Why It’s Good to Remember that Flannery O’Connor Couldn’t Spell

Did you know that Flannery O’Connor could not spell? Her spelling was notoriously bad.

Those of us who are natural spellers might be tempted to judge her. Don’t we judge others every single day on Facebook? All those bad spellers and people using ‘good’ when they mean ‘well.’ And starting sentences with conjunctions as if you could just jump into the middle of a sentence. I am a huge fan of spelling. I adore vocabulary. I have a love/hate relationship with grammar. I hate myself when I am at the grocery store and the check-out girl says, “How are you?” and I say, “Good and how are you?” and she says, “Well.” I am vain about my ignorance and my idioms.

I do believe spelling and grammar and vocabulary and math and science and history matter. I think they matter but there is something else we too often forget. People matter too. Some of our children are not good spellers. I think this little tidbit of information ( that Flannery O’Connor could not spell) should also help us to look at our students in a different light, a more human light. This is terribly difficult to do in a culture that measures everything with a test. What sad losses are there to humanity out among the poor spellers?

What amazing feats of thinking are going on among people who fail at Trivia Crack?

I bring up Trivia Crack because my son asked me to play. Then he bragged about my scores. Suddenly I started feeling that I should check my stats. Who knew there were stats? What had started out as a fun way to pass a few minutes began to take on new meaning. My scores started to feel like a judgment of my worth. I think I felt that I needed to beat my son to prove I was worthy to be a teacher. Then when I lost to some photographer just out of diapers I began to feel like maybe I wasn’t worthy. My suspicion that I was just a “wanna be” grew. I didn’t really mind losing to the gal who won on Jeopardy but to that kid??? Thankfully, I came to my senses. Trivia Crack is just a game. It isn’t a test of my worth anymore than the ACT is a test of the worth of a student. I still play but now I know sometimes it all comes down to a lucky guess.

This episode in my life also made me see how dangerous it is to let these sorts of assessments define us as people. How easily I fell. No wonder my own children begin to feel insecure as they start the process of searching out their options for after high school. No matter what I say to them, they still live in a culture that defines them by a test. I am not really sure how to help them but I find it very comforting that Flannery O’Connor could not spell and I intend to let them know.

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