The most important award I ever received was a box of colored pencils from Mrs. Simpson. She was my 5th grade art teacher who also taught penmanship. 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 on our paper. Mrs. Simpson would demonstrate proper handwriting techniques and skills on those lines. Occasionally we also practiced on the chalkboard.
I can still see her standing at the board moving her arms in tight circular motions demonstrating proper techniques. She would expect us to use the same motion with our arms and she insisted we keep our circles tight and between the lines. Then she would repeat the process, except this time she rapidly moved her arms up and down at a slight angle to demonstrate the proper angle for our writing. All this was designed to help us improve our handwriting and make it readable. For me, this activity was pure torture.
During the last week of school Mrs. Simpson announced that she had a special award for one student whose handwriting had improved the most during that 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 the set of colored pencils. She recognized me because I made slow but steady progress towards a goal that would benefit me for a lifetime. I took pride in the recognition and since that moment I have tried to be conscientious with my penmanship.
As parents we should make sure we notice, recognize, and comment on our children’s efforts even if it is nothing more than learning to tie their shoelace. Self-confidence and self-improvement are built one simple step at a time starting with baby steps and ending who knows where.
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