Clause 61: The Pushback Blog

Because ideas have consequences

Remembering Two Teachers

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Two of my high school teachers who contributed to my future.

Two of my high school teachers who contributed to my future.

Do not get the idea that I liked English. It was never fun and kept getting worse. Halfway through the first quarter, when Mrs. Malarek told us that we had seen the last of grammar, we knew what that meant: literature and composition from here on out. Yuck.

I did not enjoy the subject and I hated writing. I didn’t stay in contact with either of these women; I haven’t seen them since the day I graduated. However, they made me do work that enhanced my future ability to earn my way in the world. This blog would not have been possible — or readable — without them. I owe them gratitude for the way they performed their work, and it is high time I said, “Thank you.” Here is why.


When Mrs. Malarek gave a writing assignment, you showed up that day with your outline prepared. For an entire 45 minute class period, you wrote your composition. Then you handed in the outline and the composition.

It was unpleasant, but it was over. Better, it forced me to put the time into it. At that point in my life, I probably would not have done half of them at all if I had been required to do them at home under my own steam. Those that I had done would have been slipshod affairs.

Because I had no alternative but to sit in class and do the work, I got better at it. I went through the experience of completing the assignments and getting them back with good grades. I proved to myself that I could apply myself and do the work. Doing the work is where real self-esteem comes from, not authority figures blowing sweet nothings in your ear.

A side note about literature: I went back in my twenties and re-read Winesburg, Ohio. Having spent time in Ohio after high school, it meant more to me than it did when I was still a sophomore. Part of the problem we have with literature in high school is that we just aren’t ready for it.

The Book Report

While I remember Mrs. Malarek for the way she conducted class for an entire year, I remember Mrs. Ippolito most for one specific assignment.

There is a time-honored tradition of writing any BS in a book report, and I was fully steeped in that tradition. Imagine my surprise one day when Mrs. Ippolito handed us our completed book report back with a form attached to it. The form was to be filled out with each claim we made in the book report and substantiated with three passages from the book that supported that claim.

Are you kidding me? I have to back up what I wrote in the book report? I would never have written the thing that way if I had known that was going to happen. I never forgot the experience of being called upon to come back and support my statements.

While what I learned in Mrs. Malarek’s class helps me write faster, what I learned in Mrs. Ippolito’s class slows me down. I have to fact check. I have to look up exactly what the person said, instead of just slapping it down as I remember it. I am mindful that I could always have someone challenge me to substantiate what I write.

Imagine what our political shows and our journalism could benefit from the Ippolito method. Imagine how much more substantive our public discourse would be if some of the people up there in front of the camera or behind the keyboard had experienced a teacher like that at school.


Written by srojak

February 24, 2015 at 7:07 pm

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