My bit on Constructive Criticism

I registered for a gymnastics class during my first year in high school in the United States. I was extremely excited about jumping with grace, twisting my body like a precious sculpture, challenging physics and flexibility with flesh and bone. I had to drop the class a week into the semester—I was expected to to lead a choreographed routine and I didn’t know enough English to call the commands.

I cried that night; not because I was feeling sorry for myself, but because I was pissed at my inability to communicate. I have always loved words. I was not born knowing that I wanted to be a writer, but I’ve been in love with words ever since I understood their power. For me, not being able to express myself through speech was unbearable.

I made a decision after a bit of tears and a lot of cursing cleansed the rage: I was going to use every minute of my time to teach myself English, and to get others to help me with the learning process. I got courses and Spanish/English dictionaries from my public library. I didn’t have a job yet, so I asked my dad for money and bought an electronic translator—the best purchase of my life. I still remember the robotic voice that taught me how to mispronounce at least a dozen words. I annoyed my Spanish speaking friends by forcing them to speak to me in the little English they knew. I became an NPR Junkie. I read English translations of books I loved, and had previously read in Spanish.

Seven months later I stood in the middle of my high school gym, facing my gymnastics classmates, leading them through a ten step floor routine that ended with some extra Merengue steps I threw into the mix.

My gym teacher asked to see me after class. I showered, changed and went to her office, trying not burst with pride. I opened the door, and before I walked in, Ms. Son said “I don’t appreciate anyone making a full out of me. If you wanted to drop the class, last semester, all you had to do was say so. I don’t want you in my team. I don’t like liars.”

I laughed. 


Now that I think about how that must have looked to Ms. Son, I applaud the woman for not smacking me on the face. I mean, I wasn’t laughing at her, but she didn’t know that. I was under her threshold laughing like loon, and she had no idea why. But the misunderstanding didn’t last long. In my heavily accented newly acquired English, I told her, “I didn’t know English six months ago, Ms. Son.”

She didn’t believe me that afternoon, but two years later, my favorite English teacher, Mrs. Medea, was talking to my Aunt and Dad after a scholarship ceremony. She told them “Magaly used to keep her hand up until I asked her to read for the class. And it was torture for everyone because we couldn’t understand a word she read. I had to tell her how to pronounce every other word.” She tapped me on the back. “But only once.” My teacher smiled at me. “She used to write the pronunciations next to the words and I thought that was lovely. And she would never leave my classroom without saying ‘thanks for correcting me Mrs. Medea’.” She sighed. “Your child, Mr. Guerrero, learned English at a remarkable speed. You should be proud.”

My dad said something to Mrs. Medea, but I didn’t hear what it was. I had been holding a staring contest with Ms. Son, who had been standing within earshot. My former gymnastics teacher nodded once and mouthed, I’m sorry. I dipped my head too and said, “I know you are.”


Mrs. Medea remains at the top of my Hero List. I’ve told her story many times. I’m sharing it today, for the same reason I have in the past: I want to convey to you how much I appreciate constructive criticism. A few of you have sent me emails with corrections to my stories—grammar, typos, some inconsistencies… Thank you so much!

I blog because I love sharing witchy bits of my life, but also in order to improve my writing skills. Correct me when I’m wrong, and if you do it constructively, you’ll probably join Mrs. Medea at the top of my very short Hero List.

You are so Wicked inspiring, my witchy Darlings!  

23 comments:

  1. I truly believe a good teacher can make more difference in a person's life than any other individual.

    To be honest, I had no idea that English wasn't your first language, so bravo!!

    You're an inspiration.

    ReplyDelete
  2. What a wonderful story!! I am proud of you too! You are one determined lady and I love it!!
    Good things will always be in store for you!!
    Hugs
    SueAnn

    ReplyDelete
  3. That is a great story. I can only imagine how hard it was to be where you could not easily communicate. But then, I guess that only contributed to your determination!

    I agree teachers can make sure a difference - positively or negatively. It is an awesome responsibility that some, but not all take seriously.

    I applaud your bravery and determination!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. You inspire me everytime I read your posts, Magaly! I honestly had no idea that English was a second language for you. You are amazing. I am proud to 'know' you, even if just through the internet. How I wish you lived closer!

    Hugs!
    Kallan

    ReplyDelete
  5. Icy - So true and it is terrible that they are not always appreciated.

    SueAnn - Good things will aways be in store for you too ;-)

    Aine - no being able to "speak up" is one of the most difficult things in the world. There are few things more terrible than people looking at you, thinking you are stupid, just because you can't speak the same language.

    Kallan - Fate is a weird lady. We lived really closed when I was stationed at Bethesda, yet we never met. Great to read you now.

    ReplyDelete
  6. quite an accomplishment and what a great story.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Just reinforces my thought that you can do most anything you want...

    ReplyDelete
  8. Wow. And I thought high school was tough for me...what was I thinking! You're a badass! :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Wow! I never would've guessed English wasn't your first language, or at least taught exclusively to you at a very young age. Amazing work and so inspiring. Funnily enough, I've been wanting to learn Spanish since high school...We didn't have enough interest to have a class on it though and while my phrasebook is fun to use once in a while it doesn't really help teach lol
    I tend to jump into an editor stance when reading, except for punctuation - my horrible downfall hehe - so I shall keep that in mind :D

    ReplyDelete
  10. Bliss Doubt3/24/2011

    How I relate to this story, Magaly, but mine is different. Like many women of my era, I thought I was fat when I wasn't even fat, in high school, always on a diet, always asking "does this outfit make me look fat", and so on and on. It pretty much ruled my life. Then I tried out for the dance team. After tryouts, we had to be weighed. There was some sort of height/weight ratio they were after, and I was scared to death. Our coach, whom I worshipped forever after this incident, said "oh come on, climb on the scale, you're fine". I said "what about my thighs?" She said "what about them... you're fine. Once we start practices you might even lose a couple of pounds, but that isn't the point. You'll be strong and fit." What she said intimated to me that I was going to make the team, and I did! Some of our teachers were the devil, but some were our guardian angels.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Ellen - Gracias.

    Judy - Indeed.

    Just a Gal - At the same time, I tell myself, "What the heck was I complaining about? What about the people who have to go without food?" Yep, it's all about perspective, isn't it?

    Debra - :-)

    Lilac - You can play editor with my writing any day you like ;-)

    Bliss Doubt - And those devils should be forgotten forever. You coach sounds like my type of teacher!

    ReplyDelete
  12. When I first started reading this post I thought it was going to be a work of fiction and as I got further into it my jaw dropped. Honestly I thought you'd spoken English your entire life. Your writing and use of the English language is exquisite. "Wow!" is all I can say.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Mina - There was a time in my life when I used to tell myself "One day I'll understand every single word these freaking actors say. The first day I watched a movie in English without feeling confused about the language, oh my! What a day!"

    ReplyDelete
  14. What an inspiring story!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Wow, a great story. Shows that through determination and grit, a lot can get done.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Kate - Glad you found it inspirational.

    Shell - "Grit", I like that ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  17. This story is beautiful, and right now something I can relate to as I'm attempting (slowly) to better my Spanish. My second family speaks very little English and it's my desire that one day I can speak to them without the translation of my sister.

    She has truly taken the task of teaching me seriously. Messages in Spanish, nightly words and phrases in Spanish, and pop quizzes to make certain I haven't forgotten the things I've already learned, and yelling at me when she hears my keyboard clicking, "don't Google it!"

    You're an inspiration, Magaly. Always, thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  18. What an inspiring story!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Wow! I never would've guessed English wasn't your first language, or at least taught exclusively to you at a very young age. Amazing work and so inspiring. Funnily enough, I've been wanting to learn Spanish since high school...We didn't have enough interest to have a class on it though and while my phrasebook is fun to use once in a while it doesn't really help teach lol
    I tend to jump into an editor stance when reading, except for punctuation - my horrible downfall hehe - so I shall keep that in mind :D

    ReplyDelete
  20. Bliss Doubt8/16/2011

    How I relate to this story, Magaly, but mine is different. Like many women of my era, I thought I was fat when I wasn't even fat, in high school, always on a diet, always asking "does this outfit make me look fat", and so on and on. It pretty much ruled my life. Then I tried out for the dance team. After tryouts, we had to be weighed. There was some sort of height/weight ratio they were after, and I was scared to death. Our coach, whom I worshipped forever after this incident, said "oh come on, climb on the scale, you're fine". I said "what about my thighs?" She said "what about them... you're fine. Once we start practices you might even lose a couple of pounds, but that isn't the point. You'll be strong and fit." What she said intimated to me that I was going to make the team, and I did! Some of our teachers were the devil, but some were our guardian angels.

    ReplyDelete
  21. When I first started reading this post I thought it was going to be a work of fiction and as I got further into it my jaw dropped. Honestly I thought you'd spoken English your entire life. Your writing and use of the English language is exquisite. "Wow!" is all I can say.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Kate - Glad you found it inspirational.

    Shell - "Grit", I like that ;-)

    ReplyDelete