“Are you okay?” my concerned writing tutor asks me. I offer an unsure nod. I can feel sweat starting to form on my shaky hands. “Let’s just break this down and go from there.” The tutor offers me a smile; I glance down at the source of my misery.
Procrastination. I had three weeks, and yet I am now scrambling to complete what now seems an impossible task. In exactly six hours, I must turn in a paper that is as unclear as my current state of mind. The tutor directs me back to my assignment sheet: “How about we figure out what your professor exactly wants?”
I tend to be a nervous writer. Sometimes at the sight of academic or complex words on an assignment sheet, I find myself in a writer’s block. I know that I am not alone.
Fast forward to seven years and two writing center jobs later. I now realize that many times we just need someone to work us through our confusion. Around the same time I started college, I also found the writing center and discovered the necessity of asking teachers for help.
Looking back, I can recall several people who aided me in my development as a writer. As a young child, I would have never thought I would be going to school for a Master’s degree in English. In the fifth grade, I was put in the “slower paced” English class. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I was grouped with five other students. In our “special group” we went over the structure of writing, syntax, parts of speech and reading.
Ears burning with embarrassment, I would walk out of my regular classroom to enter the stuffed closet sized room with Mrs. Murphy. Mrs. Murphy, the reading and writing teacher, would collect me from my general education class with a face of pity. Sulking out of the classroom, I could feel the students’ smug smiles hitting the back of my skull. Entering into the tracked classroom, I bowed my head in humiliation.
While I detested that class with a passion, it made me who I am today. I forced myself to read and write more just to get out of the class. With the extra work out of class, I was finally able to leave the “special class” later that year. In my discontent, I made my ten year old self do better so that I would never have to experience that shame again. It was my push.
Years later in high school, I struggled with doubt. While I made it in the intermediate track with above average success, years of being labeled “stupid” hindered my ability to believe in my capabilities.
I remember throwing a teenaged temper tantrum during my senior year English class. Folding my arms across my chest, I declared to my teacher, “I can’t do this!” He calmly replied, “Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.” Moving on to another student with a better issue, he left me there sulking in disbelief. After sitting there for several minutes, I picked up my pen.
I learned something that day that stuck with me. Change your perspective and you change your life. I knew that I wasn’t going to just sit there in my inability to write a paper, so I decided that I would at least try.
My attempt at this “impossible” English paper was another turning point in my life. I began climbing the metaphorical mountains in my life. Since then, I have managed to graduate college with high honors in a degree in English secondary education.
I believe that with our trying and our can-do attitude, we can do the impossible The very thing we don’t think we are qualified to do, we are able to accomplish with hard work.
Upon transferring to Eastern Illinois University, I started to take classes specific in my major. I was challenged in unique ways. It seemed like all of my time was concentrated on being a successful student; however, I still felt lost. It was my first semester truly being on my own, and the first time I had really felt like I was struggling in college. Specifically, one class felt more foreign to me than calculus.
I knew my goal of getting good grades depended on me figuring out the material for this class. Looking over my notes and rereading the textbook was not cutting it. Swallowing my pride, I went to ask my teacher for help. In my meeting with my teacher, I finally understood what was going on in class. It was then that I discovered that there is nothing wrong with asking for help; it is actually a good idea in college.
Pushing myself has been crucial to my development as a person and a student. However, asking for help is also necessary for everyone’s growth. There are many teachers who pushed me beyond insecurities and helped me to be the confident writer I am today.
I believe all students have the potential to become better writers. With a willingness to be taught to improve, and not, merely given the correct answers, anyone is capable of growth as a writer.