The Grammar Nazi
The grade on the paper was a very large C!
Back in school after a long absence to take literature, grammar, and creative writing courses at the local community college, I was in shock. This was not a normal turn of events for me. Though I was pursuing these subjects “later in life” in order to kickstart a career in writing, I had always been a good student, earning mostly A’s with an occasional B. I had also spent the past 17years doing legal writing, getting paid well and receiving kudos for it. Additionally, I had done some public speaking which had been well received and for which I had written the material.
Approaching the desk tentatively, I asked, “What caused me to get a C on this paper?”
“You didn’t do the assignment,” was the terse reply.
“But, I . . .”
“Yes, I know you wrote down a lot of facts, filled up several pages, and felt you had duly impressed me with your knowledge, but it was not what I asked you to do.”
Humbly, I inquired, “Could you explain where I missed the mark, please?”
By the next assignment, I’d gotten it and the grade was much improved. Throughout that course on historic American Literature, I was treated to rare insights into the minds and lives of many important literary figures from which I mined incredible perspectives about the craft of writing.
And so began an extended student/professor relationship with the self-proclaimed “grammar Nazi.” A veteran professor, respected head of the English department, exceptional grammarian, and devoted lover of all things literary, she was tough, but she took an incredible, personal interest in the academic growth of her students. It was a relationship for which I will be forever grateful.
In spite of the fact that it was the 21st century, we were expected to turn off our cell phones, be attentive in class, participate fully, produce our own work, and follow her directions explicitly. This came as a shock to many, yet she never wavered. She was absolutely certain of her curriculum, secure in her own skin and confident about her contributions to the world of education. Some did not last through the first weeks. However, those of us who did, came away richer and wiser.
My next class with Ms. Nazi involved advanced grammar. With a smile on my face and fear in my heart, I began the course. Multiple times, I sat next to this mentor as she puzzled over correcting my grammar in such a way as not to quiet my “unique voice.”
Modern American Literature and An Overview of American Culture followed and then, there were no more courses offered that were taught by this amazing woman.
She encouraged me to take the Creative Writing course. Yet, I was not sure I could do it. Why? It was the poetry requirements. I felt I was no poet and what if, just what if, I didn’t pass the class because of it. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” she replied. She was certain I could do it. Besides, I was taking these courses for growth, not for a degree, better to try than to lose the opportunity she expounded further.
When I received a complimentary comment on my first poetic effort, I ran to her office with excitement. Encouraging me with a smile and a pat on the shoulder, she stated, “You have an interesting way of writing. I think you are a book writer. You have much to say that is good and I believe people will want to read what you write. I am looking forward to reading your first book some day.”
Now that I have published my first book, I am eagerly looking forward to contacting my former professor. She is retired. However, I need to find her because although I am pleased with the marvelous reviews received so far and it is important to me that I honor God and make my family proud, just directly below that is a desire to hear the grammar Nazi say one more time -- “excellent work, you’ve hit the mark!”
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