English Class Flashback

My Loose Depiction of An English Teacher Giving Writing Instructions In Middle School 30 Years Ago. (That’s when I went to Middle School.)


“Class, when writing papers, I have one rule—there will be no more ‘is am are was were be being been’ words in your papers going forward. You must follow this mandatory rule. I expect 100 percent compliance. There will be no wandering sheep in this group, ones lured by all the shiny weres and beens at the end of the field. It’s just a piece of old foil glittering in the sun. Ignore it. Listen to your teacher because she knows best. And she talks in the third person. Get used to it.

Passive voice bores readers. My voice bores you. But, when you read one of my writing examples, you’ll be amazed and wowed. And yes, wowed is a word. There’s a nice nugget of knowledge for you to put in your back pocket today.

For your papers, I expect a structured layout. Make it military-style. Line up those word soldiers in perfect harmony; Black shiny boots in an exact row.

Introduce your topic in an intro paragraph. Give the reader something to latch on to … like a kid grasping for a lollipop dangling in front of his face.

Then comes the bulk of the paper. Take a few paragraphs to write the body of your masterpiece … support your documentation. Remember—this is the MEAT of the paper. Pump it up with robust information. So let’s say we’re writing about a big guy savoring a large meal (maybe lasagna … it’s meaty) on a Saturday night. Describe the single white candle dripping wax down the sides towards the checkered tablecloth. Add details about how the sauce burned the man’s cracked lips. How the cheese strung from the plate to the fork. How the blend of ricotta and beef created a melody of flavors.

Lastly, close out the paper with a conclusion paragraph. If you start the paragraph with, ‘in conclusion’, I will throw your paper back at you to fix it. Be warned, I have terrible aim. No promises I won’t hit your face (by accident, of course). Close out your piece with something that leaves a mark. Give a final thought that ends with a punch! And no, just using an exclamation point will not make it a punch.

Oh, and before you go, one thing about your last book test on Huckleberry Finn. We have a student in this classroom who thought she was clever. She thought she could read the first and last sentence of each paragraph to get the gist of the book. Well, let me tell you, that particular student received a D on the book test. They didn’t get an F only because it was clear they did read a fraction of the sentences in the book. You know who you are. Next time, read the whole book!

This concludes today’s class. For your homework, please write me a paper about why kittens purr and return it to me by tomorrow afternoon. Have a good night.”

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