Handwriting

This is in response to this post written by Alyssa of Yes, That Too.  Or rather, these are just my rambling thoughts that were inspired by her awesome post.

When I was in fifth grade, students with nice handwriting were allowed to use pen on homework assignments.  Almost everyone in my class, by the end of the year, had managed to get a ‘pen license’.  Except me.  Beyond the embarrassment of being the only girl in the class not to have one, I got increasingly frustrated with myself for not being able to write neatly.

At the end of the sixth grade, my parents took me to see an educational psychologist who said that since my fine motor skills were/are less than stellar, it might be a good idea to let me complete assignments and stuff on the computer.  Because my handwriting at that point was so bad that in order for anyone (including me) to read my writing, I had to write so slowly that I’d forget what I was trying to say before I reached the end of a sentence.

Since I don’t have a disability, just rubbish fine motor skills, nothing happened.  Except that in seventh grade, I finally did get around to learning to write neatly (peer pressure etc. etc. etc.).  And I can actually write very, very neatly.  It took me pretty much the whole year.  I found a girl whose handwriting was nice and copied and copied and copied until I could write the way she did.  It took a long time, but I made it.

One of my teachers has spent pretty much the entire year telling us about how important it is that we have neat handwriting in exams and such.  In my last test, I wrote with the neatest handwriting I could manage.  It was legible and clear.  I was actually quite proud of myself.  And my teacher’s comment on my test was “You need to improve your handwriting!”.  I was really quite disappointed.  I thought my handwriting was very neat, and was proud of how neat I’d managed to make my writing in the past 5 years.  And then this.  Which was not nice, but fine.  I can deal with not nice.

Another thing we have to do in my school is take notes in class.  Handwritten notes, not computer ones.  Last year in my end-of-term report, one of my teachers said something about how I needed to take more notes in class.  Which is great.  Because taking notes in class doesn’t do me a lot of good.  I can’t write and listen at the same time, because the mechanics of handwriting take up too much of my concentration, and trying to filter out background noise in a classroom takes too much concentration, and I’m only one person.  So I can either listen and process everything the teacher says in real-time, or I can write down everything she says and read it later.  If I choose to listen, she gets upset because I’m not taking notes, but if I take notes, I have to write very quickly because if I’m not listening, I can’t filter out things I don’t need to copy down which means I have to write down every word.  My handwriting when I’m writing at a normal speed is barely legible to me and illegible to some people.  When I’m writing down every word?  Even I can’t read over half of it.  Which means over half of the things she said, I am missing.  Not good.  I can manage, because she happens to teach my best subject and I can read the textbook, but it just seems really counterintuitive to copy down notes I can’t use, when just listening in class would be more helpful for me (despite the fact that I’m very un-auditory as a learner… at least I can process nearly everything she says).

In Alyssa’s blog post, she talked about accessibility for kids who can’t do the handwriting-thing.  But I’m a little more concerned with the grey area in which I fall.  I can do the handwriting thing, and I do get by in a school where I have to use handwriting all the time.  It’s just something that makes school that much more difficult.  It means when I write an essay, I forget things I meant to write about because I can’t write anywhere near as fast as I think.  It means I run out of time writing on tests sometimes if I’m writing neatly, but if I try to finish in time, my handwriting isn’t the most legible.  It means I’m missing out on a lot of information in class.  But because I’m not disabled, I can’t not handwrite.