My 3rd Grade Teacher Was Wrong

Dear Mrs. ___________,

In the early 1980’s you had a self-conscious and somewhat awkward student in your class. I still have my awkward moments but overall I’m doing rather well.   When I was in your class we spent a lot of time on cursive handwriting.   I never could quite get it right.  Remember that brownish/grey lined paper with the dotted line down the middle?


Because of my experience in your 3rd grade class I now have “red pencil phobia.”  You did have quite the fascination with marking papers up with red didn’t you?  We even had to bring red pencils to school so that we as 9 year olds could mark up other student’s papers.    Did I mention I was self-conscience?

One day you wrote:  Use up all the space!! across my paper. You also had lines going every direction indicating the inconsistency of my slant.  Remember slant and slope?

I fixed my letters to be sure they took up the all the space and got back in the line that had formed at your desk.   This time you looked and my paper and with a disgusted look wrote:


Use up all the space!!!!

I went back to my desk and stared at my paper which was now damp and smeared from tears of frustration.  I re-erased everything and tried one more time to write my cursive in a way that would be good enough to move on to the fun activity that the other kids had already started.  I stretched my letters in an effort to use all the space and tried to nail that perfect slant and slope.  So I went back up to your desk with my paper in hand.   It had holes from triple erasing; it was smeared and smudged, slightly damp and very, very red.   This time….you wrote a word or two on the lines of my wrinkled paper and said NO! NO! NO!!  LIKE THIS!  Apparently “use up all the space” meant vertically, not horizontally.   I had been stretching my words length-wise so my sentence would go all the way to the end of the line.  You meant that my lower case letters should go to the dotted line and my capital letters should go to the top line.  I remember you telling me that if my “Palmer” wasn’t precise then no one would ever take me seriously.  Excellent cursive was indicative of an intelligent person….and vice versa.

Interestingly…..I have not turned a paper in to a teacher in cursive since  7th grade and she was much more interested in my content than the slant of my letters.    Then in high school I used my trusty Smith-Corona word processor which was WAY better than my grandma’s type writer.   In college not a single professor was  privy to my lack of cursive expertise. We had moved up to the personal computer by then and we often turned our work in on a floppy disk.   My college instructors just wondered why I had to breathe into a brown paper bag when they wrote in red on the hard copy.

Now that I own what I like to call a small but active real estate office and am raising an awesome little family….I must tell you.   You were wrong about cursive and frankly you were wrong about me.  An awkward 9 year old’s slant and slope will not determine the outcome of her life.

Fast forward though about 15 fake sick days and months of frustration when I finally confessed my woes to my mother.  The principal told my mom and I that I could be transferred in to another 3rd grade class…..I was SO relieved!  For about 30 seconds; then I heard my mom say, “That won’t be necessary. My daughter and Mrs.________ will have to find a way to get along and I trust that Mrs. _________will be fair to my daughter from here on out.”   Someone please hand be a brown paper sack!  I just had a ticket outta here and my own flesh and blood just betrayed me and sentenced me to finish the remainder of the school year in torture. Okay…so I might have had a little issue with drama.

I finished the school year in Mrs._________3rd grade class and we had our ups and downs.  My mom told me that when she was mean to picture her in her underwear.   WOW! Mrs.________ had some interesting taste in underwear.  Some of it was outrageous!  When she was rude to me….I started laughing and thinking …..yellow granny pantie polka dots.

It took me awhile but 30 years later I am thankful for my year in Mrs._____’s 3rd grade  class and yes….thankful that my mom made me stay in it.  Through my experience I learned many things that I may not have learned otherwise.  Or I may have learned them later in life at a greater cost.

  • Be clear about what you expect of people and don’t make them guess.
  • You are not going to get along with everybody in this life…get over it
  • Don’t quit but rather find a coping mechanism when the going gets tough
  • Laugh at mean people….it messes with their heads
  • Cursive writing is not a predictor of a person’s future success

Other than my hatred of red writing utensils I am better for the experience I had in 3rd grade.  I trust that Mrs. __________ and I  have both grown and matured since those awkward 80’s.

Sarah Johnson

About Sarah Johnson

Johnson Home and Land is a small but active real estate firm in rural northwest Wyoming. We are an experienced team of professionals who want to walk along side you in your housing journey. If you are thinking about buying, selling, renting or investing we are here to help. Contact us at or 307-548-6909
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One Response to My 3rd Grade Teacher Was Wrong

  1. Sandi Shearer says:

    This was an especially neat post, Sarah! I enjoyed it and forwarded to my daughter.

    Your real estate professional,

    Sandi Shearer, Associate Broker


    Prudential Brokerage West, Inc.

    Cody, Wyoming or

    307-587-6234 FAX 307-587-3840


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