Thank you, Mrs. Butterfield

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She was my 8th grade English and Social Studies teacher. Because of a habit of hers, I came to realize that I could write, and write so that others would want to read what I had to say.

As a young child, I hated being forced to write anything. A big part of it had to do with the mechanics of writing. My small muscle skills were way behind my intellect and knowledge base. I refused to do homework other than worksheets because I would get dinged on penmanship. I really thought that I hated to write. Part of the problem was that my first formal education was in England, where I learned a semi-italic form of printing. When I returned to the USA at the age of 6, my second grade teacher insisted that I learn to print all over again using standard block printing - and then my third grade teacher made me learn Palmer cursive, so I threw up my pencil in disgust and decided that I just couldn't write, period. I got so frustrated by the mechanics that I lost sight of the content.
Most kids would rather be flayed alive than to stand up in front of the class for an oral report. Not me! Throw me a topic and I would run with it, expounding at length on whatever the idea. I imagine that my elementary school teachers were very frustrated - they could see that I was learning at a very high point on the curve, but also that I simply refused to produce the written work to show them (also that they could show to others). My parents had conferences and meetings, I was seen by an educational psychologist who diagnosed me with a learning disability, medication was suggested but not used, therapy was suggested but not followed up on, and I merrily went on my way earning grades that were in no way commensurate with my abilities or knowledge.
Enter Mrs. Butterfield.
Every Friday afternoon at the end of the day, we would walk into the classroom to find an intriguing question, quote, or comment on the board. Our task was to spend the next 20 minutes writing whatever we chose about that bit. Grammar, penmanship, or spelling were not the priority - she specifically wanted us to organize our ideas and present them. All commentary she made had to do with how well we supported any position we took, and how well we presented our thoughts. The only comment I recall her ever making about the mechanics of writing was something to the extent of "You might find it easier to write if you would pick one style of penmanship and stick to it" - hence I adopted a semi-italic style of printing as being both fastest and most legible.
The teachers of this world too often go unthanked. I want to publicly thank at least one. I am sure that she had no idea that one simple classroom technique would have such a profound impact on just this one student.


That is an interesting story, and I'm glad she encouraged you so that you're writing today.

I had pretty bad handwriting at first, too. My best friend Tara taught me cursive when we were in kindergarten -- I'd been printing for a long time. We were just starting to use script in second grade, and then I skipped a grade and switched schools. My fourth grade teacher was obviously dismayed with my handwriting. One thing I couldn't do was make small o's that didn't look like a's. Eventually I refined my handwriting somehow, and it actually became very nice. Maybe it was also an issue of fine motor skills catching up?

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This page contains a single entry by alicia published on October 11, 2003 7:37 PM.

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