Dr. Christina V. Cedillo
Grilled Cheese and Books
The first memory I have of writing was in my ninth grade writing class. Mrs. Bogles writing class was at the far end of our school library. Mrs. Bogle was,– a teacher of the kindest heart and the finest feelings (Douglass Chpt 6). I suppose this was in an effort to surround us with our teachings. Mrs. Bogle was a great teacher that genuinely wanted to make an impact on our young lives. I remember her being very interactive with our class and had a bubbly personality that made her easy to talk to and ask questions. I was a very quite student who was shy and didn’t ask many questions. I was an average student and made good grades, but it was evident I wouldn’t be receiving a Nobel Peace Prize for exceptional journalism. It was in this little classroom at the back of the library that Mrs. Bogle would show me how to use words to bring to life the objects, feelings and senses that we wrote about. I can remember one assignment in particular that would forever change the way I would write. She had us write a short story about eating our favorite food. I can remember thinking this was odd, “how do you write a story about eating? All your doing is eating, this is going to be easy”. My story was about eating a grilled cheese sandwich after I got home from school.
I think my story was about 4 sentences long and obviously wasn’t one of my greatest works. The next day before the end of class Mrs. Bogle handed our graded stories back to us, I believe I made a D on the assignment. This came as a surprise to me as I thought I followed her instructions and had wrote an accurate representation of my afternoon snack. As I began looking around at my fellow classmates papers the first thing I noticed was that theirs were considerably longer than mine. Did they really eat that much that it required a whole page to write it down! I was sitting in class trying to comprehend where I had went wrong and failed the assignment when the bell rang to end the class. As I began gathering my books Mrs. Bogle looked up from her desk and said in a serious tone, “Jeramie, can you stay for a minute? I’d like to speak with you.” This is the moment you get the deer in the headlights look! I can remember thinking “Crap! This is bad, I don’t even know what I’ve done! I‘m going to be late for football practice and have to run laps!” The only people that had to stay behind were the troublemakers that she made stay late so that they would have to run to make it in time for their next class. When I finally made it to her time abused metal desk she asked if she could see my story, which I noticed I was still holding with a death-grip. Image found at:http://www.visualphotos.com/image/2×3715944/teacher_and_young_student_talking_at_her_desk
I handed it to her wondering why she would want it back, she had already read it and from the grade I was pretty sure I knew what she thought about it. She took the paper and seemed to be re-reading it. After she finished she asked me why I hadn‘t described my thoughts and put more detail into my story. I’m certain I had an appalled look on my face. I had no earthly idea what she was talking about. I thought I had written an accurate account of how I ate my grilled cheese sandwich. I was pretty sure I knew how I ate. It seemed like she looked at me forever when she asked me what it was that I liked so much about eating a grilled cheese. She went on to interrogate me about my sandwich. I stood there answering her rapid fire line of questioning as her pen kept pace on an unseen piece of paper with the answers that tumbled from my memories. As I answered her questions it was like a light bulb was slowly being turned on in my head and I began to see what she was doing and see the connection. After a couple of minutes she stopped asking me questions and put down her pen and handed me the sheet of paper. It was my paper! She had written in between my lines and added everything I had just recalled. She smiled and explained how I should ask myself questions and use those questions to describe my feelings, thoughts and experiences. She told me how these details would have earned me an A+ on the assignment instead of my miserable D. These details would help the reader to fully understand and comprehend the things I would be writing about. I believe Frederick Douglass said it best” These words sank deep into my heart, stirred up sentiments within that lay slumbering, and called into existence an entirely new train of thought” (Frederick Douglass Chpt 6). I ended up being late for practice and having to run my laps as punishment but I was content knowing I had just been shown the door that would help me pass Mrs. Bogles writing class. That was the last year Mrs. Bogle taught writing at Westville Schools but she had more of an impact on my writing style than any teacher since. This would turn out to be an important point in literacy for me as I began to realize how important it is that others can understand my writings clearly. With this, I learned how to write (Douglass 7). I still recall this 15 years later and have used her advice many times in everything from teenage love letters to technical observations and recommendation reports at my current job. I believe all teachers should look to Robert Lake when deciding how they are going to teach certain kids “ What you say and what you do in the classroom, what you teach and how you teach it, and what you say and don’t teach will have a significant effect on the potential success of failure of my child” (210).
Around the same time I began reading a considerable amount. My mom used to read novels regularly and one day she brought me home a book from the library. It was an older Hardy Boys book and she thought I would enjoy it. I had never been interested in reading unless I had to for school. I was a typical teenager and was more concerned with football, girls and getting my first car. Even though I wasn’t interested in the book I picked it up one afternoon and started reading it to pass the time. Somehow the day turned to night an I ended up reading the whole book. This may seem irreverent, but I can assure you this was as big of a deal in my home as Andy Greene setting the land speed record was to land speed racers this year. I became absorbed into Frank and Joes adventures following in their fathers footsteps. I eventually read every Hardy Boys book that our town library had and any that they could borrow from surrounding libraries. I believed this instilled a love of reading that I still have today. I still manage to read about one book per week even with the hectic schedule I have. Reading has became a calm in the storm for me that I will always cherish. It was like Frederick Douglass said “There was no getting rid of it” (Fredrick Douglass Chpt 7).
As I got older and continued in my literacy development I began to notice that my choice of books had changed also. The books of my youth didn’t captivate me anymore. I became bored as the books became predictable and had simplistic storylines. I now think these books are similar to training wheels on your bike. They allow your mind to develop and initiate a more in-depth understanding of the literature we read. One author that I began reading in this new stage of literacy was Michael Crichton. I enjoy the way he structures his books and his use of words and phrases. He goes into great detail on certain elements of his stories and he encompasses more than the key characters with these details, this was the seed that Mrs. Bogle had planted in my young mind so many years ago. I am constantly on the lookout for new authors that write in this style that I enjoy. Some of these authors include Lincoln Child, Steven Hunter, Paul Sussman, Jeffery Deavers, Glenn Beck, and James Rollins. I enjoy how their choice of words bring an object to life and how if a few key words were removed from the text the object would loose it’s detail and it would slip by unnoticed. After a while I started noticing that the authors I liked to read all had one thing in common, detailed descriptions that allowed me to mentally see and experience the emotions, settings and surroundings of the characters. I have found that if I reread something from years past I can usually find where the author used less detail in the story. I believe that I am constantly searching for authors that can capture my attention with their detailed adventures, biographies and technical books.
I now have a job where I am required to write detailed observation and recommendation reports. When I first started doing these reports my manager explained that I couldn’t be over detailed in my reports. He wanted the end reader to know everything that someone in-person would know. I had a difficult time at first because of a lack of needed detail. I was a full basket coming into a different environment with something to share (Lake 210). I had to revert back to Mrs. Bogles ninth grade mentoring before I was able to meet the requirements of my manager. I started asking myself questions and these questions led to the needed details that my early reports were lacking.
The more I reflect back on my literacy history the more I can see how specific people have influenced and changed my views on what I like to read, how I write reports and how I judge the quality of what I read. Literacy is something a person never stops learning. There will always be something new to learn, teach, use and enjoy.
The Literature Network. Frederick Douglass. A narritive on the life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Chapters 6-7
Robert Lake. “Discovering your vision and voice: A reader and Rhetoric”. An Indian Fathers Plea. Northeastern State University Department of Languages and Literature, 2011. 207-210. Print