English Teachers Are Full of Poop · 3 October 2015

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English teachers are full of poop.

Okay. Not really. I just wanted to use “poop” and “English teachers” in the same sentence. (Okay. That is not true either, but I had to say something to disarm the English teachers I know and love.)

When I say that English teachers are full of poop, it is not because they all have brown eyes, but because I think that sometimes they are. Sure, they teach us how to write and how to analyze literature and how to write about analyzing literature, but they do not always tell us why we need to write. Especially, when it comes to writing about analyzing literature.

Personally, I actually liked to write about analyzing literature, even if most people would not admit that those were their favorite assignments in school. After all, that would mean that they actually enjoyed reading literature. Including Shakespeare. (Which, by the way, I like too.) But those essays helped me learn to write well. Or at least passably.

I must admit though that my passion for writing did not come from writing about analyzing literature. (Yes, I know that I could just call it literary analysis, but it is more fun using the same words over and over again. I am not sure what they call that, but it is some sort of literary device that good writers sometimes use, so I figure it could not hurt me to do so.) However, my passion for writing did come from an English teacher.

Okay. (See, there is that unnamed literary device again.) You cannot really gain a passion from anybody else. It must come from within. But the catalyst for finding that passion was one of my high school English teachers. Actually, two.

One of those English teachers is the source of constant aggravation for me today as my wife brings him up whenever she thinks I am aggravating the kids. She does not even know his name, but she remembers the story I told her long ago when I got a B in Mr. Deniston’s class. So when I aggravate the children, she mocks me like a parrot stuck on a phrase, “What’d you get the B in? What’d you get the B in? Braaaaaaaack!” (But that is a completely different story.) I learned much about writing and the logic of a story in that class. And over the years, I have learned that Lincoln, Mark Twain, Maurice Switzer, Proverbs (or whoever else we might like to quote or misquote) was right. It certainly is better to remain silent and appear the fool than to speak and remove all doubt. I never should have told my wife the story about my grades.

But back to English teachers.

One of my favorite teachers, Ms. Reid, helped me find my passion for writing when she told me that I could write. (For those of you who do not agree, do not send her any nastygrams.) She encouraged both my writing ability and my writing process. As high school students, we were told over and over and over and over again that we had to write and rewrite and rewrite to get things right when we wrote. I never liked to do that on paper and Ms. Reid was the first one who ever told me that it was okay to do the writing and rewriting process in my head. Even if it meant that it appeared I only did one final draft right at the deadline. Today, I still use that process. Or at least if I have the time, I do. If not, I just throw stuff on the internet and hope somebody reads. Okay. Pray somebody reads. But Ms. Reid helped me understand that words have power and that the written word is a beautiful means of communication. Or at least it can be when done right.

Despite my love of Mr. Deniston and Ms. Reid, the years have taught me that some of my English teachers were wrong. They told us that we should never begin sentences with “because” or conjunctions or prepositional phrases. I remember a phase I went through when I started many sentences with prepositional phrases. I also liked to start sentences with “because” just to show that it could be done effectively. Because I could. And I still like to start sentences with conjunctions.

The other things that I believe English teachers were wrong to tell me was that we should always use complete sentences and that one sentence does not a paragraph make. I do not do those things now because I am trying to defy my English teachers as I once did with “because.” I just do them now because they are part of my style. They are part of who I am as a writer. I write incomplete sentences and use one sentence paragraphs because it is how I write, not to break the rules. (But that is fun too.)

Which brings me back to my original thesis. English teachers are not really full of poop. (Even if they do have brown eyes.) They give us the rules of writing as absolutes not because they are genuinely absolute, but because those rules give us firm guidelines on how to write effectively. Those absolutes teach us the proper way to write when we know not how to write. And the teachers teach those tenets not because they truly believe them to be absolutes, but because they know that those who truly have a passion for the written word will find their styles and break the absolutes when they are ready. When they are writers.

I have a fond place in my heart for English teachers. Two of my favorites helped me become the writer I am today. (Again, do not send them any nastygrams.) Part of my esteem for English teachers comes from my respect for my old teachers. Part of it comes from the fact that English teachers have enough of a hard time teaching students how to write well. So when those English teachers are assigning papers for you to write and expounding on rules of good writing, give them a break. Do not tell them that they are full of poop. Or at least do not tell them that I said they are.

© 2015 Michael T. Miyoshi

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