Sarah Meisinger

Practice, Persistence, and Patience

Many would agree that writing journeys don't just begin with picking up a pencil and writing what you feel on paper. There are more paths to follow in order to achieve the ability to read and write. Literacy played an important role during my early childhood, specifically in my preschool/ kindergarten years. Having my family and teachers beside me really symbolized what literacy meant to me. It brought a sense of community, support, and comfort which allowed me to push through obstacles involving reading and writing.

One of my earliest experiences that I remember was my mom sitting me down at the kitchen table teaching me how to hold a pencil. Sitting at the table full of boredom, I grasped on the pencil and it kept sliding out of my palm as I scribbled over a piece of scratch paper. Seeing me struggle, my mom stood up from her chair and decided to try a different method. Rummaging through the clustered junk drawer, she pulled out a #2 pencil and slid on a bright orange pencil gripper. She placed down the pencil and piece of scratch paper on the kitchen table. At the age of 4, I didn’t see the purpose of sitting down at the table managing to grip a pencil. I thought it was absolutely silly. However, I decided to give it another try and picked up the pencil. With the gripper attached to it, I found it easier to manage. My mom fixed my hand placement from being grasped in my palm with my thumb on top overlaying, to the pencil being supported by my thumb, index, middle, and ring finger. At the time, I felt a sense of accomplishment that I was able to hold a pencil properly. With the help from my mom, I was able to begin my literacy journey starting with the smallest task of just holding a pencil. Although this story may seem unrevolutionary, I've learned that even the smallest obstacles in your life can have the biggest impacts.

Once I was able to hold a pencil, I felt unstoppable. I would nonstop write around the house, whether it was on the walls, my dad’s important documents, or even my mom's fall cookbook. It wasn’t exactly readable but I tried. My favorite things to write at the time were the letters “S” and “W.” Both were easy, yet confusing to spell out. Somehow, I would always write it flipped. One of the memories I have was baking on a fall day with my mom. Walking into the kitchen, I remember the distinct scent that filled the air. The aroma of freshly baked apples and warm cinnamon glided around the room, accompanied by minor notes of vanilla and brown sugar. The room contained the background noise of a preheated oven fan spinning. Cool breezes would flow through the screened door, making the cookbook recipes fly up and flip around to different pages. My mom jogged over to the kitchen island and placed her hand over the binder to prevent the pages from flying. She brought over my step stool and turned on the radio which was playing “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac. As I stepped up on my stool, I saw canisters laid out all over the counter. One container with flour overflowing the top, and another container that was knocked over spilling sugar granules along the countertop. I noticed other ingredients such as baking soda, quaker oats, apple slices, canned pumpkin, and a big bag of brown sugar. My mom reopened the cookbook to the recipe for pumpkin bread. While she walked over to the utensil drawer searching for measuring cups and measuring spoons, I grabbed a pen and began tracing out the letters “S” and “W.” I struggled most with those two. As a 5-year-old perfectionist, I was determined to get it right. Tracing the curvy rounded “S” and the sharp linear “W” made me frustrated. I overanalyzed which way the “S” curved, and focused on how crooked the “W” was. Looking back on the recipe sheet, I can proudly say that I had many mistakes. However, I’ve learned that growth doesn't rely on the aspect of perfection and accuracy. It’s only recognized through hard work, dedication, and practice. Just because you make mistakes doesn’t mean you are a failure. Mistakes are a part of the process in which you can learn from them. As I was finishing up my doodles, my mom came back, saw my artwork, and sighed. Looking back, I believe that was the day my mom decided to start laminating her recipes.

The summer leading up to first grade, my mom bought me a letter tracing workbook that I would practice on during the summer. Working on the alphabet, including uppercase and lowercase letters, helped me gain more knowledge of the subject. My W’s and S’s became more clear and I was able to pronounce most letters. My confidence was through the roof entering first grade with all my given experience. The first day began and Ms. Quigg assigned us to popcorn read. As names kept getting called on, it was finally my turn. I slowly began reading the passage about a girl named Maria who was apple picking. I kept on stumbling over words, having a hard time pronouncing them. Sitting there at my desk with all eyes on me, I noticed I was a slower reader than other kids. My heart began racing and I felt my face turning bright red. Stage fright got the best of me and I froze. I never felt more embarrassed in my life. Ms. Quigg rapidly popcorned to someone else to avoid the silence in the classroom, and I just sat there quietly full of humiliation.

Days went by, and my mom received a phone call from my teacher. She suggested that I’d join a separate reading group to work on my pronunciation. As I heard the news, I felt even more defeated. The next school day during English, I remember being escorted out of the classroom and walking down the hallway into a small office room. As I walked in, I noticed the room was cramped, surrounded by bookshelves and a small singular table that sat in the middle of the room. Around four students were sitting at the table in silence, bored out of their minds. Out of the clustered room, a head popped out between the bookshelves of a charismatic woman greeting me. She seemed a bit rushed, gathering up different documents, assuming that they were our reading passages. She kindly asked me to take a seat as she was getting organized, then stepped out of the cluttered space and sat down near us. She introduced herself as Mrs. Jones. She had a kind and optimistic presence to her. Mrs. Jones also had brown wavy hair styled in a messy bun and big squared glasses that always had a slight slant to them. At first, I felt embarrassed to be in that classroom, but seeing other kids having the same issues as me really opened up my perspective that I wasn’t alone. Being in a small group also helped me adjust to a comfortable learning speed. As the year went on, we worked on pronunciation, proper reading paces, and speaking aloud. I was able to gain a better understanding of reading and speech methods throughout this class thanks to Mrs. Jones.

Another day of school came around, and Ms. Quigg gave us an assignment where we have to read our favorite book aloud to the class. Panic went through my system and I excused myself to go see Mrs. Jones. I walked into the room holding in my tears and, with concern, she walked over to me to ask what was wrong. I blatantly told her about the upcoming speaking assignment and how I felt incapable of doing it. She gave me advice that I carried on through the rest of my education, and that was called the “3P’s.” It stood for Practice, Persistence, and Patience. Mrs. Jones told me that any problem that may occur in my life can always be solved as long as I use the 3Ps. Nothing can be unachievable as long as you put your full attention and effort into it. I reflected on the times when I had issues, and it only took practice to push through it. Experiences such as me picking up a pencil, spelling out letters, and reading. Knowing that I was strong enough to push through those obstacles, I knew that reading aloud to the class was no different than what I already experienced.

Using the advice that Mrs. Jones had given me, I walked into school feeling empowered that day. When my turn was called, I sat up on the stool and began reading aloud. It was nerve-racking with some mistakes along the way, but that didn’t stop me from reading. Flipping one page to another, I finally reach the end and realized that I did it. The class was clapping and I sat in my seat with relief. As we all know, writing doesn’t just begin with picking up a pencil. Reading doesn’t just come clear to mind. Public speaking doesn’t just start by saying words aloud. People like my mom and Mrs. Jones in my life are the ones who kept me going. Without their help, I wouldn't have known the value of patience, persistence, and practice when it comes to overcoming obstacles. All these things take time to overcome. Nothing in life comes easy, but it doesn’t mean that it is unachievable.

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