I was appalled to read the story about the woman who is now a devotional writer who worked so hard on her high school assignment. To get that poor grade just because “it doesn’t sound like you” was, in my opinion, totally out of line. With the stroke of a pen, this instructor destroyed the joy in writing of a young woman and kept her from decades of contributing to fiction and nonfiction, not to mention pleasure.
Personally, I don’t think that many fiction writers are anything like what they write about. (In some cases, I sincerely hope not! Vampire writers, I’m talking about you!) This is the kind of English “teacher” that is in the wrong job. S/he could have guided the student along, or helped her learn to effectively write what gives her joy.
I know a number of people whose early experiences with “teachers” in the various arts have been destructive and soul-destroying. Is every young (or older) artist going to set the world on fire? Are they all going to have their work hanging in museums? Will every writer get a Pulitzer? Is every photograph going to be on the front page of all the major newspapers? Of course not! But that doesn’t mean that each and every one who chooses to explore their talent and interest and build their skills shouldn’t be encouraged.
We need to encourage each other, and those who are just developing their talent. Not squelch each other.
When I was in college, I flunked one anthropology exam after another. I went to meet with the instructor who told me she would continue to flunk me because of my essays. She said I had all the right answers and information, but added, “I don’t like your writing style.”
I was forced to drop the class. I still get angry when I think about that because I loved that class! I looked her up once so I could tell her how her words may have derailed my future writing career if I had been a weaker person at the time. I wanted to prevent her from potentially discouraging another future writer. She was already deceased.
On the flip-side, in high school, I wrote a paper on a book I hadn’t read. At the top of the paper, Mrs. Miller wrote, “A+ – Good B.S.!”
She was very encouraging to me throughout that year and she gave me the confidence to pursue my dream! The memories of her encouragement and warm words were what carried me past the anthropology professor’s nonsense. I looked Mrs. Miller up years later to thank her but, sadly, she was also deceased.