I have never been a good speller. I remember the fifth grade, when my teacher Mr Robertson, had to spend a lot of time helping me try and get it together.
It didn’t happen. And I do believe The Mom was forced to go into the school and explain my lack of ability in this area. I also believe that there was talk of holding me back until I got the hang of things.
“Oh, no!” I can hear The Mom shrieking. “I’ll make sure she works very hard over the summer so she’s up to standard for the sixth grade in the fall.”
She must’ve said more than that, posisbly promised to lash me to something sturdy whist making me read the dictionary or something equally instructive. She took it to heart that I couldn’t spell. With a Masters in English Literature, I can see why. And we’d only just got over the reading hurdle as well.
But she wasn’t one to let poor spelling lie, and so I found myself outside under a tree most days that summer, with books instructing me on the finer points of spelling.
The first workbook she gave me involved something called phonics. I had no idea what this was. And so I asked.
“How do you not know this?” The Mom cried. “What are they teaching you at that school?”
“They’re not teaching us this.”
“No wonder you can’t spell! It’s a miracle you got the hang of reading! What are they doing? Do they just put you in the library and hope you absorb something?”
I shrugged. Everybody else seemed to have got the hang of it. But my understanding of the way things sounded and what the corresponding letters were differed – widely – from the more standard approach.
There are, to this day, many words I still struggle with. But, my vocabulary has increased substantially because of it. I can’t be counted on to spell present as in gift, or reccommend as in advise, or vaccuum as in Hoover.
When I get them wrong, and the computer puts that horrible, judgemental red line under the word, I get upset. I don’t like the fact that the computer thinks it knows what I’m talking about, and often times when I ask the computer how it thinks I should spell the word, I’m disappointed (that’s another one I can’t spell, I’m normally disheartened or discouraged). I think the computer often shows a lack of imagination when it comes to spelling.
I don’t know how I managed to get to the place in my life where I can actually make a living as a writer, but I suppose I do owe something to spellcheck. And The Mom’s insistance on me learning how to spell. Sort of.