Turn Around?

I was always a good little reader and writer in elementary and middle school. I always loved to read with my parents when I was little; picture books were my favorite. But some other books I also liked were Dr. Sues books as well as small chapter books, mostly adventure books. Until I got to around seventh grade I read a lot. When I was forced to read things I didn’t like, I lost interest really quickly. I stopped reading for fun an only read when I was absolutely forced to read. My interest in books slowly died off over the years. As for writing, I always thought I was strong at it. My teachers always gave me positive/constructive feedback and wrote good comments. I received pretty good grades on my writing assignments, never anything too terrible. Then I got to high school an every bit of confidence that I had about writing was stripped. Freshmen year of high school my English teacher, Mr. Stritch, was the person who ruined writing for me.

He never seemed as if he even wanted to be at school, he was miserable twenty-four seven and didn’t ever really have anything positive to say. He would always just say “You know this wasn’t your guys best essay this week.” As he said this everyone in the room just rolled their eyes, that’s all we could do. You could hear faint sighs from the back of the room and I felt the same way they did, we were all in this together. I always thought well maybe if we got constructive criticism, we would improve. He was never enthusiastic about anything either…it seemed as if he wanted to be there less than I did, which I didn’t think was possible. I remember one specific essay we wrote, I spent so much time on it and put so much work into this essay. I connected my life to the book and put those things into my essay and it seemed to be one of the best essays I had ever written. It was based off the novel Of Mice and Men, I really did enjoy the book so by me having a connection with the story, my essay was good… or so I thought.

The essay took me hours to write and perfect, but a week after I handed it in, I got it back and was devastated. The 70% that was written on that paper hit me like a bus. The feeling that my best work wasn’t good enough was honestly was devastating. There were red pen marks all over the page, word changes, “helpful hints” (as he called them), and just x’s everywhere. I saw nothing positive on the paper when I got it back. All I would see was “bad use of language” or “explain more.” The most constructive thing he had ever said was “explain more,” but explain what! He was never specific with what he wanted, he would also rearrange my sentences and cross out words to replace them with words “he thought” would work better. How am I supposed to improve or move on if all I got was negative comments? I asked myself this question every day. I think the worst part about it all is that he hated his job, which was obvious. He never out right said he hated it, but he would say little things like “Why am I here” or “When will this day ever end.” It was small things like that that happened every day that made me question the kind of “teacher” he was.

When it is obvious to people that you’re unhappy, it makes everyone else unhappy and as many know misery loves company. I believe that if you hate your job or what you’re doing, you need to stop and go find what you do like to do because you can damage other people in the process. I think he hurt a lot of his students, everyone was visibly miserable in his class and almost everyone received a bad grade in his class. We never knew what he wanted in our papers, even if we asked it was an answer that wasn’t helpful or was condescending.

Everything I did in that class was never good enough, I always got negative feedback, red x’s, and bad grades in his class. It just seemed to slowly eat away at any confidence in writing that I had leftover. I felt I always did well on the assignments, I gave good support and examples in my papers, but Mr. Stritch didn’t think so. I mean I have always been a math and science person, but I saw myself as average in English. After having him as a “teacher” I saw myself as the bottom of the barrel. A lot of people became involved in this time, my parents, my friends, even my other teachers. My parents always said to just ignore his comments and to just try my hardest, but I could only do that for so long. Too much negativity just can’t be ignored, but I did try my hardest, maybe not on everything like I should have, but most things. My friends felt the same way I did, Mr. Stritch never had anything nice to say about anyone’s work…ever.

This was an important time in my life because this is when my view on writing changed and unfortunately it has never been turned back around. Teachers have a bigger impact on students than they think they do sometimes. Students can be around their teachers more than their own parents and can either leave a good footprint on the student or in this case, a bad one. Having Mr. Stritch as a teacher freshmen year of high school as well as junior year of high school, really destroyed my confidence as a writer. I believe when your confidence in something is lost you lose a little part of yourself in the process. Losing my confidence in writing I think has affected me in more ways than one. It has affected my other classes that I had to do writing assignments in and it’s obviously affected my English class experiences. English has always been my least favorite subject along with history, that is how I have always been ever since fourth grade. I was never interested in English and history so my understanding of the two subjects was slim to none. At this point in my life I am still waiting for someone or something to turn my view around on writing and reading.

I think this can be important for other people because most people have had a teacher that has ruined something for them, whether it be you hate math, reading, science, or writing. Even if it wasn’t a teacher, if it was a coach that told you that you sucked. Someone that said you would never be good enough. Also, teachers are very influential on their students and sometimes they should think about how they grade or act towards their students. By how they grade I mean they should give constructive criticism, rather than destroying someone’s paper or changing their words. At this point in my life I am feeling better and better about writing every day, I think that this is the turning point I have been waiting for. Peer review has given me an opportunity to share my writing with others on the same writing level as myself. Getting constructive criticism from other students has just helped my writing in more ways than I can explain.