My mother is a teacher. She teaches Grade 3; that’s age 8 students for the most part.
As it is nearing the end of the school year, tests are administered and it is a practise (or regulation) that certain papers (those sent from the Ministry of Education) be marked by teachers from another school in the area.
My mom brought home her batch of papers to go over and see if the marks given were accurate or deserved or should be queried. I need to state here about my mother that she rarely does anything in silence. The composition/creative writing papers were first. The students had a series of pictures to write a story based off. She began to read aloud and the story by one boy made me fall to the floor in laughter.
The pictures show 3 boys playing what would seem to be a game of cricket when they notice a bird and its nest in the tree above their heads. One boy climbs the tree while the others are saying something. The limb that the boy reaches to breaks and he falls from the tree. The remaining two boys gather and one holds his arm. The last picture shows the boy with his arm in a sling and a woman with her arms around him.
Most of the students stuck to the theme of playing a game, climbing the tree, falling and getting injured BUT this student that mom calls ‘Garvey’ spiced his story with his choice of words. The story was just too real!
Mom reads the story with his standard sentence structures and then I hear her say “He hold on to a rattin limb” I started to chuckle. She continues and I hear “Jesus! Boy, hold on to the next limb!” and “Tim put his hand on his head“. But what floored me was when the hand was discovered broken and one of the other boys said “Oh shit! We inna trouble now“.
I almost cried! Yes, he did write ‘oh shit’ granted his spelling was off. That little 8 yr old boy understood the need to preserve the authenticity of dialogue in prose. He wrote the story as he knew it would go if he and his peers were the actual characters and “Jesus!” and “Oh shit!” are real life exclamations they would use. Considering that every child is given a warning from parents when they play, his statement about being in trouble makes sense.
The story ended with “‘I am not going to play cricket again.’ said the boy. ‘Don’t worry son, you’ll play cricket again’ said his mother“.
I don’t know what the teacher who marked that story thought but my mother and I loved the honesty, use of exclamation and exclamation mark and the fact that he placed himself into the story to get essence out of the story.
No teacher tells their students that “Oh shit” is acceptable in their stories and no one really expects it from an 8 year old. All the other stories sounded generic like text book stories but little Garvey took his from ‘textbook’ to ‘my community’.
Even though he will no longer be in my mother’s class come next school year, I hope his next teacher fosters and develops that creative writing skill he has.