As a teacher, you have to be careful that you do not shoot down a student so much that she or he is scarred forever. I once had a teacher. Singlehandedly, she shot me down, and built me up, and shot me down so completely, I never knew whether I was excellent, horrible, or just plain ridiculous for even trying-- to write to apply to college, to even exist. Once she asked me to do a book review in class and I started by saying: Jane Eyre was a woman, an ugly woman. To which she snapped, Jane Eyre is NOT ugly; she is plain. (Laughs.) And in my head, I was like, of course she is plain. That's what I meant. I just didn't think to say it because ugly is more colloquial when you're 14. But I felt humiliated and ridiculed in front of the entire class, and that clouds learning.
You see she loved me at some level. I knew it. In class ten, we had to get up and talk about a book we read, and I described a short story in a book called "Bad Girls." This was a story about a woman who has had a beautiful life, and decides to end it in a beautiful suicide, but is surprised when her plan goes awry and she ends up vomiting in different spots of the meadow where she had planned her demise. She was so pleased, she almost rubbed her hands in glee. She was a tad intrigued by the notion of 'badness' in the story, and related to it. I thought even then. I was on cloud nine for a few days and eager not to mess up the karma .
Here is how she described me when I was in class nine many many years ago: This was a description not for subject, but on the whole, as a class teacher.
She has the potential for creative writing. She can be fluent, with a lucidity of expression and subtle humor. She is mature enough to understand the use of ironic expressions and can write imaginatively. But she lacks application, and is quite careless about punctuation. (I still am.) Also, her writing lacks a focal point and indeed all her answers need to be better organized and written with some plan in mind. (If only I'd listened.) Perhaps this is due to her inability to apportion time...
It gets better..
Of late she has fallen into the habit of using vocabulary she cannot manipulate...(I'm sprouting wings!) and her answers seem to miss the point altogether. She does not build a base for arguments, but tends to spring to a conclusion too quickly or gets lost in meaningless generalizations. (Aren't you supposed to like help me fix that?) Her attempts at essay writing was a shambles and the comprehension test surprisingly poor. (I had writer's block dammit, and I did not comprehend.) She OBVIOUSLY needs to discipline herself in the use of language, particularly as she is also keen on oratory and debating. (Stop!)
By the way I came 2nd in class this term. The principal had mercy and wrote nice words to cushion the blow. I made it to college without a single tuition lesson. Not because I did not need them, I did not have access to transport.
In college freshman year, I found Elaine Jahner and we read "Heart of Darkness" which I really struggled with and understood only a little. But thank god, she chose to ignore that my writing still lacked a focal point. She saw the lucidity subtlety irony and maturity, and only because she was generous and liberal, and me a person of color. But really, all teachers should try that. (Alternatively, all students should have at least one teacher who sees that.) It really helps the students when someone in authority thinks they are lucid.