Most of my creative Champions, especially if you were to see my longer list, are educators. From principles to office staff, art and photography teachers to classroom teachers, I’ve had many encouraging educators. Two such classroom teachers were The Pendletons: husband and wife. Mrs. Pendleton guided me early as a first grader, while as a senior in high school I had Mr. Pendleton for AP English.
I was an aspiring writer even in first grade. It was at this tender age that Mrs. Pendleton convinced us students of the superiority of a large callus on the index finger of our writing hand. She had a glorious one which she showed our small amazed and wondering eyes. It greatly encouraged me to write more, although I didn’t need much coaxing as I was already quite prolific for a child, but it added fuel to the fire. In 1988, neither Mrs. Pendleton nor I could have foresee the conquering of the pen and paper by computers and cell phones, but I’m proud to say that I, nevertheless, have a prominent callus on my right index finger. I like to think, as I ironically write the rough draft of this with pen in my journal, that Mrs. Pendleton would be proud and that my finger measures up to hers.
Besides her impressive callus, Mrs. Pendleton was also a constant, gentle and encouraging support. Taking the time to read my little writing gifts or look over drawings offered in admiration as seven year olds often do. She made me feel special and in a way not so much a child as a fellow adventurer.
I do not know how much my reputation preceded me by the time I had Mr. Pendleton my senior year of high school; it is likely I had no reputation. Still an avid writer and a dedicated journaler, my writing had progressed but needed guidance. Two things I gained from Mr. Pendleton’s Class: a love for Herman Melville and the ability to critically cut my text. Mr. Pendleton argued that Melville never used a word he didn’t need. I’m sure some would disagree, but that is beyond the scope of this post. My memory of the class centers around exercises where we wrote a paragraph then had to shrink it down by cutting out excess. We would turn in our revisions and he would tell us to cut more. We would try again and usually the dance would take three or four turns until he was satisfied. It is still a major practice in my editing today. Mr. Pendleton was not easily satisfied, believing in our ability to improve our writing. He taught that an exacting eye was of upmost importance in the writing process. Anyone could write words and could write a lot of words, but to wield words with careful precision was where writing became art.
There was nothing personal in Mr. Pendleton’s championing my creativity. I was one student in a larger whole, but as a part of that greater organism I was nevertheless taught one of the most important lessons that shaped my creative self. A lesson that I am constantly working on.
The best lessons are constant works of progress after all.