“This is a complete and total failure. Very little of it is coherent. It simply makes no sense. How could you type this up in this condition? How could this go through drafts and still come out like this? See me. We need to talk.”
I looked at the paper a little bit stunned. I found the paper in a folder, which was conveniently placed in the dark abyss that was my file cabinet. The folder had my name on it and a date, the year 2007. That was nearly three years ago.
I rummaged through more of the folder. It was littered with every grade in the spectrum, except for an “F”. As I flipped through the pages from the tests of school years past, I realized how much I’ve changed little by little. This change took over thousands of paragraphs, millions of sentences, and billions of words.
I read the comments and realized that it was because of my experiences in my English class that I had grown to learn my mistakes by having them pointed out to me.
“I should not have to guess about what you are trying to say. Your writing is not clear. Did you proofread before turning in your paper?” The very first test of the year in 2007 on a book titled The Catalyst.
The next exam I took in the class, “Your problem here is your sentences need to end with periods and begin with capital letters. Otherwise, they are grammatically incorrect run-on sentences. I did like the story though.”
My eyes grew wide as I stared at this paper on my growth as a person. I saw the story was there in the essay, but it couldn’t be conveyed if it wasn’t coherent. The story was important to me, even when I was in ninth grade, but I didn’t have the grammatical tools to tell the story. I still had a long way to go and to learn.
“You need to analyze rather than summarize. Also, leave time to proofread to catch grammar errors.” I was doing better with every paper, but still my grades were pretty low. I remembered reading and researching, writing and studying, day and night for these exams. Though the sweat has disappeared along with the fear of failing a class, the memories remain.
My first “A” in the class didn’t appear until three months of taking the course. The comment my teacher wrote, “Very well-written—organized, focused, and often poetic. Good work.” The very first time my writing had actually made a jump of improvement.
I continued to flip through the pages, seeing the rollercoaster of grades reach highs and lows. Comments painted the page with ink from every color, while my writing still remained under the confined black ink. And I realized the mistakes I made in ninth grade, were fixed in tenth grade, and improved in eleventh grade.
Now, in twelfth grade, I’m trying to master these tools to my advantage. This “mastering” will take years to learn, but I’m ready to endure the long, painstaking hours that it will take. I am prepared to take the next step forward by reading all the masters of the art, by writing everyday, by living life, and by listening to the world around me.
I put the papers back into the folder and closed it. The grades forever imprinted in my mind, the ink dried for three years already, and the lessons learned from every comment that my English teacher wrote out on every paper.
The ninth grade boy, who wanted to tell stories, is still here.
He is now just a young man.