My earliest memory of physically learning how to write is probably preschool or kindergarten, where everyone is taught to write their names. This is an age where letters and words are everywhere in the classroom, from the blue circle rug to the labels taped to many basic objects, naming them. Our desks were grouped in clusters, with laminated, rectangular name cards taped flat to the top. The card was big, and each individuals name was written out nice and clearly by one of the teachers. It had three dashed lines so we could observe the difference between the uppercase and lowercase letters, or how a tall t might cross that middle threshold while an a sits below it.
The tape for my laminated name-card was peeling and brown, and I loved to pick at it or flatten it down in an effort to make my desk feel straighter. This same notion of orderliness did not translate over to my handwriting, which has been chicken-scratch and boyish from the start. I could neatly trace the letters for my homework worksheets, but my work looked sloppy without the dashed lines to guide me. I also remember feeling frustrated having to write my name, tired by the work it took to spell out a whole 9 letters, while I was surrounded by friends like Lise, or Sara, or Eva.
Most of the writing I remember learning is based around the persuasive essay. Throughout elementary and middle school, we are taught about nouns, verbs, and adjectives and how to use them. The way we form sentences. How we stack these sentences to form paragraphs. Our confidence builds.
I remember our entire classroom moaning when another persuasive writing essay was announced. We performed really well on our Connecticut Mastery Tests, but we were sick of it. We longed for something else. What a major waste of time it was for a 4th grade student to copy an entire first draft onto another piece of paper, free-hand, just to improve the neatness. These might be some flaws in the system.
Outside of the physical act of writing, and more towards the craft of it, I find it funny how it builds. I think as students we would always be surprised. From basic sentence constructions, to variations, to entire paragraphs, and eventually essays.
Tom is funny. Tom likes to sing. Tom has a dog. The surprise that you can use he instead of Tom all the time. From starting your paragraphs first, second, third to eventually learning proper transitions into new paragraphs. It seems that as students learning to write, we learn the very basics, in the simplest terms. This is easy. When we throw the gradually learned variations in there is when it becomes complicated, but also a lot more fun.
I remember the giddiness of waiting for the teacher to return one of your drafts, the hopeful expectations for the comments, and the small joys or disappointment that would come based on those comments. As a writer, I still feel this way when waiting for a draft. I haven’t lost the giddiness, the hopefulness that whoever is drafting me understood my metaphor in that one paragraph, or that my conclusion is clear enough.