Posted: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 11:12:56 PM
“I won’t penalize you for your writing. I just want you to write what you feel, what your story is,” said Ms. Vard. It sounds trivial, but I’ve never heard these words before. I thought to myself that this had to be some sort of ruse. Why wouldn’t I be in trouble for writing anything down about things in my life? They aren’t exactly school-setting appropriate. She proceeded to ask, “What’s shaped you?” If my class was writing personal narratives as our first assignment, I didn’t exactly think she’d enjoy reading about the time my friend was induced into a coma due to underage drinking. She said, “Run with it.”
Taking her advice, I began typing away. I had things to say, and a lot of them. That night was one of the most horrific, gruesome experiences I ever encountered, and I spent a month rehashing each detail to make sure this composition was perfect and was given due justice. It was almost time to hand in this masterpiece I had so violently been working on. My feelings were embodied within every single word, and I felt compelled to release these harbored feelings into the world.
Ms. Vard pulled me aside one afternoon. Immediately, I was panic-stricken. The questions, the apprehension, the thoughts filling my head were toxic. Did she just inaccurately pass judgment on me? Is she going to call the police? Oh God, am I going to be expelled? Yes, these are the daunting debacles I could possibly soon face. Instead, she smiled. Confused, I smiled back, but one of those incredibly-awkward-not-really-sure-why-I’m-here smiles. She began, “I have to tell you, in all of my years of teaching, I’ve never read something so riveting.” My eyes widened. “This piece is raw and honest. It was executed beautifully. You were my only student to receive two A+’s for content and grammar. I’m really looking forward to working with you.” Flabbergasted, I looked at her, cocked my head, mouth ajar, and tried to express my gratitude. The words didn’t come out, but I believe she understood what I was trying to communicate.
As the year progressed, our bond grew closer, and I looked forward to her class. In such a world where everyone fends for himself or herself, I didn’t hear the selfishness in her voice or see it in her actions. She genuinely wanted me, as well as her other students, to succeed. I still see her in the hallways a year later, and we smile...awkwardly.
She announced the personal narrative project to her new students this year. “I won’t penalize you for your writing. I just want you to write what you feel, what your story is. The best one I’ve ever received was about a party, underage drinking, and a coma. Don’t be ashamed. These are our stories,” she said.