My Most Important Award: Colored Pencils


The most important award I ever received was a box of colored pencils from Mrs. Simpson, my 5th grade art teacher. She also taught penmanship, and I remember her being a very demanding and perfectionist type teacher.

​​She expected our letters to be perfect and made us practice over and over on paper especially designed for improving our handwriting. I remember permanent lines painted on the chalkboard matching those found on our paper. Mrs. Simpson would demonstrate proper handwriting techniques and skills on those lines. Occasionally we also practiced on the chalkboard (I certainly didn’t enjoy this exercise).

​​​I can still picture her standing at the board moving her arms in tight circular motions to demonstrate proper techniques. I seem to remember her entire body in motion, and I could never figure out how to replicate these moves while sitting in my seat.

​​​She expected the same arm motion and insisted that we keep our circles tight and between the lines. She would demonstrate the process a second or third time, except she would increase the speed and change from circles to angled lines up and down keeping them tightly together. I understood this exercise because she was trying to teach us proper angles for legible cursive writing. According to her, this was designed to help us improve our handwriting and make it readable. For me this activity was pure torture. I hated it almost as much as I hate eating mushrooms, yuck!

​​​During the last week of school Mrs. Simpson called the class to attention and told us that she had special award for one student whose handwriting had improved the most during the school year. She quickly pointed out that this student did not have the best handwriting, but he did make the biggest improvement in his penmanship.

​​​Mrs. Simpson surprised everyone, especially me, when she called my name and gave me a set of colored pencils. She recognized my efforts because I tried and made slow but steady progress towards becoming better at handwriting. I took pride in the recognition and since that moment I have tried to be conscientious with my penmanship. After receiving this award, a strange but interesting change started occurring in my life. I take pride when I make my handwriting so that others can read it.

​​​As parents let’s put forth the effort to ensure that we notice, recognize, and comment on our children’s self-improvement efforts even if it is nothing more than to recognize the energy to learn to tie their shoelaces. Self-confidence and self-improvement are built one simple step at a time starting with baby steps and ending who knows where.

Happy Failing Forward,

Calvert Cazier

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