard to pay attention to the kids in the back row. The front row kids are there because they want to be. The back row wants to hide.

I recall a student named Brianna, who sat in the front and always knew  the answers. She would wave a casual hand at me as if to say,” call on me when you have already heard the wrong answers from the rest of the class.” My work with her was to provide challenges where she didn’t know it all.

My slices are kind of like the old weekend assignment… what will I write about this weekend?  Sometimes I wake up in the morning with an idea bursting in my head and I turn on the Mac and write. I have a back up pile of partial ideas, some from conversations among my kids or friends.

Writing is a good habit. Thank you Mrs. Peckham for your weekend assignments.
(and I’m sorry I thought of you as a crow.)

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4 Responses to writing

  1. Linda Baie says:

    I enjoyed your looking back, and then applying it to our teaching today, the way you moved through your story with such ease. Your stories so often touch me. Those who are at the back are the challenge, aren’t they? I wonder what happened to help you move to the front? I too had a teacher like your Mrs. Peckham. I would love to go back in time to see what she was like-unmarried, seemed so old to us (probably way younger than I am today), and tough as a teacher. Yet, I am still using the lessons she taught. Thanks for a great memory!

  2. Theresa says:

    Thank you for taking me on a trip down your memory lane and so eloquently written. I have a clear visualization of Mrs. Peckham. Don’t you think she would make a great picture book character?

  3. Tam says:

    Interesting character–your Mrs. P. People from the past–what a great idea for blog posts!

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