Monday, August 22, 2011


I was an obnoxious little overachiever when I was little. We're talking straight A's, gifted & talented, teacher's pet every year, perfect attendance, cry-when-you-miss-a-word-on-a-spelling-test bratty little overachiever. Then came third grade, and with third grade, came the addition of a new subject to our report cards - Penmanship. Finally, Miss Goody-Two Shoes had met her match. That December, I brought home my first ever C. I cried. When I found out that Penmanship grades weren't counted for the High Honor Roll program I breathed a sigh of relief - the fact that I couldn't write legibly to save my life wasn't going to prevent me from proudly slapping the "Proud Parent of a Franklin School Honor Student!" bumper sticker onto our car (the black chevy eurosport that we lovingly referred to as the POS). But damn, those C's haunted me all through my entire elementary school career. I was glad to see them gone in junior high.

My crappy penmanship is probably just another example of how uncoordinated I was am. When I say it was bad, I'm not exaggerating. I say I got C's, but that was really the lowest grade possible. They weren't allowed to give D's or F's for penmanship. I'm sure my writing equated to F-quality.

We started learning how to write in cursive in the second grade. Well, I did, anyway. My parents briefly enrolled us in Catholic School after I outgrew my beloved Montessori program. "Briefly" being a single year, so that I could make First Communion and get an official start to my Catholicism. Because we all know how well that worked out. After that, we transferred to our local public school, where they were a year behind in everything, including Penmanship. To this day, I curse my mother for not letting me just skip a grade. Social skills obviously weren't meant to be for me, either.

At first, I was really excited to learn how to write in cursive. I had always admired my mom's handwriting - the perfect, looping letters all connected together so nicely. I blamed my bad penmanship on the fact that it was just print letters - when I learned to write in cursive, my letters would be as pretty as my mom's.

So imagine my surprise when I put pen to paper and everything came out looking like this:

Terrible, indeed! It was definitely the worst in the class. To make matters worse, my 3rd grade BFF had perfect handwriting, wide and looping and swirling and neat and pretty. She even used to add a little smiley face after her name. My third grade teacher once sat me down and put my spelling test right next to her's so that we could compare the penmanship. She told me that my J's should look like Jackie's J's. I sat at my desk for an hour, trying to make my J's the same way. I didn't come anywhere close. I felt better because Jackie had missed some words on the spelling test and I hadn't (Yes, I was THAT GIRL).

Today, I've pretty much given up cursive writing altogether. My penmanship is much better, when I'm trying, but still pretty abysmal, generally speaking. And it's small.

There are rumblings that schools are going to be doing away with Penmanship. Indiana and Hawaii already have. Of course, people are staking out camps on both sides of the fence - there are arguments that penmanship - cursive writing, in particular, just isn't that important. Computers are the way of the future, and who cares if a person can write pretty letters, because no one's really going to see them, anyway. The other side argues that cursive writing and penmanship are expressions of creativity and individuality (and handwriting analysis would back those claims up), and schools should continue to teach and grade on it because it "helps train their mind, the hand, their attention to detail, it stimulates the brain...."

I can't decide. On one hand, I do think that hand writing is an important component of culture, and I get the idea that being able to write quickly is important because it helps your thoughts to develop. On the other, I will never forget being standing at the chalkboard writing cursive letters over and over and over again, because they were just never up to par. Did you have a love or a hate relationship with your pen and paper? Do you still write in cursive?


  1. I love to write in cursive.  But we all know that I am way old school.  It would make me sad if it weren't taught anymore, but I guess I get it.  It's hard to believe that penmanship is one of those things that's going the way of so many other antiquated things.

    And FYI, I've seen your writing, and it's not terrible at all.  What third grader can write beautifully?

  2. I pretty much second everything you said!! I routinely came home with C's in penmanship. I remember my mom promised me pizza for dinner if I ever brought home an A. I did - once - but it took me forever. Like twice as long as everyone else in the class to do the assignment. Not at all worth the A!

    The r's in terrible cracked me up. My r's totally looked like that. I could never get them right. In fact, this scene (just replace the z's with r's, because that's exactly how I wrote my r's) is pretty much me in third grade:

    I especially hated the capital K. It looked all floppy. Thank God, my fifth grade teacher taught me how to cheat by taking the loops out. Not perfect cursive, but looked prettier!

    In junior high, I used to write in small caps. It looked neater. Then one day, my English teacher decided to be a bitch and tell me she couldn't grade me on whether I used proper capitalization because I used all caps. (point A - The capitals were obviously BIGGER than the other letters. point B - English was my best subject. It was pretty obvious that she didn't need to worry about whether I knew how to capitalize.)

    I now write in a giant, bubbly print/cursive hybrid that has developed over the years. And I use typeset a's, which people sometimes mistake for 2's, but I like it. It's my final act of rebellion against perfect handwriting.

    PS - I have a firm belief that introverts write small and extroverts write big. My husband has small handwriting. Mine is ginormous. I had a client with an anxiety disorder who used to write me notes because she was too shy to talk to me - her handwriting practically looked like little dots. This stuff fascinates me.

  3. cursive is stupid.  I have it and I never use it.  Literally, never.

  4. I have fantastic penmanship (if I do say so myself): print, cursive, combination of both, it doesn't matter.  I can also copy just about anyone's penmanship if I give it a few tries ... a skill that came in handy in high school!  ;)



Related Posts with Thumbnails