Thursday, March 17, 2016

Change in Perspective

In the last year I've bumped into two teachers from my past. One was my fifth grade math teacher and the other my ninth grade Spanish teacher. Why is this worthy of a blog post?

Well, back when I was nine and fourteen respectively, these two teachers terrified me. 

I was very much a "good girl" in school. C's and D's would make me cry. And getting in trouble? Don't even ask. 

Which is why, when my fifth grade teacher (let's call him/her Ms. Clark), did the following, I never wanted to study math again...


On this fateful day, I had the hiccups. Like really bad, annoying as anything hiccups. In the midst of my "attack," Ms. Clark appraoches my desk.

"Emily," she says to me. "Go up to the front of the room and do jumping jacks." 

Because nine-year-old me is incredibly self-conscious and DOES NOT want to jumping jacks in front of the whole class, I said no.

Ms. Clark strides to her desk, collapses into her chair with a sigh and warns, "If you don't do jumping jacks, I'm going to write a Referral."

In elementary-school speak, this equals being sent to the office for a chat with the principal and a phone call home. At this point Little Me wanted to die, but I still said no. 

Ms. Clark actually took out the Referral and said, "Emily, come here." 

Blinking back I'm-a-good-girl tears, I stumbled over. She whipped out her blue pen and inked Emily Layne on the top of the form while I watched. Suddenly she stopped, capped the pen and looked up, asking with a grin, "Are your hiccups gone?"

Oh. My. Goodness. Looking back at it as an adult I can laugh and see what Ms. Clark's intentions were. As Little Me, I was terrified of math and Ms. Clark from that point forward. As for my Spanish teacher, she was just intimidating and yelled at students a lot. No fun stories there.

Even still, when I bumped into her the other day (she didn't recognize me), I looked at her and realized, she's not scary at all. Same thing for "Ms. Clark." They're just regular people. Though I'll probably never get over The Hiccup Incident.

Age makes a huge difference in thinking levels, which is important when it comes to characterization. A younger character might look at an event completely different than the story's adult. Keep this in mind as you write. Not only will it make your plot more believable, but the characters will become real and relatable to your readers.

Anyone else have scary school-related stories they'd like to share? Bet you can't top The Hiccup Incident!

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