A mentor remembered
Here I am, about to start my fifth month at The Compass. For the last two I have given readers the chance to glance into my new life as a developing journalist and the blunt truths that have come along with it.
I had a pretty significant flashback this week that helped me recover memories of how I began writing.
Many readers know that I grew up in Carbonear, but it’s less known that I spent the first 11 years of my life in Scarborough, Ontario where I attended St. Malachy, a small but strict Catholic school.
It was there I learned the structure of the English language and the importance of speaking and writing correctly. In other words, I spoke really slow and accurately annunciated everything.
That skill proved to be difficult when I moved to Carbonear in 1997 and the children in my class teased me about my accent (or lack-there-of as I like to call it) and how slow I spoke. I could barely understand my classmates with their odd jargon and quick wit, but I learned to keep up.
High school was when my writing began to take shape.
In 2001, Carbonear Collegiate offered their first advanced writing and English class for Grade 10 students and I was among the privileged group.
My teacher was Eileen Furlong, a stern but extremely intelligent teacher.
She had an odd sense of humour which led to some interesting Halloween costumes, including wearing a photo of a goat and shaking a stick — obviously Billy (William) Shakespeare. It often mimicked my own humour but I rarely applauded her for the comic relief to an otherwise monotonous school day.
I used to think she hated my work but the reason is only becoming clear now, 12 years later. Just like my first month work- ing here, she would take apart my writing piece by piece and in the end I advanced my grammar knowledge ten-fold.
It is obvious now Ms. Furlong was critical of my writing because she saw my potential and wanted me to do the best she believed I could.
I finished Grade 10 English with a 97 per cent and writing with a 93 per cent and I know the way she analyzed my papers and hammered information into my brain helped me get there.
I believe she is one of the reasons my former college professor referred to me as his “human dictionary.”
I also believe Ms. Furlong helped crack me out of my shell and into a world of imagination, alliteration and even a little controversy. And now, I’m proud to say, I share a sense of humour with my former mentor.
It is only now that I have realized the people from my life — from grade school until now — have helped mold me as a writer, and every experience I live will continue to ignite new stories, memories and feelings that will hopefully help make my mark in this industry.
Melissa Jenkins is a reporter/photographer with The Compass newspaper in Carbonear. She can be
reached at email@example.com