On a Teacher, True Voice, and Trusting It Will All Come Together

Mar 08, 2021

By Christine Carron

In a time long ago at Saint Pius X High School in Festus, Missouri, once you hit sophomore year, you got Mr. Janc for English. Calm and spare in body, kind and spare in temperament. That’s how I remember Mr. Janc.

One day, he assigned us the classic and classically boring How-To essay. Even then, I loved writing. I was also a depressingly good student, not prone to rebelliousness in any way, shape or shenanigans-inducing form. But that assignment was so tedious, it unleashed a demon inside me. A Christine-compatible demon, of course, so we’re not exactly talking a slide over to the wild side or anything.

Yet, I did feel pretty bold in my how-to choice: How to Annoy Your English Teacher. A process that included steps such as:

Step1WhereveryouwantremoveallthespacesfrombetweenthewordsStep2Uselinebreaks
andpunctuationsparingly

S t   e  p 3          : S  p a c  e t h   e  let ter s a n    d wo  r    d s o  ut     , o n o cc  a ss ion        ,       j u s    t   f     or t   h   e f   u                n  o f i     t.

It went on like that. The words and lines zigzagging, waterfalling, upside-downing, crisscrossing, even marching around the edges in a grand loop.

And mind you, this long-ago time when I was a sophomore was before personal computers were widely available; I was doing this text chaos on a typewriter. Typing slowly, painstakingly ensuring there were no spelling errors (for some reason spelling errors were not part of my how-to plan for annoying Mr. Janc); then typing a little more, taking the page out, repositioning it, typing some more, taking the page out, repositioning, and on and on. It was the most physically involved paper I’ve ever written.

I was proud and giddy when I turned it in. That lasted for a whole second. Then terror came. What had I done?

Yes, as noted, a depressingly good student.

I can’t remember how long I had to wait to get that assignment back. I admit to utter relief when Mr. Janc called my name. He was grinning; it couldn’t be that bad. And it wasn’t. I got an A,  which absolutely soothed my high school good student panic.

What I didn’t appreciate at the time was that Mr. Janc also affirmed a fledgling voice inside me. A voice that didn’t color fully inside the rule-abiding, good student lines. A voice brimming with chutzpah and humor. A voice that, yes, would have to wait decades to be fully unleashed but still made its debut in style with that cheeky how-to.

So here we are. I have written about this memory and have no idea what the title of the post will be. But it is a Grace week on the Goodjelly blog. And there feels to me to be a lot of grace in this memory. The grace of a wonderful teacher. The grace of finding joy even when the set-up is boring. The grace of seeing an early flash of one’s true voice.

And since by the time you read this a title will have been found, this memory is also surfacing the grace of trusting that all will come together—just as it did back then. Which is a really good grace to have on hand for the (long, winding, and often wily) writing adventure. So I share that grace freely with you today: It will all come together. Somehow. Someway. Someday. Onward! 


The Goodjelly Prompt of the Week

  1. Write a thank-you (to be sent or not sent, as circumstances allow) to someone who was an early supporter of your writing adventure.
  2. Write a short how-to paper in the voice/from the perspective of your story’s main character. Let them be a tad irreverent. 
  3. Write a 100’ish-word story or poem describing your voice. If you feel you haven’t found your voice yet, write a 100’ish-word story or poem describing the voice you want to have.
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