At the Point of a Pen

I  prayed every night that I wouldn’t get Mrs. Shepherd for third grade.  She was old.   I wanted the young pretty teacher who taught next door.  We all did. I learned about unanswered prayer as I was directed to Room 119 on the first day of school.  I had good manners, but I was stunned to find Mrs. Shepherd was my teacher.  I fought back the tears, but not the words: “But I prayed I wouldn’t get you!”

A hint of a smile came to her crone-like face: “And I prayed I wouldn’t get you…  We’ll make the best of it.”

I was directed to a front row seat reserved for children who read well.  By the end of the day I was redirected to a back row seat for children who talked a lot. Our first homework assignment: “Write a story about an adventure you might have had, but didn’t.  And use a pen…you are third graders now.”  And so it was that I began my writing life with a blue BIC pen from the Five and Dime.

We lived in the woods on the York River.  I wrote about  my sister and the raft we might have  built and the river journey we might have taken. I wrote  about the Indians who might have come to the shore when they heard the  timbre of our pirate cries: “We are Snow White and Rose Red and we’ll love each other until we’re dead!”  I wrote how those Indians might have adopted us as their own.

The next day Mrs. Shepherd read my story to the class and said, “Ann Hopkins, you are a writer.”

It turned out Mrs. Shepherd and I had something in common.  She lived in the same place I did when she was my age.  My woods had been her woods. She had been eight years old once!  I was moved up a few rows.

Mrs. Shepherd was born in the 1800’s.  I decided that was why she talked the way she did. She never said, “Get your things.”  She said, “Collect your belongings.”  She referred to coats as wraps, to boots as galoshes, and to the coat closet as the cloak room. Her haggish features seemed to fade with time.  I could see a girl in her eyes.

I think of her often.  I understand so much more now than I did then; those woods aren’t the only terrain we’ve shared.  I know that in naming children by name as writers, I pass on her teacher blessing. And what I know now is that she was an answer to prayer after all.

About Annie Campbell

Annie Campbell is a National Board Certified teacher and loves her work. After a forty year career in the classroom, she continues to support teachers. Annie enjoys cooking for family and friends; she likes to lose herself in a good book; she loves discovering new ideas, restaurants, perfect picnic places, and movies with her husband, Ben.
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9 Responses to At the Point of a Pen

  1. Stacey says:

    “My woods had been her woods.”
    This really shows the commonality you found. Love that line.

  2. blkdrama says:

    I am going to steal your focus for this MM. So far I haven’t written one yet and I will enjoy returning to my school beginnings.
    As I read I could see your shared home. I’m wondering what this story would be enhanced with visuals?

  3. Kimberly says:

    How wonderful that she called you a writer!

  4. Wendy Martin says:

    What a wonderful story.

    I can just imagine the joy of having a teacher say — before the ENTIRE CLASS — “You are a writer.”

    What will the students of room 204 be writing about YOU in a generation or so? I imagine it will be equally powerful.

    Thanks for being a fabulous teacher.

  5. Ms. Radlciffe says:

    I love this, Annie Campbell.

  6. Ms. Radcliffe says:

    I love this Annie Campbell.

  7. Antionette says:

    The beginning and end of this story touched me. Ann Hopkins was disappointed to have Mrs. Shepard as her teacher. It all worked out for Ann. She found out that she was a good writer and she shared childhood qualities with her teacher.

  8. Gloria Maldonado says:

    What a lovely entry. I like how you start with ” I prayed everyday night..” and also finished with this idea. I think we all have had teachers who at the beginning of the school year did not like very much but by the end of June we end up loving and sharing a special connection with them.

  9. marvene2 says:

    I loved it! I enjoyed the humor in the story. I especially enjoyed the sentence “A hint of a smile came to her crone-like face: “And I prayed I wouldn’t get you… We’ll make the best of it.” I can remember going to the next grade and hoping I don’t get the mean teacher everyone warned about. I don’t remember my prayers being answered in my favor either but it worked out in the end. As children, we don’t understand a lot of things. We sometimes judge from what we hear and not what we know. This is true for adults as well. You can learn something from everyone if you take the time and get to know them. In your story, you discovered that you had a lot in common with the mean teacher. After realizing this, she didn’t seem that mean anymore. You took the time to connect with her and you learned something very valuable. So much that you find yourself using her techniques with your own students. She also discovered that you were a writer. No you get to share your wonderful writing with the world. Thanks, Mrs. Shepherd and thanks Annie Campbell.

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