Have you ever seen that shy kid in class who wouldn’t volunteer to read or to answer a question? That’s the type of student I was. Talking in class was a struggle. The fear of saying the wrong thing and being judged by my classmates was always on my mind. So you can imagine my complete hatred for English class. It’s the one class where talking is mandatory every day. The worst part was, I went to a high school with English gurus. I went to a school where apparently everyone actually understood what Shakespeare was talking about, and that is basically an alien language. There were constant announcements about students winning State and National writing awards as if to remind me that I couldn't write. It was a very bad dream for someone like me.
So, I always felt unsure of myself when I wrote. Semicolons confused me, I used too many commas, I’m dyslexic so I’m just Terrible at spelling. And to top it all off, I had no idea how to cite anything, like literally absolutely no clue. Every single essay I got back my freshman year was just ripped apart; you could barely read the essay because everything was scratched out with bright red ink, one time a teacher actually circled an entire paragraph and just wrote, “WHAT”. That was a real confidence booster. And there was always the dreaded essay return days where the teacher would pick the best essays in class to be read out loud, mine was never chosen. It killed me a little inside because I tried so hard and thought that I was writing something great and engaging and no one ever saw it that was. It made me feel like I should stop even trying to write. So now on top of being painfully shy, I had absolutely no faith in my writing.
That’s where one teacher changed everything. He was a very old, and he used to tell us stories about what Boston was like as a teacher in the Seventies. He had the reputation for having some strange teaching styles, for instance, I remember he once picked up a chair and dropped it while we were watching a movie in order to teach us something about timing and shock. He was special. He connected writing and reading to football, but it somehow made sense. He taught me more than any teacher had before. What really made him special to me was every class he would pick someone to read their writing out loud to the class. He wouldn’t always pick the essay that he thought had the best grammar or use of vocabulary... he told us that he would pick the one that he thought had the most character. This part was confusing to me, because how can writing have character? He went on to explain that he wanted to read something that he could tell the writer felt a lot while writing it. He wanted to feel the emotions we were experiencing as we wrote it. So for the first time in my life, my essay was chosen to read to the class. I can’t even remember what it was about, but I remember how nervous I was to see his reaction mixed with pride from the fact that he felt like my work was worth sharing. At the end of it, he gave me his critiques, but he told me that he was excited to read more of my work.
This teacher that treated me exactly like how he had treated students for forty years made me feel special. He made me believe in my abilities as a writer and gave me the confidence to continue to try writing. And I guess I have gotten over my fear of sharing my work.