Day 12 – Write a post inspired by a real-world conversation. Revisit a time when you wish you’d spoken up, reminisce about an important conversation that will always stick with you, or tune in to a conversation happening around you right now and write your reaction. Include an element of foreshadowing in the beginning of your post.
It’s amazing how encouragement and criticism can point you down the same road.
With in four months of each other two events occurred that made me think that perhaps being a writer…an author…was a possible goal for my life. I didn’t act on it for about five years afterwards but that’s beside the point.
Let’s rewind a few years to Year 11 at high school. My English teacher was my absolute favourite that I’d ever had. So when I heard that she was leaving the school at the end of the year I was devastated. It wasn’t just her encouragement though out the year, it was the fact that she made English fun. I wanted to show her how much of an impact she’d made. In the last week of school I braved the impenetrable teacher’s staff room to give her a gift. As I stood in the slight shadow caused by the divider wall around her desk she opened her present. I can not remember her reaction, because it has been overshadowed in my memory by what happened next.
She pulled out a folder. Inside were copies of my assignments. A years worth.
She said that she wanted to take them with her as examples of what future students could achieve. Not only that, she had me autograph the assignment she liked best.
With a smile she told me that in years to come she would pull it out and prove that she had my first ever autograph.
I don’t know if she was being kind to a geeky, English loving, always writing teen or if she truly meant what she said. I still remember the moment with a silly grin and a complete sense of … oh wow.
Fast forward to my second English assignment in Year 12. We had a new teacher that year. Fresh faced, brand new. This was her first teaching job.
The class came when she handed back the assignments and mine didn’t show. She pulled me aside after class to tell me that she had been so impressed with my assignment that she’d given it an A+. Of course I was ever so…um…humble. By ‘humble’, I mean downright ecstatic and nearly dancing with delight.
Due to the grading system, however, she’d had to give the Head of the English and Drama department because of something about percentages of high marks…or whatever, I can’t really remember.
What I do remember is being called into the office the next day. I was sat down in a room with wide open desks and sunlight pouring through the windows. My assignment was placed on the table between us. The Head of English and Drama placed a forefinger heavily in the center of the pages and said the words that still resound in my head to this day.
“I believe you have plagiarised this assignment.”
I was devastated. I, who had never even had the nerve to cheat in a spelling bee, was being accused of plagiarism. My heart pounded in my head so hard I could feel it in my lips. My stomach clenched like I was standing on the edge of a sixteen story building. I could only stare at him. I couldn’t even find the words to deny it. I knew this was my work. I knew I hadn’t stolen it. I had done my research, created my story, and painstakingly written it out. My words. My story. My assignment.
“Someone your age could not have written this.”
He then proceeded to quiz me on the content of the assignment.
“What does briny mean?”
“What does aft mean?”
“The back of a boat.”
“What year was the SOS Morse code first used?”
“What was used before SOS?”
On and on the questions went. I answered every single one of them. I even elaborated when I could answer his questions with more research information than I’d used in the assignment. After about twenty minutes he sat back in his chair and simply looked at me.
“Well, you’ve not followed the assignment sheet anyway. The assignment called for creative story of ten thousand words about a disaster, not diary entries. You’ve written diary entries.”
“I wrote a story about a girl finding her grandmother’s diary and discovering her grandmother had been on the Titanic.”
“You’ll get a B.”
I was left there stunned.
To this day that assignment has a B in red written over the A+ it had been.
To this day I think that B had more to do with the grading and percentage of high marks ‘who-har’ that my English teacher first mentioned, than what I deserved.
To this day I think I blew him out of the water with the fact that ‘someone my age’ could write something ‘like that’.
So when one teacher takes copies of my work to show future students, and I can volley research points back at the so-and-so who accused me of plagiarism, I think there might have been a running theme with regards to my writing.
With my published book in my hand, I’ll toast Mrs Nash and thumb my nose at Mr…
Ha, you know what? I can’t even remember his name.