I sat there in the hard seat of my desk and waited patiently. The scent of bleach was overwhelming in the room, but I knew by the second week it would be covered up by the smell of musty children and chalk dust. I could not wait for my new teacher to stroll up to me, eyes full of amazement, and give me my paper. I had worked hard on it for nearly a month during the summer prior to this new school year. My writing skills were top-notch, of course.
Looking around the room at my new classmates, it was easy to tell who had done the summer assignments, and those who were scrounging around in the back of their minds for a believable excuse as to why they had not produced anything after three months. My patience was wearing thin by this point. I wanted my paper and I wanted to see that glorious ‘A’ sparkling proudly at the top of the page. Suddenly, she was right in front of me. I glanced up, smiling, trying to make a decent impression. However, her face didn’t show what I had expected.
Her expression read, at the very best, tired and uninterested. She flipped the paper over and slid it onto my desk, then went on with her rounds. Something inside me fluttered. Experience had told me that when a paper is given to you face-down, it is not going to be something to be proud of. I reluctantly flipped over my essay. I sat there for a while, staring at my paper. Never in my life had I seen so many red marks on a single piece of paper. My eyes slowly moved towards the top of the page, where an angry looking letter ‘D’ sat.
As I slouched in my seat, defeated by such an unworthy grade, I began to re-evaluate myself. While writing came naturally to me, reading was a different story completely. The first memories I have of reading are painful at best. Reading a simple sentence seemed impossible for me to do. Being the only child in class who couldn’t even read the bathroom door signs, I was singled out almost immediately. Teachers had no patience with a child that dared to slow down their teaching curriculum. “You’re going to be held back if something doesn’t change. , they would tell me.
As if I was purposely acting disobedient by being half illiterate. It didn’t take long for my mother to find out about the situation. Although she was furious with my teachers, she reassured me things would get better. The next day, she presented me with a gift. It came with no flashy wrapping paper or bulky ribbons, no card that might have a few dollars in it. I had not even opened the box, and already I was disappointed. At the time, I looked at her “gift” as an insult. I was not so dense that I needed Hooked on Phonics, I thought.
Although I did put up an impressive show of shrugging off the gift, I eventually came around and decided to give this new aid a try. Within weeks, I was reading far better than any of the other children in my class. The confused and jealous looks of my peers fueled my desire to keep practicing with Hooked on Phonics, although I would never tell the others how I was progressing so quickly. Coming into middle school, I was terrified. Although I had conquered my fear of reading out loud by this point, this would be a completely different environment.
As I slinked into my classroom, I took a brief glance around, trying to get a quick overview of the people I would have to compete with. After all I went through in elementary school, this is how I began to view English class, a competition. Many of the students were sitting in their desks, looking around in amazement as if this were the first time they had been in a classroom. I saw a few people toward the back of the room that appeared to be sleeping. How a person could fall asleep in a room that was well below the freezing point and had such an overbearing stench of fresh paint, I could never understand.
I took the only vacant seat, across from a girl I knew from elementary school. It did not take me long to realize my reading and writing skills were above most in the class. I knew I was good at the subject, and everyone else knew it was well. If there was ever a problem or someone needed help, I gladly offered my assistance, not because I was being a kind individual, but because I loved to flaunt my knowledge. Admittedly, I wanted everyone in the class to look up to me, to think I was far more brilliant than I actually was.
All the attention I was getting for my newfound prowess in English seemed like a dream come true at the time. Sadly it would make me a vain, and ignorantly arrogant person. All of this lead up to that critical moment when I got a ‘D’. The moment I found myself sitting at my desk, confused and shocked at the grade I had been given. Being the egotistical brat I was at the time, my first thoughts were “This has to be a mistake, an obvious mistake. ” I waited for the end of class, fidgeting in my seat every second, all the while reassuring myself that I could sort everything out.
Finally, the bell rang loudly and after the rest of the students had shot out of their seat and headed for the door, I stood and walked over to her desk and politely inquired about my essay. She quickly looked over the first two pages then handed me back the essay with little enthusiasm. “Your writing skills need some work. You were going off subject quite a bit”, she informed me. With an ego my size, even the smallest of criticism hit me hard. I nodded and realized that I still had so much to work on, but I was oddly confident this teacher could help me. Mrs.
Hoer was her name, and I began to respect her more than any English teacher I had prior. She showed me how writing is far more than just sitting down at home and trying to think of something profound that will impress a teacher. I learned that language can have endless meaning and give so much enjoyment for readers who take the time to analyze literature. Questioning an author’s credibility and their reason for writing a particular piece were things I had never been asked to do until her English class. Throughout my senior year in high school I learned more than I ever had in the class with her.
The concept I had of how easy English was became shattered, and I found myself being far more open to new ideas and styles or writing. If I had not been transferred into AP English that year, I may have never gotten over myself, and would have never progressed as far as I have. So in the end, yes, I did get my first ‘D’ in an English class. However, out of that single grade, I was able to make myself a better person, writer and a far better English student. Despite what others may think of my writing and reading, I am proud of myself for coming so far.