Growing Up Alaska: Working the System

We didn’t always have the numbers for public school, so there were many times over my educational career that I was put onto the Centralized Correspondence School where I did all my work from home and mailed it off to Juneau. It was a great program; as long as you were motivated to learn.

I did kindergarten via CCS and my teacher in Juneau was Ms. Winters. I honestly don’t remember a lot, but as I jumped on and off the program through high school, I inevitably would end with Ms. Winters. I believe out of the six and a half years I was in program, I got her 5 times.

In sixth grade, as the year went on, I discovered her grading system for writing. She graded you off of what you were supposed to learn, but also on how well you improved.

Now, we did a lot of writing in CCS since we weren’t in front of a teacher. Tons of reports and writings were how they graded us, so when I went back to CCS for high school, you guessed it, I got Ms. Winters.

At the beginning of the year, she would have us write about our summer and usually some other report. I misspelled words, had run on and incomplete sentences. tense problems (though that wasn’t always on purpose), grammar issues, and so on. Then I would look over my curriculum and map out my year. Each unit I marked down a “goal” and made sure I made those corrections.

By the end of the year, I had made huge growth in writing which always secured me an A.

I repeated this process each year (though I was pulled for part of 11th grade) and each year showed great gains. I even entered contests and won some prizes. And each year, Ms. Winters would write comments about my growth.

During my senior year, my family had moved to Anchorage (thus my departure from the last quarter of 11th grade) and found the public school lacking. My mother wanted me to have a the social experience of school, but it wasn’t for me.

Ms. Winters had come to Anchorage for a conference and wanted to meet me, so we arranged it. She was amazed that we had been paired up so many times as that was not the norm.

As we sat and talked, she shared with me my latest work, which was my second to last report for her, and she commented on how proud she is of me each year making such strides in work. As she was talking, she began to falter as her husband tried to hide his smirk behind his coffee cup.

She narrowed her eyes and looked up at me, exclaiming, “You figured out how I grade!”

I went and got my journal and showed her my first draft of my beginning of the year report, the one before I made the “corrections” or “errors”. She stared at me for a moment and my mom began asking if I’d been cheating.

Then Ms. Winters laughed and shook her head, “No! He was just working my system! He probably did more work this way!”

We had a good laugh at that as I showed her my planner and work from years past. She promised to change her method, but I didn’t care, I was graduating anyways.

Ms. Winters had been a great teacher. I always remember the notes she would write on my papers that were always so encouraging and I try to bring that to my teaching today.

Author: matthewlasley

I am a school teacher and an author. I like to write picture books, middle grade, science fiction and short stories. I live in Alaska and I love history, so those two things often influence my creative writing.

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