When I was a child, my handwriting was awful. In fact, the only “C” I remember getting in elementary school was in handwriting (back when you received grades for that sort of thing). One time in fifth grade I tried to forge my mother’s signature on a report card because I realized that I had brought it back unsigned. I didn’t consider for one moment that the scrawling mess on the paper wouldn’t pass for my mother’s. Also, I didn’t realize that the name Barbara did not contain an “e”.
Needless to say, I was caught immediately, and my teacher called up the school’s police officer who informed me that what I did was illegal and I could go to jail. I’m pretty sure I am scarred for life.
The Writing On The Wall.
It wasn’t until the end of college that my own handwriting improved. I was about to start student teaching in a first grade classroom; the teacher, an old dragon of a woman who was approaching thirty years of teaching, asked me to write something on the board. I had only written a couple of words when she stopped me and said, “You are not teaching my students with that handwriting!”
She made me stay after school let out each day to practice my handwriting on the old black chalkboard, I kid you not. I felt like Bart Simpson in the opening credits. She wouldn’t let me write on the board in front of the students until my penmanship was up to par, which took some time. I am forever grateful for that woman, tough as she was.
In my own classroom, I still teach handwriting. Some years I start of the year with it, and others I wait until my students beg me to teach them how to have beautiful cursive penmanship. This year my students are begging, so in the spring I will begin to teach it. The only thing I can’t do is grade them on it, as I learned from a sharp admonition from an administrator a few years ago.
Paying It Forward.
Recently, I gave a detention to one of my sixth grade boys for roughhousing, or something like that. He returned the following morning with his detention slip in hand. At one glance I knew that it wasn’t his dad’s signature, but I didn’t say anything. I just had him come in and take a seat. He asked what he was going to do for detention while I brought over a binder that I use for handwriting practice and told him that he was going to practice his handwriting. For the next thirty minutes he sat and carefully practiced his ABCs.
When his time was finished, I asked him, “Now, why do you think I had you practice your handwriting today for detention?”
“‘Cause my handwriting’s real bad?” he guessed.
“Yes,” I answered. “And if you are going to forge your parent’s signature, your handwriting really needs to improve.”