Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Allie Pleiter on using a details...

As writers, we try to capture the little things, the details that make our character come alive.  Sometimes they come to us out of the depths of our imagination, sometime from keen observation, or sometimes from something we know well.

I needed a great teacher skill for Holly Sanders in Family Lessons.  I needed some essential trick to catch Mason Wright’s eye, to wake him up to Holly’s talents as a teacher.  I didn’t have to look far--I went to the best teachers around me.  My children are far out of elementary school, so I went through my world to see what Sunday school teachers--many of whom are friends of mine--did that I found impressive.

Holly’s “clap once if you can hear me,” trick to focus the children’s attention in a crisis is a ploy used by my friend Angie.  She’s an awesome teacher--devoted and creative--and kids love her.  Her personality is nothing like Holly’s, but that doesn’t matter.  This is a detail, not a broad stroke.

Mason’s mouth-wide-open reaction to how well her strategy works is a favorite moment of the book for me.  I remember being astonished the first time I saw my friend Angie use the “clap once if you can hear me.”  I couldn’t believe it worked so well in a room full of rowdy second graders!  It was great fun to get to give her talents a literary nod.

What about you?  What great teachers do you remember from your early school days as either a student or a parent?


  1. Hi Allie,
    I had a wonderful music appreciation teacher in high school. It wasn't anything specific that he did but his overall enthusiasm. :)
    Great post!

  2. I had a history teacher in either 11th or 12th grade. I keep thinking I'd like to write him a letter thanking him. I even called the high school but they sounded like they'd never heard of him and couldn't be bothered

  3. Allie, I had a second grade teacher who nurtured my early desires to tell stories by allowing me to direct a little play I had written. It would be many years before I actually decided to write a book with the thought of publishing it, but when I look back, I can see how her encouragement planted a seed.

  4. I had so many wonderful teachers who inspired and encouraged me. The one who stands out the most, however, was Sister Charlotte, my high school librarian. I spent my study hall working in the library and she and I spent many an hour discussing favorite books and discussing the new orders to place.

  5. I love stories about teachers, since I taught first grade and then kindergarten for many years. ~ Yes, that clapping method can work well *smile*. ~ My sixth grade teacher was who really inspired me about becoming a teacher--she seemed to really care about each student. I'm thankful I was able to let her know that I did go into education--largely due to her influence! ~ Blessings, Patti Jo

  6. My favourite teacher would have been my grade 5 teacher. he was also my friends grandfather he was old school and and fair. he was great with maths. he would do mental arithmatic, he would ask different students a times table like 7 x 5, the next 8x4 the next 9x 7 if you didn't answer in the time he took to say this to each student he would then come back with the answers. I learnt my times tables really well with him.
    each week we changed where we sat based on either on spelling or maths. So one week (spelling) I was in the front row and maths the back row.

  7. Such great stories! I hope any teachers reading these today get encouragement for the lives they touch.

  8. I was a schoolteacher but of teens. I just received this from another former teacher.

    I laughed my socks off!


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