For reasons unknown to me, I found it difficult to come up with a topic to write about, which seems particularly odd since anyone who knows me realizes I am never at a loss for words. That being said, the one item that stuck out to me was the tiny blurb on handwriting, which is probably due to my own personal experiences with the subject. The only F I ever received in school was on a cursive assignment, in Fourth Grade no less. Seriously, what sadistic teacher grades nine-year-olds’ handwriting skills? Needless to say the poor grade did nothing for my self-confidence or self-efficacy. I continued to struggle with cursive throughout grade school. One of the first strategies my mother implemented when she began homeschooling my sister and me was to “re-teach” me cursive by using those lined papers where you trace each individual letter forty times in a row. My cursive did not improve an iota from these exercises. To this day my handwriting—both print and cursive—resembles that of a neurosurgeon’s. I am trying to improve, but there must be something missing from my brain that allows me to write neatly. Tis a puzzlement.
Gunning lists several factors for sloppy handwriting, one being a correlation between poor reading skills. Obviously this wasn’t my problem. Gunning also suggests “poorly developed motor skills, deficient visual or kinesthetic memory, or dysgraphia” (154) as culprits. He maintains that deficient writing skills can lead to lowered self-concepts and grades, which I can attest to, thanks to my own cursive-grading debacle.
While I understand that it is imperative that teachers be able to read their students’ work, I don’t see why we should place such a HUGE emphasis on neat penmanship. Since we live in the digital age, it makes sense to me that if a student struggles with his handwriting, we should let him type it out. That’s the solution I found for my own struggles. As someone who is always writing, computers are indispensable to me. No one would be looking at this blog if it was in my own sad scribble.
In the end, I think evaluating a student’s penmanship should be more about looking for other cognitive struggles, such as the deficient visual or kinesthetic memory that I previously mentioned, and less about grooming kids into adults who can write pretty. After all, it’s not how your writing looks, but what your writing says that’s important.
Thomas G. Gunning, Assessing and Correcting: Reading and Writing Difficulties, rev. ed. (Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 2010), 154-155 .