Why, oh why, are there people in our public school system teaching children how to write that have no idea about basic fictional writing principles?
My son came home the other day with a low grade on a story he had written. No biggie, I’m not an ogre—until I read her comments, that is. My husband sat at the head of the table watching me with hands folded. I think he was waiting for me to blow a fuse… which, admittedly, I did.
My husband said, “I didn’t see anything wrong with it. I wanted to see what you thought.”
This is the comment. Hold your breath…
“Don’t use so much dialog in your writing. Dialog kills a story.”
Okay, so I took a deep breath, and read his story.
He had done a horrible thing. He had allowed the dialog to tell his story… without a STITCH of show versus tell issues. It was actually GREAT. (No explosions, but that’s okay. He’s the quiet one)
His story was realistic, believable, and perfectly constructed. Now, I understand that writing is subjective, but to grade him down for writing correctly? UGHHHH!
My husband raised an eyebrow and said, “I would LOVE for you to go in and talk to her about this.”
Yeah, he would think it was funny if I got taken out of the school in handcuffs. This teacher is not to fond of my son to begin with (he’s a giggler and she is a drill sergeant) We’re just biding our time until we can get him out of this class. My husband had growled his way through a few parent teacher conferences with her already.
So, what did I do? I explained to my son that he had written it correctly, and sometimes you are going to be judged unfairly. I told him that I want him to know what is right, but next time give her exactly what she wants to get the grade, but know there is a better way to do it.
(It’s sad to give real-life advice to an eight year old) I just know that there is no winning with this woman, and she, unfortunately, is in a position to make my little guy miserable for the rest of the school year. Believe me, if it were the last day of school, she’d totally have gotten a writing lesson from me… I just need to think of what I’m doing to my child as well.
A week later he came home and said, “Mom! I wrote a really bad story and she loved it!”
I looked at his new story. It was 100% tell, no feeling, no dimension, flat characterization. And she wrote “Nicely done.”
I cringed. “Okay, but you understand that this is NOT the correct way to write, right?”
He laughed. “Yes Mom. I tricked her.”
What’s really sad, is the chances are the 23 other kids in the class don’t have a parent who’s an author. They will all leave this class thinking they are great writers.
And people wonder why there are so many bad manuscripts out there in the pipeline?
“I don’t know why these agents are rejecting me. Mrs. So-And-So from third grade said I was a genius.”
Have you ever been in a situation like this?