I believe that being believed in makes all the difference in the world. I’ve been through a lot of English classes, and had a lot of teachers. I’ve struggled with writing all the while, and no one has ever put so much faith in me as the teacher I had last year and this year, Mrs. Enk
She teaches English, helps anyone that asks with college essays, and puts up with our class’s complaining, all with her ever-present, dazzling smile. I would fear apocalypse if the smile was gone for more than a few moments. It says different things, not always pleasant things. It says, “Hey guys, I know you don’t want to write this AP prompt, but you have to.” It says, “Don’t worry; you’ll understand what in the heck [William Faulkner/Robert Penn Warren/Albert Camus] is saying when you get to the end.” It says “I like the idea, really, but this sentence doesn’t make much sense, and this next paragraph is one long run-on.” It says “Be a falcon.” It says, “You’ll love this book.” It says, “Trust me.” So I do. Turns out, that’s not such a bad idea.
One assignment in particular sticks out in my mind. Toward the end of last year we were given a rather open-ended idea, so I just let my quirky mind throw whatever it felt like on the page. It was a mess. It turned out being a description of Rick’s Café Americain, from “Casablanca.” Sitting in the café were about ten of my favorite old-time radio characters chatting about this and that with Sherlock Holmes and Tom Lehrer. The story had no plot and the characters were unknown to everyone but me. My peer editors were lost. Mrs. Enk wouldn’t let me give up. She said, “This is too scattered, but you knew that. Rewrite it and then I’ll give you a grade.” So I did. I focused in on one plotline with a few select characters that were more recognizable.
Mrs. Enk loved it. I had written it as a first person narrative from the point of view of Rick’s piano player and friend, Sam. Mrs. Enk was really happy with the voice and had a very enthusiastic response to my piece. That was one of the last pieces I wrote last year, and this year I came back much more confident in my writing.
I ended up reading that piece during our school’s Writers Week, where students and professional writers present their work to English classes throughout the day. The smile on Mrs. Enk’s face when I finished is something I will never forget. It says a lot of things, but that day it said, “See? I told you you could do it!” When I saw her smile I smiled. And my smile said, “Yeah. I did. But I couldn’t have done it without your support. Thanks for believing in me.”
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