by cheri sabraw
When I was a 7th grader back in 1963, I remember how strict and mean some of my teachers were.
There was to be NO TALKING in class; this rule meant big trouble for me, as my urge to talk was only exceeded by my urge to joke around. After several parent conferences with my English teacher, my parents agreed on my punishment -even more homework if I persisted in my bad habits.
Thus, my note writing skills were born. As a precocious student, I found it necessary to share my astute observations of my teacher (her unstylish skirts and grumpy facial expressions) with my friends and since my voice had been muted, my pencil and paper would now become my second communication device of choice. Not only could I pen wonderful junior high social commentary, but my ability to pass the notes without being detected was pretty good too.
Twenty-five years later in 1988 as a high school English teacher, I volunteered to teach 9th grade English. Although I wasn’t as mean as my old English teacher, random talking in my class was not allowed, and since God had blessed me with acute hearing, I heard everything that my students mumbled and whispered. Thus, my students had to resort to note-passing.
The first time I saw a note passed, of course, I leapt from my desk and intercepted it. Imagine the horrified look on that teenager’s face when I opened the note and read it silently. Aside from random profanity, horrible grammar jumped out at me. I decided to copy the note (without the swear words or names) onto the black board. The vocabulary lesson stopped abruptly; the students shrunk back into their chairs; their attention focused like a lens; I realized I had stumbled upon a powerful teaching tool.
Deciphering the syntax and decoding the meaning within that note was difficult, even for the note writer herself! Here is a sample from that note:
“This class is hecka boring. I mean, like, like Mrs. Sabraw. She needs to, like, get a life. Majorly. By the way, Brian is so, like, hot. He’s hecka hotter than a pepper. Do you think your parents no that you are sneeking out at night to see him?? God, if my parents knew something like that. They would restrick me bigg time.” (That was painful to even type!)
I then asked my students to copy that note verbatim. They had to correct it, enhance it, and turn the three paragraph verbal mess into a two page beautiful essay. Needless to say, after three or four of these experiences, note writing stopped in my class. By the way, here is a sample of the finished, rewritten product:
”Without a doubt, this English 9 Composition class taught by the lovely and talented Mrs. Sabraw (thank God she focuses all her energy on her students’ educational needs) is the greatest and most relevant class I have ever taken. Even her best student, Brian Berkeley, seems captivated by her grammar instruction. When I sneaked out of my house the other night to meet Brian (who is as hot as a jalapeno pepper), I thought, if my parents catch me doing this, I will justifiably be restricted for the rest of my earthly existence.”
My students began to understand the importance of writing.
Well, as you have read, my note writing skills have morphed into lengthy blog posts. Perhaps, if I had been correcting my own writing, I would have written at the top of my paper, Cheri, good ideas and somewhat entertaining, but your audience is busy – get to the point more quickly.