Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Class That Changed My Life: 7th Grade English

Elissa Stein attended Ames Junior High in Massapequa, New York.

I can still picture Victor Visconti, my 7th grade English teacher, furiously parsing sentences on the chalkboard. Determined that each of his students would master punctuation and grammar, Mr. Visconti drilled and drilled us. My 13-year-old self raged at these seemingly pointless exercises: Why doesn't the bell ring and release me from the grip of this obsessive? What do dangling participles and semicolons have to do with me--and for that matter--with the real world!?

Today, I make my living in the real world as a writer. And, almost every day, I look back on Mr. Visconti's lessons with gratitude. He taught more than the proper use of a comma. He showed me that words matter. I wouldn't admit it at 13--but I am happy to say it now: You were right, Mr. Visconti. Thank you.

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