Words from My Freshman English Teacher

This weekend Daniel and I have been working hard to condense and organize our possessions, which were packed rather haphazardly before our move (no idea who did that…). In the midst of the sorting today, I encountered my old high school English portfolios and flipped through a few pages. Then I started looking for a very specific page.

My teacher for Honors English 1 terrified me. She was a short, stout, intensely crotchety woman with a shrieky voice, and if your writing stunk she let you know it! She single-handedly terrified the lot of us into learning to write. By the end of my first year, I had earned an A- in her class and I am STILL proud of that accomplishment! But the most memorable thing about Mrs. Novissar for me is her own writing. I’ve never forgotten what she wrote on my first-year final portfolio, and today I got to read it verbatim from the familiar, powerful loops of blue ink on my title page:

Dear Rebekah —

I have to say that this portfolio shows off all your strengths and weaknesses. Obviously, the strengths far outweigh the weakness, but it seems that the very factors that make you a superb essayist in the creative vein work against you in the analytical papers. It’s that damn lightness of touch which, alluring though it may be in one kind of paper, can signal the death rattle in another. That lightness of touch keeps you from digging down into the bloody muck of human passion so that, instead, you skim the surface blissfully unaware of the darker depths!

Is that not flipping AMAZING??? Ten years later, and I can still recite portions of that from memory. And I do, frequently, when telling with pride how she whupped my lily-white writer’s behind into shape!

I finally learned how to dig deep, Mrs. Novissar — but don’t worry, I still have that damn light touch, too. =)

Do you have a particular comment or critique that has stuck with you for a long time? Or do you remember a specific teacher who helped you along the way? Tell me your story in the comments!

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