Education Letter: Personally speaking

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The Independent Online
REGARDING THE article `Top marks for mediocrity' (5 November) by Susan Gregory. While I was an A- level English student at a Technical College in Shropshire in the late Sixties I had an experience which reduced me to tears - in private!

The English teacher had told us to do some "personal writing" and left us to it. I had no idea what "personal writing" was as I had never done it before. So, after writing the title "Personal Writing" I began with "I" and wrote a very short frightening story of a little boy lost in the fog. I had never before written anything remotely imaginative. I felt very vulnerable as I wrote. When I got the work back the marking was: "4/10 - you have let your imagination run away with you".

I was about 18-years-old and I cried. Years later, when I re-read this story, it was an exact reflection of my personal situation at the time.

Some time later we had to describe how to pack six cups, saucers and small plates in a box. I had learnt my lesson and wrote lengthy detailed instructions never since bettered by any manual and the marking was "8/10 V.G.".

Needless to say, this English teacher seriously damaged my writing. The irony of it all is that for the past 18 years I've worked as an English teacher (in Spain).

I had no teaching qualifications when I started, but I know that in my worst classes I was a better teacher than this teacher was on his best days.

Clive Booth