Sixth & Seventh Grade:
Differentiated Instruction was introduced to us in sixth grade. We were given packets for various different subjects and were left to [[#|work]] independently, at our own pace, with them. I don't remember much about the English packet, which leads me to believe that it was a lot like a standardized test. I vaguely remember reading different stories and having to choose the sentence that [[#|best]] summarized them. I am sure there were plenty of grammar exercises to go along. I do remember completing them long before the school year was up and helping other students with theirs.

I don't remember writing anything for English class during these grades, but I do remember a piece of writing from my Social Studies class. We were introduced to the "consumer letter," and asked to write to a [[#|business]]. I chose to write to "Nike," and began by telling them how their shoes were my favorite. I then led into telling them that the first pair I had lasted me all year and did not wear out, but that I had grown out of them. Then I proceeded to tell them that this new pair's sole had separated within a month of wearing them (all true), and wanted to know if they had changed something in their manufacturing process. I received an apology letter from Nike and they sent me a brand new pair of shoes.

I also wrote a lot of sentences for Johnny Knaggs. He was always getting into some sort of trouble and assigned hundreds of sentences to write as homework about various things that he shouldn't do in class. Johnny was my buddy and not only was my penmanship good, I could also very it to look like someone else had written it. To mimic Johnny's hand writing, I had to use my left hand. I had mastered writing with both hands at this age because of various injuries to my right in my life by this time.


I was still in Girl Scouts in the seventh grade and the summer after school we took a trip to New York City. During this trip I met a girl, Patty, from the east side of Michigan--Rochester I think. Patty and I shared a seat from the beginning of the trip, roomed together by choice, and rode home together. We were [[#|instant]] friends and continued to write letters for over a year.

Eight Grade:This year many things changed for me. In seventh grade we were given the choice of two electives, either Shop class or Home Economics. At the end of seventh grade we [[#|signed up]] for our electives in eighth grade, and I chose to take Drafting class. The first day of eighth grade I was assigned to Home Economics instead, reason being they said "You have to take this class and you didn't take it last year." That was not my understanding of how that worked. We were given the choice in seventh grade, but of course all the girls chose Home Economics class except for me (I was the only girl in shop class in seventh grade). None of the boys from Shop class, who [[#|signed up]] for Drafting were exempted, and forced to take Home Economics. I was on a rampage that day. To appease me I was allowed to give up my [[#|study]] hour elective and take Drafting instead.

Needless to say, I was not satisfied! I was a terror in Home Economics class, what did this women, Ms. Hasselback, straight out of college have to teach me about Home Economics? I already knew [[#|how to cook]], sew, knit, garden, can, skin a rabbit and a deer, and plenty of other things I felt this woman knew little or nothing about. I also knew more about raising children; she who didn't have any. I had been taking care of my brothers and sisters for a few years by this time (my mom started working outside the home when I was nine) and I had helped to raise them since they were babies--plus I had a few different babysitting gigs.

Back to writing. When not hassling Ms. Hasselback, I collected signatures on a petition (that I wrote) to change this discriminating school policy. I then sent this petition in a letter to the superintendent and school board. The year was1972. The Equal Rights Amendment--granting that equal rights were not to be denied or abridged on account of sex--had just passed in both the House and the Senate. I pointed out that this policy was in denial of these rights and suggested that these two classes should remain electives and no one should be forced to take both. If they found it necessary that all girls had to take Home Economics, then they needed to require that all boys take this class also. The following year it was a requirement for all boys and girls take Home Economics :)

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In Social Studies our teacher asked us to write a descriptive paper on "How to Tie Your Shoes." Easy enough, right! I found that it wasn't so easy. I practiced my instructions on my little sister to make sure that I had everything written down. The next day we found a partner and read our directions to them. They followed our instructions and tried to tie their shoes in front of the class. This was an eye opening and fun experience about technical writing. My paper was the only total success. I'm not so sure I could complete such an exercise today. I do know it took a long time to write.

My questioning of authority that year had the school and my mother in regular contact. She began to snoop through my things and read my diary and letters from Patty. Patty was four years older than me and interested in boys (I was only twelve and still very much a "tomboy"). Even though we were very different, Patty and I confided in each other. She wrote to me about her boyfriend (whom she was having sex with by now), and I wrote to her about my troubles at home (particularly my parents--my father was manic-depressive, what they call bi-polar today). Mom confronted me about Patty, and said, "That girl is no good, you are not to write to her ever again." Of course this didn't stop me, I wrote several more letters to her and mailed them from town.

Patty never wrote back again. My mother was stealing my letters from the mailbox and destroying them. Once I figured this one out, I stopped writing letters to Patty. Unfortunately a twelve year old couldn't get a post-office box or I may still be writing to Patty today. I can't remember her address, nor do I even remember her last name or I would contact her today.

I not only stopped writing to Patty, I stopped writing. I was so angry with my mother I refused to write anything down that had anything to do with my feelings. I stopped writing in my diary and even in school if it required me to share emotion.


High School:
I was an all "A" student up until Ms. Hasselback's class (this is her real name). She gave me a "D" in Home Ec. Not only was I a girl scout, but I was also in 4-H member who entered my sewing and knitting projects, baked goods, and livestock every year at the county fair. I always received blue ribbons there. How is it that I almost failed her class? I found it to be her problem and looking back and reflecting about myself, I still find it to be mostly her fault. Sure, I was hard on her, but there was a lot she could have learned from me. Instead everything was her way or the highway. There could be a book written about our interactions for sure.

Receiving my first "D" ever, in a class that I didn't need or want to take, was a joke to me. I laughed it off and school itself became a joke . Ninth grade English was a repeat of the last five years of grammar and diagramming sentences, but that was not all. We were introduced to a great deal of poetry and prose, various short stories, and Shakespeare. I checked out, literally, most of the time. I made sure that I was there on Fridays, for spelling and diagramming sentence tests, in order to pass the class. By this time it didn't matter what the words were, I would be able to pass the test. Ninth grade English was my second "D."

We were required to read a few assigned books that year and write book reports. I don't even remember the titles, because I didn't read them. I did the book reports though. I had discovered the book reviews at the Olivet College Library by then. I wrote my book summaries by reading the back cover, prologue and the reviews. Yes, I know it's a crime, but this is when my second career began.

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Not only did I write my summaries in this cheating fashion, I wrote many reports for friends of mine who didn't read the books either. I charged a dollar a page and would write for anyone who I believed would keep their mouths shut. Everyone did, because I never got caught. Although in my Senior year I thought for a moment that my career was over and that I would fail High School completely.

In Government class, with Mr. Weldon, we were required to read "Making of the President 1972," by Theodore H. White. For those of you who weren't born yet, this book is a narrative about President Nixon's years in politics and the Watergate Scandal. I wrote five summaries on this book, all for students that were in my same class, and a summary of my own. Like the rest of these students I never read this book. As Mr. Weldon was handing back the reports, he said, "I can tell the students who read this book and the ones who didn't from your reports. Your grades reflect your reading, participation in class, and comprehension of this narration." The whole time he was talking I felt that he was staring at me. I only showed up on Fridays in his class to take the exams, and was sure that I had failed at this assignment along with letting down my peers. I was sweating as he handed back these reports, and I felt those who I wrote papers for were glaring at me.

Whew, I received a "B." Out of the other five, four of them received "A's" and one a "B+". What was he thinking, how did I get a "B" on my own paper and most others an "A"? Then I realized that he probably marked me down because of my participation in class. Here is a picture of my graduating class; there were 104 of us. The largest class ever to graduate from Olivet High School at the time. Around twenty of them paid me to write something for them over the course of those four years of my life.

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I never really thought about how my business venture affected other students learning and writing process. The majority of them were good students, on the school Honor Role and some of them even members of the National Honors Society. I have learned in this class that incorporating assignments such as I-Search and Multi-genre writing are not only instrumental in developing mega-cognitive learning skills, this type of writing would have literally made it impossible for me to do others work for them. It was generations ago when I was in high school and this sort of approach to writing wasn’t heard of, or at least wasn't taught in my English classes.

Between 9th and 12th grade there were many instrumental changes in my life, at home and at school. I began working at Olivet College's Collegiate Center the summer after 9th grade. It was there that I began to form friendships with many black students. There were no students of color, a few with Latino heritage, but as you can see in the picture above I attended a rural all white school. There were none who even lived within a thirty mile radius that I knew of, except for those who came to Olivet for college. Olivet was the first college in Michigan to welcome women and minority students and because of this they were denied entrance into the state charter in 1845.

The new relationships I had with students of color, caused tension to grow between me and my parents. The community was very ethnocentric, my grandfather and father being two of the biggest bigots. Not only was my father a racist, he was also manic (what doctors diagnose today as bi-polar). You never really knew who you were dealing with from day to day and his anger was explosive. My mother was liberal minded and believed in civil rights, but to go against my father upset the whole house.

My disillusionment with 9th grade English class led me to take no English at all in 10th grade. In order to graduate we only needed two English courses and one elective English class. In 10thgrade I decided to take a Communications and Drama class. Both of these were elective English courses and writing was not part of the curriculum.college library.jpeg I spent a lot of time at the College Library between school and my evening work schedule. It was here that I did a great deal of researching topics and writing outlines for my various speeches.

A presentation that I will never forget was one about the dangers of ethnocentrism and the myths of race. In this persuasive speech I theorized that we all came from the same place. I included what I had learned about DNA technology at the time and tied it to stories from the Bible. I questioned the hypocrisy of the Christian who sat in church on Sunday’s and condemned the colored man the rest of the week. The material that I presented and tied together was long before scientists had conclusive evidence supporting the “Out of Africa” theory. My speech that day caused a great debate in class. Needless to say, if not from my previous civil rights project in 7th grade, I was branded a “radical” for this one.

At Thanksgiving dinner that year I decided to bring this topic up again with my racist father and grandfather present. That didn’t go over well. I have to say it is impossible to change deep seated racism with just a few conversations. I began distancing myself from friends, because of their prejudices and stereotypical views, and spending more time at the college. The very diverse campus is the heart of Olivet, yet it is surrounded by a backwoods community.

When it came time to sign up for junior year classes, my accounting teacher, Mr. Brown, suggested that I apply to go to the Calhoun Area Vocational Center (CAVC) in Battle Creek. I had never heard of this place before and wondered why I should apply? He took the time to explain the opportunities that going to CAVC had to offer me and helped me decide to enroll in their Data Processing (today called Computer Information Systems) program.

I went to CAVC for the better part of the day, only to return to high school for two classes in the afternoon. I really enjoyed my class there and students were diverse, I would guess that 50% were minorities. It was at the CAVC that I learned how to write a résumé and cover letter. After six months in the program I had completed all requirements and was eligible to apply for a paid internship. I applied at Community Hospital in Battle Creek and began working there instead of going to the center. I was still taking two classes (history and geometry) in the afternoon and kept my job at the college in the evenings.

Looking back, I was pretty busy for a sixteen year old. Knowing what I know now about ability/tracking I wonder if I was tracked into the Vocational Center. Normally, these days those deemed without academic abilities are tracked into vocational programs. In the 70s, in order to apply, your GPA had to be 3.0 or better. I believe that this was the best thing that could have happened to me in high school. Mr. Brown had the foresight to know that a career in CIS could take me a long way in the future. He also knew a great deal about me personally and my life at home. I used to spend weekends babysitting for him and his wife and would often go on vacations with them to help take care of the children.

My senior year of high school I enrolled in a co-op program which allowed me to get school credits for working at the hospital. The hospital wanted me full-time, but the requirement was that I still had to have government in order to graduate. I knew this in my junior year when I began at CAVC and asked to take the class then, but it was only allowed to seniors. School bureaucracy infuriated me even as a child. What a joke government class turned out to be; “Making of the President, 1972.” Mr. Weldon was cool though, even though his curriculum sucked. He knew my situation and allowed me to self-study the course and show up only on Fridays for quizzes, exams, and a few other occasions when we had government representatives in to speak. This freedom from class allowed me to work eight hours at the hospital four days a week.

It wasn’t long after senior year started that things at home got unbearable. I was still working at the college in the evenings and was spending time after work with co-workers (some of them happened to be black). My father had been stalking me and was infuriated with me for associating with “such kind.” I cannot to this day repeat the things he used to say to me. When I got home he insisted that I quit my job at the college. I refused his order and tried to defend my friends to him one more time. The heated argument turned physical and he then threw me out of the house, literally. Luckily, thanks to Mr. Brown, I had the resources to run--a car, two jobs, and plenty of friends who allowed me to crash at their house. When I turned seventeen, I got my own apartment in Battle Creek and continued working and going to school.

I could write a book about my dysfunctional life growing up. There is so much more to write about learning to write in business, my reasons for returning to school and how I arrived here enrolled at WMU in a Secondary Education Curriculum. Majoring in English of all subjects--my 9th grade English teacher would be floored!

So you want to write a novel