She huffed in frustration as she sat at her desk behind the smartest kid in her class. He seemed to be able to do everything that their teacher assigned them to do. Today was all about outlining one’s thoughts before writing. Outlines, she thought, the worst thing to ever happen to a story. They had been going over different forms of outlines the week before and were expected to pick a specific one before they began writing their short stories for their ELA class. But Ella didn’t see the point in outlines.
It frustrated her as Mr. Cross instructed them to pick an outline and share it with the class so there wouldn’t be too many students doing the same one. But Ella didn’t want to pick an outline. She knew she was supposed to, but she just couldn’t. It’s not that she didn’t want to write the story. In fact, she adored the assignment and couldn’t wait to get started.
But she had a problem, she didn’t think in outlines. When she wrote, whether that be essays or stories, she didn’t think about who, what, when, and where. She just wrote. She knew that sounded silly. She knew if she said it out loud she would be laughed at by the other students. She’d probably get into trouble with Mr. Cross. But she didn’t think like that. She couldn’t think ahead and outline the entire story. She couldn’t write down the main plot points. Those wouldn’t come to her until she began to write. It was incredible really, the way she could write. Her pen touched the paper and before her eyes would appear words. Beautiful and perfect words. They would flow together in harmony.
But she couldn’t do outlines. They never made sense. They never actually helped. So when Mr. Cross called her name she simply looked at him and swallowed her nerves away.
“I don’t know. Spider web, I guess.” She mumbled as her classmates all turned to her and smirked or laughed.
This wasn’t the first time she had given such an answer. In fact, it seemed to be her favorite answer in her ELA class. Mr. Cross simply nodded although he asked if he could see her after class. The twelve year old sighed. She knew she was in trouble. She knew that she would get a letter sent home for, what felt like, the millionth time that year.
But unknown to her. Mr. Cross had begun to piece together what the issue was. He had begun to realize what was going on in Ella Rose’s mind. And it wasn’t a lack of caring or knowledge. He had been talking with her other teachers and they had all agreed that the child was simply a creative mind. And creative minds couldn’t be forced to think inside the box. They were special creatures. And so they needed special attention.
The rest of the class was filled with the scratching sound of pens on paper, the grunts of frustration, and the giggles of success. Ella simply stared at the outline in front of her and grimaced. She couldn’t do it. She couldn’t force her mind to make the outline. To pre-plan a story. It just wouldn’t come and her frustration didn’t help her clear her mind. She couldn’t focus as she glanced at the other students. She could see the grins of success as the others filled out their outlines. She saw some rather goofy faces as the other students concentrated.
But Ella Rose just couldn’t do it. It didn’t matter how many goofy faces she made, how many times bit her lip to concentrate, or how many times she scribbled on the spider web in front of her, she just couldn’t do the outline.
After class was dismissed with the bell to their next block Ella went up to her teacher’s desk. She stood in front of him nervously. Shifting from foot to foot she waited for the reprimand. She knew that she was in trouble. She knew, from past experiences, that next came a possible detention or a letter home or, if he felt she was insubordinate enough, a failing grade on the assignment. She had average grades to begin with, a failed ELA score could plummet her already average grades. She couldn’t have that. She knew her parents would be furious with her. She would be grounded for life, well for a week or so.
But she was surprised as Me. Cross gave her a smile. “Ella, do you know why I wanted to see you?” he asked her.
Ella nodded and looked at him as bravely as she could. She gathered all of her courage for what she was sure would happen next. “Yes sir. It’s about the outline.” She said.
Mr. Cross nodded. “Yes Ella, the outline.” He responded.
Ella looked at him with panic in her eyes. “I can’t help it! I just can’t do it! I’m too stupid to make an outline!” she exclaimed as she became upset and her frustration over the assignment caught up with her.
Mr. Cross gave her a reassuring smile. “I know that Ella. First of all, you are not stupid. You are a very bright young girl. You are one of my best students. Now about that outline, explain to me why you can’t do the outline. The truth please.” He said.
He wanted to hear in her own words what the problem was.
Ella frowned as it hadn’t been the response she had expected. Not even close. But she nodded and thanked her lucky stars that he didn’t seem angry or frustrated with her. “It’s just. I’m not really sure, I can’t do outlines. I can’t force myself to think ahead when I write, not matter what it is! I can’t tell you, let alone put it on paper, what will happen in the beginning, middle, and end. When I write I simply put my pen to my paper and write. I know that doesn’t make sense. But it’s true.” She explained.
She then paused for a moment before she continued. “It’s like in math, there are several ways to do one problem and no matter how it’s done you get the same result. Writing is like that for me. Outlining is just one way to do it and it doesn’t make sense to me. I can’t do that. When I write I just do.” She said in best way she could.
She really didn’t know how to explain it but by the look on her teacher’s face he understood. Ella grinned on the inside as it seemed for the first time someone understood what she meant. Understood that she simply had another way of looking at it.
Mr. Cross couldn’t help but smile at the child’s explanation. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense but that wasn’t the point. It was the way she did it. And she was right, she did always get the same product as everyone else.
He could recall professors in college talk about creative children. How their minds worked and how they didn’t always seem to fit in. They couldn’t be molded to fit the norm. And Ella was the perfect example of that. Her shyness around her classmates, reluctance in class to answer questions, and her seemingly rebellious behavior. She wasn’t rebelling in any way. She simply had a creative mind.
And as he looked at her he refused to break that mind. He refused to stop the creativeness of the child before him.
“And that’s not a bad thing.” He said in reply. “It doesn’t make you slower or unable. It makes you special. So let’s make a deal.” He said to the visibly shocked 7th grader. “Unfortunately you have to know the different ways to outline your work. You’ll be outlining things for years to come and on our next test you’ll have to outline a short paragraph already written on the paper. But why don’t we do this? Why don’t you write your story then you can outline it.” He suggested.
Ella grinned and nodded excitedly. “That would be great!” she responded gladly. Mr. Cross chuckled inwardly at her enthusiasm.
“You’ll have to complete the story before everyone else as the outlines are due first and I’m not giving you extra time. Does that work for you?” he asked.
Ella grinned. “It’s perfect!” she exclaimed. “Thank you Mr. Cross.” She said before she left the classroom to get to her next class.
Mr. Cross smiled as he watched her leave. He couldn’t wait to see what she would come up with as she now had no barriers. She could now think outside the box as creative people were bound to do.
By: Megan Lawrence
(Please, please, please let me know what you think! I thought I would start putting some actual writing pieces up here. Thank you!)