Thursday, October 30, 2008

Making the Grade

The kid got her report card yesterday.

No surprises there; she's a smart kid and does well by 1st-grade standards. Her "grades" (they don't graduate to an A-B-C-D-F scale for a few more years) are pretty much what mine were in elementary school. Except for one subject where she outright kicks my butt:


She scored an "E" for "Excellent" in this subject. She has gorgeous, clear handwriting that bears some resemblance to her father's and which, based on her peers' work I've seen hanging in the school hallway, is more polished than many other first-graders. It follows the D'Nealian methods taught at her school exactly while still somehow looking artistic. Her handwriting shows personality and follows form. I know I am bragging, but my handwriting sucks so I am in awe.

Some of you are nodding your head, remembering that time in high school a teacher wrote on a class-written essay, "Please bring a typewriter with you to class." The teacher was only partly joking. Those of you who remember that probably also remember when we had to get in groups and do peer revision on essays; at least once a paragraph, a reader would lean over to ask, "What's this word?" And those were on works that I had actually taken my time to write "neatly" on.

It's been a joke in my family for years. It wasn't so funny the time I got a big fat "U" for "Unsatisfactory" on penmanship on a 4th-grade report card, but it has been ever since.

"Hey, I can make out my name," my sister said about a Christmas gift tag under our tree last year. "When you print, I can almost read what you've written. When did you learn how to write?"

Hardy har har.

I blame it on my dad on several levels. First of all, he had God-awful handwriting and gave up cursive altogether and just printed (a habit I have taken up by necessity.) Secondly, he enouraged me to use my right hand when, at my fifth birthday and about half a year away from kindergarten, I was using both my right and left hands equally when coloring or scribbling.

"It's easier to be right-handed," he reasoned. And I am mostly okay with this and mostly believe that I am truly right-handed. But every so often I pick up a pen and give left-handed writing a try.

"That's almost legible," my husband will say as I sign my name on Ainsley's Magna Doodle with my left hand. "I think that might actually look better than your right-handed signature."

When Ainsley was in day care, her teachers told me they thought she might be left-handed. They saw her favoring her left hand when coloring and doing tasks that required fine motor skills. They broke it to me like bad news; you could tell they sympathized with those kids who were always searching for the one broken pair of left-handed scissors. But I let her be and, sure enough, she began using her right exclusively and produced elegant letters that made me irrationally envious.

And now she is acing penmanship. Go, Ainsley! We'll have the last laugh if a child of my DNA ends up being a calligrapher.

1 comment:

Robert K. said...

I feel your pain. My penmanship sucks too. What makes it worse is that my last name is long, with a string of up-and-down characters (n's and an i) in a row, so my signature has pretty much degenerated into a K followed by unreadable scrawl. Deb used to laugh when I told her I would take her name when we got married, but after 6 years her signature is starting to resemble mine.