Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Write neatly!

(All pics clickable to enlarge)

I remember the first grade.I loved school! In general, I was a shy, self-conscious kid, but school was definitely a place where I could shine! Well, sort of. You see, I knew most of the answers to all sorts of questions, spelling was a piece of cake, math was like playing games. Yes, I could make a mess at art (not my thing, art), I was kind of clumsy at P.E. And, I mustn't forget I missed a tone or two at music (actually, I sang out of tune completely). But in the end, my grades were great and I was very proud of them, even developing a sort of arrogance, feeling I was better than some of my classmates. Arrogance is NOT ME. It just disappeared as it came.

I remember clearly what my first grade teacher said (one of those mom-like-teachers): Your grades are perfect, but if handwriting was a subject like maths, you would have to repeat class. You would fail completely.

It was said with a smile, but I had heard that before. My handwriting was just sooooo ugly! When we learned cursive writing, I tried to do everything in the exact way as our teacher did. I JUST COULDN'T! The letters ended either too low or too high, crossing the lines that were there to guide my hand. Where they were supposed to be round, they had some unexpected corners. Besides, I was terribly slow in writing (as I was in most other things).

My family commented on the looks of my notebooks, saying it was in genes -my brother was the same, sister only a little bit better, but neither mom nor dad wrote that ugly. Sometimes they joked about it, but when it got too bad, dad could get really angry. My brother and I had to practise letters and numbers in order to learn how to write them properly. Little did they know that I practised on my own, too, because I WANTED to write neatly.

It got worse and worse. At the age of thirteen I couldn't read what I wrote. Neither could anyone else, of course. I heard that over an over again. In different tones. Ugh! I was always clumsy with my fingers and writing most certainly involves some "finger activity".

In high school I heard the same comments. I tried and succeeded in writing legibly in most cases. Many notes were simply missing because I just wasn't one of those diligent students. I figured out how much work I needed to do to get by.

And then it happened.I fell in love with the drummer in my brother's band. It didn't last. It ended with a couple of letters. And they just HAD TO be neat. You should see the letters in those letters :) ! There they were, one by one, printed rather than cursive and looking so neat. I was so proud of myself.

It got a little bit easier. I copied lyrics of songs into a notebook, being very very careful about handwriting and even started to use my new skill in my school notebooks.

There is this funny thing about handwriting: people like me show in every word they write how they feel, how much they like what they're writing and how much time they have to write what they're writing. So these are some of my creations that were written in the last few years.

Some planning, when I had time and will to do it. In the beginning, at least, then I got kind of fed up with it :An exercise at a language school - I loved it, had an idea and very little time. I don't know why I chose red. I guess I liked red that day:
And I had some worse notes from meetings I didn't want to attend. Notes from one I attended with a bad headache, are particularly illegible.

An exercise we did with a boy, him talking and me doing the writing - it had to be neat for him to be able to read
:See? Even my "neat" isn't neat.

Of all the things people have said about this the worst thing was that some people think that everyone can write neatly, you just have to try. If your handwriting is not neat, or if it's horrible like mine, then you are lazy and obviously don't care. That is SO NOT TRUE!!!

I often come across notes, exercises and test I can hardly read, but in most cases I can - with my experience! This is one of them, far from the worst:

I NEVER say to a child: "Write neatly!"
I'm never angry about it.

I do say: "Try to write more legibly. It's important! It will save you a lot of trouble."
The reply is often: "But I can't write neatly!"
Me: "I'm not telling you to. But it must always be legible enough for people to read it. I myself write terribly, but for you, I try hard and you can read, can't you?"

They're usually surprised. The reason is that I use a kind of first-grade handwriting for the short notes on the blackboard.(Or I type and use the projector.) Yes, I can do that for a limited amount of text if I try. But that just isn't me.


  1. Bad handwriting is a sign of genius.

    I also learnt cursive at school. The following illustrates the stages of my handwriting.

    1) Childlike scrawl
    2) Childlike cursive (I hated it)
    3) Childlike scrawl tainted by illegible cursive bits

  2. I think I know exactly what you mean... :)

    But my "stages" can sometimes be all found on one single page..

  3. I agree that bad handwriting is a sign of genius, or at least great husband has terrible handwriting too. ;)

    I like your way of helping a child write more legibly. I've said the same to my boys, neither of whom has any interest in neat writing.

  4. I'm not sure I'm helping much, but I sure enough understand they can't write neatly. I have friends whose notebooks have always looked surreal to me... I was jealous, but hey, that's life...

  5. I'll have to show this to Silver, he keeps telling me I'm smart, but if messy handwriting is indicitive of great intellegence, well then I'm at the bottom of that pole!

    You see, I was born a lefty, my mom broke many a ruler making me learn to use my right hand. After all, only those that come from the devil are lefthanded! Anyway, I think she went through about 40 rulers and god only knows how many wooden spoons "teaching" me to write neatly. In high school my writing was so neat and compact that my teachers actually asked me to write a bit messier and larger so they could read it! Now however, my writing is no longer quite so neat, oh it's still plenty neat enough, just not so disgustingly

    By the way, when I was in grade 1, penmenship was an actual course that was taught, some failed it, but not many!

  6. I probably would have...

    If you were forced to learn to write with your right hand and don't feel any consequences, you're actually lucky! Some kids almost went crazy because of that - they showed serious neurological symptoms or "just" started to wet their beds or stutter. But I guess in those years they just didn't know better and it was done out of love...