By Dorothy Seehausen
I read an article this morning about how we writers trash talk our work, as if we can’t think of enough negative adjectives like dismal or crappy to evaluate our ideas.
The article was written by an English teacher with one rule for all his students: each time you hand me your work, tell me this is your very best.
It made me think of an ESL (English as a Second Language) class I taught a few years back to five enthusiastic and eager Japanese students, three young men and two women.
What I was most impressed with in the six weeks we had together was the manner in which they handed me their homework. With a slight bow, they would extend both upturned hands, the assignment proudly resting on top.
I found myself bowing slightly in return as they revently placed these pieces of themselves in my care. I learned the Japanese word for thank you…domo arigatou (doh-moh ah-ree-gah-toh). I became their hero, and they called me Dorothy instead of “teacher.”
They invited me to tea the day before they left. I received a lovely thank you card. “Dearest Dorothy…I will never forget you”… “It’s my pleasure that I learned with you” …”If I have a chance, I will visit St. You”…”Please don’t change and don’t forget me” … “I’ll miss you…”
The complexity of learning a second language is fraught with concepts that don’t translate literally. Trying to write them down is a nightmare.
My Japanese students knew this. They knew what they produced was not as important as honoring the manner in which it materialized.
I’m happy to use their wisdom to hone an attitude of gratitude toward myself as a writer. It sure beats dismal or crappy.