A friend of mine, who uses English as a second language, posted this on Facebook today:
“In my old posts in the past, my English was so miserable, I feel embarrassed.”
I relate to this feeling. Sometimes it’s hard to put yourself out there because, even though you might be proud of yourself in the moment, you might be embarrassed in the future. Honestly, it’s a fear I have every time I post here on this blog.
Interestingly, in doing some new year cleaning today, I came across an artifact from my past: my third grade “Learning Log.” This was a bracketed folder which we added our own writing to throughout the year. We were, I think, supposed to include samples of writing from several different genres: poetry, fables, fairy tales, biographies, etc. Apparently, though, I got really, really hooked on writing poetry.
I especially liked writing poems that involved the word “underwear,” which eight-year-old me thought was the height of comedy.
By December I had over two dozen poems in there. Because some of them were typed and printed out, I assume I did some of them at home — because we had a computer and printer at home, but I don’t remember having much access to them in third grade.
Throughout the log, my teacher wrote little notes of encouragement or requests for clarification (I did veer into Suessian nonsense territory every now and then). Gosh, she had beautiful cursive handwriting. She wrote an overall evaluation and grade every few weeks. At the end of the log there is a certificate indicating that I no longer needed to turn in the log for a grade.
But not before I got to publish my own original fairy tale! And by original, I mean derivative and embarrassing, but I was super proud of it at the time. I wrote it and illustrated it all by myself. We even wrote them on special paper and bound them together between laminated cardboard covers, like real books!
The book itself is lost to history (thank goodness!) but the first draft, from October 1993, survives.
Stop trying to make “sprarkling” happen, eight-year-old me.
So why dig this up? This stuff is over twenty years old.
Because this was my beginning point. Before third grade, I learned how to make letters; then make letters into words; make those words into sentences; then make those sentences tell more and more. I had used reading to absorb the thoughts and ideas and stories of others. But with writing, I had the chance to communicate my own thoughts and ideas and stories to others!
We all start somewhere as learners. Some of us move faster on that journey than others. Some of us start further back, and some of us have head starts. Is it embarrassing to look back and see where we used to be? Maybe. But I like to think of it as looking back and realizing just how far I’ve come.
And I’m still going. Hello, 2016!