Today’s prompt word from The Daily Post is “study.” This is one of my favorite stories to tell that highlights how I eventually became a professional writer. It started in third grade…
Every day, my third grade teacher, Mrs. Wright, would give the class (close to 35 of us) group instruction on math, reading, science or social studies, English, and spelling. When she would finish the overview, she would hand out the daily packet. The daily packet was a stapled set of worksheets that we had to complete by the end of the day. Now that I’m almost 40, I realize how revolutionary her idea was to let a bunch of eight year olds work at their own pace. We were allowed to ask her questions. We could, of course, consult our books. She gave each of us individual attention when we needed it.
When we were done, we were allowed to read, draw, or do quiet activities. I always finished first. It wasn’t a race or anything like that. I am lucky enough to be academically gifted. My problem was that I couldn’t be quiet for very long. I would only be quiet if I stayed busy (I am still that way). I didn’t yell or scream. I just wouldn’t shut up.
One day, Mrs. Wright grew tired of my shenanigans and placed an unabridged dictionary on my desk (this was around 1985 or 1986) and said, “Every day, you will study this book. You will find 12 new words. Write them out with their definitions. Then, you must write a story that uses every one of those new words.”
She didn’t know this, but she actually gave me a gift by insisting that I study the dictionary. I developed an undeniable love for words, their meaning, how they are used, and how they should be used. They’re tools…and people use them so haphazardly.
I saw Mrs. Wright two more times after third grade. She substituted for my fifth grade class in another school district (and she remembered me). She substituted for one of my classes in junior high. She still remembered me and asked me if I was staying out of trouble. Not long after, I got suspended for fighting. I was tired of being bullied and got into a fight over it.
I never saw her again after that. When she taught my third grade class, she was probably in her early 60s…maybe late 50s. I’ve looked around online and haven’t found her or an obituary. So, Mrs. Wright, if you ever managed to read this…thank you for making me study the dictionary. I’d like to think you’d be happy with the outcome of that creative solution.
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