Flashback Friday Moment of The Week: 5/15/2020

by Juan Thomas
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I was shooting the breeze on Twitter a couple of days ago and I noticed a tweet in which someone was clearly referring to God but spelled it out as “god” in their tweet. Even by Twitter standards, I had an issue with that. It automatically triggered a very pivotal moment in my life that still lives with me today. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: the 2nd grade Thanksgiving assignment.

How I first came across this moment? I alluded to the moment, when I wrote about Elyton School in a Flashback Friday moment 4 ½ years ago. My 2nd grade teacher—a very kind, fun, and enthusiastic woman named Mrs. Stewart—assigned the class to write a paper ahead of the 1992 Thanksgiving holiday: what does Thanksgiving mean to you. Up until that point in my education, I had always excelled in those types of papers. It was a fairly easy assignment, one that I quickly put down when I got home that afternoon. I turned it in the next morning and the day after that, she called us all up to review. My paper had the capitalize mark on it in red and my grade was 97. She explained that I erred in not capitalizing God, citing that the context I used it in required me to capitalize it. I immediately started crying.

What it meant to me then? In the moment, I was extremely disappointed. I had never received a markdown on a grammar assignment before that moment. I felt like that was the end of the world for me. I cried real tears. Mrs. Stewart comforted me and reassured me that it was just a mistake and that I still delivered a really good paper. After all, I did get a 97.

What it means to me now? When I saw that capitalization error on Twitter the other day and remembered that pivotal moment from November 1992, I actually searched for Mrs. Stewart online to see if she was still around. I wanted to thank her for basically jumpstarting my fierce obsession with turning in perfect work with regard to writing assignments. In my search, I found that she retired last year after 28 years of service to Birmingham City Schools. Her assignment 27 ½ years ago still resonates with me. I don’t think I would have grown to be the best writer I could be without the heartbreak of that assignment.

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