The Eleventh Grade – Goodbye Ms. Crooks

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Teacher, writer, broadcaster Sally Crooks dies at 84 – Saskatchewan – CBC News.

Sally Crooks was my creative writing teacher in high school. Not my English teacher – I don’t remember any of their names – my creative writing teacher. I transferred  to her school because it was the only one in town that had a creative writing class. Sally taught English too, understand; creative writing was a one semester elective in grade eleven. Kudos to her for teaching creative writing. Would that there was a creative writing class in every high school.

I have to be honest; I was disappointed with Sally’s class in the end. She gave me 67%. What kind of grade in creative writing is that? Even at the time I felt a sense of unfairness that has never left me. Did she think I didn’t try hard enough? Did I not produce enough work? Now I regret I never asked her to justify that result.

Among poems like this:

The shock, the hurt, the weary sighs
The aching heart won’t go away
The light inside me slowly dies
Snuffed by the words he said today

Which by the way is written in iambic tetrameter,

And this one, titled Sic Transit Gloria Mundi (so passes the glory of the world. Latin, I ask you!):

I saw a sparrow with a broken wing
But still the world goes ’round
I saw an old man with a breaking heart
But his tears drops make no sound
I saw the sun, behind a cloud
But still I face the day
I saw him once, he looked at me
I smiled, he looked away.

And this one:

Open for hurt
Vulnerable
Early this morning I lie awake
Red eyes staring into darkness.

Which is, of course an acrostic,

I wrote, in her class, the short story The Seventh Grade which went on to win two provincial first prizes and be published at least twice in English and more than once in Chinese. I am told that students in at least one high school studied it in English class.

67%?

Possibly it’s in Garp that someone says some writers are lucky to write one good story in their lifetime. I wrote several silly poems and one good story in one semester in grade eleven.

67%.

It was ten years before I wrote another short story.

This isn’t a very good eulogy. I’m trying Sally, I really am. I enjoyed your class. I did learn. If you had told me I wasn’t trying hard enough, I would have done better. I turned out to be a writer anyway! I’ve published! I have a film! Is that not worth more than 67%?

I don’t believe in life after death, but I offer up my meager body of work to you Sally. I offer up my two Masters degrees. I offer up this blog. If you’re out there somewhere, Sally, would you consider changing my mark to a B?

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6 thoughts on “The Eleventh Grade – Goodbye Ms. Crooks

  1. Ms. Crooks no doubt had a handy rubric by which to measure your work, Gabrielle! Given to her by a system made for mass education, not nurturing. It’s quite possible that she resented that rubric as much as you resented the grade. Numbers and letters are odd couplings except for high security passwords.

  2. Thanks Alison. One of my classmates got a grade in the 80s – that was what got me. It wasn’t until I was in YOUR class, Alison, that I started to feel confident as a student writer again. I think you gave me a an A+.

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