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« Who's a pig? | Main | Imus: A hook for every political narrative »

April 12, 2007


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It seems to me that those who lived in the USA from its founding through most of the 20th century experienced the greatest of all human societies. Exercising power to make changes that some believe is desirable social change is the road to serfdom.

For me, first there was my godmother, Miss Clara Wochele, who taught high school English in the Cleveland, Ohio public school system for over 40 years. She was my teacher only in the sense that my letters from camp came back CORRECTED, yes they did! But from her, I learned good grammar, good punctuation and good spelling at a very early age. She also encouraged me to be a writer, said encouragement only now bearing some small fruit. My late cousin Gene actually had "Aunt" Clara for English and he assured me that she was far tougher on her actual students than she ever had been on me.

Then there was my late and beloved mother, who never permitted "baby talk" around me. As a consequence, when I started to talk (and never shut up), I spoke in full sentences because I THOUGHT in full sentences. And my late father, who read to us in the evenings because in those days, there was no television widely available. My father's reading tastes were diverse. Sometimes we got Thurber, sometimes we got Shakespeare and sometimes we got the Bible.

Finally, there was Sister Mary Myles, HHM (later Sister Joan Acker) who was both my home room and chemistry teacher in high school. She refused to permit me to "coast" through chemistry, even though I detested it and, indeed, all "science" related subjects. She used fair means and foul to force me to focus and actually work to achieve a good grade and by that effort on her part, instilled in me an enjoyment of learning that has lasted into my 60s.

To all of them, my love, appreciation and gratitude can never be adequately expressed.

La Shawn Rocks !

so does that fine painting...

thank you.

While I've had teachers whose classes I enjoyed, as far as I recall, no one ever told me "you're good at this" or "you do this well".

There was the occasional "you can do better than this". Once I was singled out, in front of a class full of kids who didn't like me because I was new, and told "you know all this stuff, so don't answer any more questions" (yeah, that went over REAL well with the other kids).

Then there were the numerous people who tried to tell me "you don't want to take that class - it's hard" or "isn't that a lot of math? You might find that too difficult, why don't you take some easier classes"...

My parents weren't into praise. I barely knew my plethora of relatives. They were nice people, but they knew nothing about me so there wasn't any praise of my abilities.

In the end, I have no teacher mentors, no relative mentors, no friend mentors. Everything I've done, I've done because someone told me either I wouldn't want to do it, or I couldn't do it. I guess one takes inspiration where it's found. I did things in spite of what I was told. Heh.

That would be my teacher Mrs. K. Why K? Because she was married to a Thai National who last name had twenty-something syllables and no one could pronounce it. I was 14, maybe 15 and a freshman at the International School of Bangkok at the time. This was at the end of the Vietnam War. So our first week Mrs. K gave us an assignment to for 500 words to describe something from a different perspective. It was just supposed to be an exercise in how to properly describe something in Writing.

I tried to get the 500 words – I really did – but that was not (and is not my style) I had always been more of story teller than a writer, so when everyone else turned in their one or two pages I turned in 14. A 4,000 word story about a man trapped inside a matchbox - complete with a flash back to an evil scientist who had shrunk him, no less! And a scene where the scientist had hundred of match boxes in an oversized brandy balloon on this desk. My first Sci-Fi short story – LOL – to be 14 again!.

I remember her reading two of the pages (the description) out loud to the class the next day and seeing puzzlement in the faces of the other students at what I was describing. Each knowing that they recognized what was being written about but… not being able to place what it was. Each pupil with a raised eyebrow or a slightly cocked head, “I know what it is, but what?” was silently screamed with their sidelong glances at me. Mrs K. then read the stories title “The Matchbox” and 16 sets of eyes (classes were smaller back then!) instantly registered, “Of course!”

I felt a rush of warmth go through my body making me shutter with pure joy. A tingling sensation that was complete ecstasy rocked through me. A feeling I still get 30 year later when I know I have written something well. It was then I knew I had to write. There was no choice. There is nothing better than that feeling.

She did mention (privately) that I do tend to run on in my writing (still working on that one teach!), much as I suppose I am doing here. She helped me with this and my mechanics (which are still horrid) and strongly encouraged me in turning regular English assignments into stories.

I have never seen her since I graduated unfortunately.

Thank you Mrs. K, where ever you are.

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