At this morning’s Student-Led Conferences at St Paul School, I was reminded not once but twice just how atrocious my handwriting is. More accurately, it’s my printing, as I haven’t used handwriting (except for my signature) since 1989.
My first visit was to Sean’s grade 4 classroom. After viewing samples of his very creative and detailed work, we made our way to the SMART Board at the front of the classroom for the “Parents vs. Students Fraction Challenge.” After a bit of trash-talking (I reminded Sean that despite failing my accounting exams, Math was my best subject) we prepared ourselves for the 60-second race. I had heard a lot about these SMART Boards, but nothing could have prepared me for the chaos that ensued.
You’ll see from the picture that we were to provide fractions close to 0, close to ½, and close to 1. Once the countdown begun, I immediately focused on the second column as I figured I could come up with the most for that one. I frantically started to scribble numbers but quickly got frustrated as the supposedly SMART Board wasn’t recognizing or accepting any of my answers. The way the board did this was by “partially erasing” my answer before I could finish writing it. It was quite freaky actually, as I would see portions of my fractions “magically disappear” even before I could finish writing them!
Over the laughter and cheering from Sean’s classmates, I shouted out “What’s going on here?”
To his credit (and to my surprise), Sean didn’t ignore me and actually took the time to tell me that I needed to print more neatly so the board could recognize what I was trying to communicate.
Naturally, I then tried to erase the 7 or 8 answers I had already written to give myself more room for correct (and neatly-printed) answers. I used a technique I thought I had seen another parent use previously: I started to “rub out” my answers as if my hand was an eraser. Much to my dismay, instead of erasing the red pen marks, my efforts only added to the dog’s breakfast on the screen, as the incorrectly-named SMART Board thought I was trying to write some more! Hence, the big scribbles on the picture.
By this time, half of the minute had elapsed so I knew I had to get moving. I calmly yet hastily got as many fractions down as I could in the last 30 seconds…and you’ll see from the picture that my printing was half-decent (at least by my low standards). Sean and I tallied up our results and added our figures to the running score. As for who won…let’s just say that my 27 years of extra experience with math ultimately helped me squeak out a close victory despite the slow start.
As the next family came up to play, I asked Sean how you’re supposed to erase things. He showed me that I needed to return my pen to the board’s built-in shelf and then use the eraser. I told him that I hadn’t even seen the eraser prior to him showing me. Sean simply laughed, along with the rest of his classmates.
Next, it was time to visit Jacob’s grade 2 classroom. Unlike the last meeting with his teacher in the fall, Jake spared me the awkward introduction to her. In November, Jake actually said to me: “Dad, I’d like you to meet my teacher Mrs. Imoo. Mrs. Imoo…this is my Dad.”
After reviewing Jake’s work ranging from computers to social studies to French to math, Jake supplied me with a page to fill out my “Parent Comments.” In my ALL CAPS PRINTING, I expressed to Jake how proud of him I was, and I encouraged him to keep working hard and to keep being kind to others. Once I was done, I handed it over to Jake to read.
As Jake read my comments aloud, he stumbled on a couple of words per sentence. At first, I thought that I had just discovered his weakest subject. Then, as I watched him, I realized that he was struggling because he couldn’t read my printing.
A typical exchange went something like this:
Jake: “Keep up the great work Jacob and lon…uh…what’s this say Dad?”
Jake: “That’s a C? It looks more like an L!”
Me: “Never mind…keep going.”
Looking back, I’m not at all surprised that neither the SMART Board nor my smart boy could decipher my penmanship. My notes were messy in both high school and university…but at least no one would ask to borrow them to copy!
When I worked with Richard Vetter in 2000 and 2001, he continually offered to enrol me in a handwriting course. I would type him emails graciously declining.
And presently at the OYYAM, Faye occasionally teases me about my writing (and signature), once in a while asking me when I changed my first name to “Clon” or my last name to “Imod.”
It doesn’t sweat me though, as it just goes to prove the old and familiar adage that messy penmanship is a sign of genius.