Words and Scribing

Grannymar (qv) has written about her memories of writing and its difficulties. This has reminded me of my own struggles with handwriting.

At the age of  15 I was the only person in  a Grammar School of over 600 pupils who had to go to the Art Room every Thursday for up to 2 hours tuition in handwriting. My problems had gone on since my first days at school…my earliest memories of school include a boy call Michael Swann showing off his big toy truck and the following event.

The pencil point broke once more and I went up to the teacher’s desk to get it sharpened.

“If you break that pencil again I will send you to the head master,” screeched the bitter looking teacher. I went back to my desk, sat down and started to write. Immediately the pencil lead broke.

I looked around in terror and then looked at the pencil in my hand. I pondered> Not for long but I pondered what exactly to do. It occurred to me that teeth were made before penknives and so I chewed the end of the pencil. Chew! Spit out the splinters of wood. Chew! Spit! Chew! Spit!

Eventually I had enough of a piece of pencil lead bare of wood to be able to write. As I started to write two things happened: the pencil lead broke again and I was pulled up by my ear lobe. I had not escaped the notice of the bitter faced teacher.

I was duly marched into the head master’s classroom where a ritual humiliation commenced. I need not iterate what was said nor the tone…you can all imagine it.

I cried, copiously and without stopping until my mother came to collect me and administered a slap across the face , for crying and one across the back of the legs for shaming her by being so stupid as to  try to  sharpen a pencil with my teeth.

I was unable to write neatly until, aged 18, I was prescribed spectacles for an astigmatism. People now seem to think I have the most wonderful handwriting.

As a teacher I have made it a point of honour never to criticise a child’s writing unless to point out where improvements can be made.

I have  principles about handwriting:

1…It should be legible

2…It should be fast

3….It  should be comfortable for both the writer and the reader.

Given those three, handwriting need never be a problem.

To this day the child who has difficulties with handwriting for what ever reason has my sympathy and support.


6 Responses to “Words and Scribing”

  1. rummuser Says:

    Magpie, that is a poignant story.

    We are now battling with a similar problem in many schools in India where teachers are unable to recognize dyslexia and one child was punished so severely that she died.

    It is only in the last decade or so that the world of education has begun to look into special needs of differently enabled children (oops, there I go using politically correct terminology!) but this needs more attention and publicity than it currently receives.

  2. Grannymar Says:


    thanks for this post and the emails on the topic. I have added an update at my blog linking here.

  3. Grannymar » Words Says:

    […] UPDATE: Follow up post on this subject at Magpie’s Nest […]

  4. Annb Says:

    Hello, I’ve just discovered your blog via Grannymar. I wish I had a teacher with your kind attitude when I was in school. Rummuser’s comment really strikes a chord as I am currently trying to put support systems in place for my son to start school in Sept. Thankfully our education system has moved on, I just hope the advances made will not form part of the sacrifices required to save our errant, greedy banks. BTW, Loved your Bird story – it has inspired me to continue fight for my kid’s creative space.

  5. wisewebwoman Says:

    I hear you Magpie and I commented about writing on GM’s blog if you want to take a peek.

  6. magpie11 Says:

    Oh! There’s more …… GM please keep remanding me!

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