In sixth grade, in an effort to teach his students the importance of simplicity in writing, Mr. Dunton assigned each of us a famous saying, something we all were familiar with. We were told to re-write it, using unnecessarily complex language.
Here’s what I came up with:
“An overabundance of persons engaged in creating edible material taint the liquid in which meat, fish and vegetables are stewed.”
I’ll leave it to you to figure out the original popular saying. Mr. Dunton loved my interpretation, and my classmates were completely confused. I can’t speak for any of them, but that lesson stayed with me.
As did the assignment we were given in eighth grade. Write a 100-word description of anything you choose, just don’t use the same word twice.
Unfortunately some of us were very literal and thought that included such words as “the” and “is.” It became a challenging assignment. One that has proven to be useful to this day.
Frequently after I’ve written and published one of my blog posts I find an “appalling” error. I hasten to correct it, but what I really should be doing is thanking those teachers who taught me to spot the problems in my writing and helped me hone a skill that is essential to my well-being.
I have several friends who are teachers, and I know there are days they feel as if they’ve accomplished nothing. The demands put on their job that seemingly have nothing to do with teaching, but rather, with meeting the obscure expectations of bureaucrats, overshadow the part of the job they love.
Most days will eventually fade in the memories of their students, most assignments will be a part of a hazy past. Still, some things will stick, and they will make the difference teachers want to believe they are making.
Thank you, Mr. Dunton. Thank you, Mrs. Edwards…Mr. Teall…Mr. Tabucchi…Miss Golart. For those of you I’m not naming, you are not forgotten. Neither are your lessons.
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