It’s English

Recently, I asked my middle school language arts teacher why she thought I had “gone all the way” with English education, considering that I am just an average student. She replied, “Because you wanted it more; even when you were in eight grade, you wanted it more. You have always wanted it more.”

About a year ago, I had a conversation with my mother about this nebulous thing called “it.” In our discussion, we weren’t talking about my literacy but about the literacy of the men and women who work for her. Mom, herself predominantly self taught, talked about illiterate individuals, “When you ask them what they really want, they will all tell you the same basic thing: that they want it more than anything else in the world, but they are afraid.” When I asked mom what they are afraid of, she said people who don’t read and write well are mostly afraid of failure and, perhaps, change that comes with learning something new.

I am not sure if this is a coincidence or not, but several years ago, back in 2003, I was reading Mina Shaunessey’s Errors and Expectations. My dad, who has no college experience, asked me, “Gail, whatcha reading about sweetheart?” I looked at him, wanting desperately for Daddy to understand what I was doing, and I said, “I’m reading about ‘It’, Daddy.” We had a brief conversation about Shaunessey’s fascination with pronouns and then temporarily dropped the discussion. From time to time, we pick it back up again. The conversation through the years of Master’s and Doctoral study that has thus followed goes something like this:

D: Whatcha reading about sweetheart?

G: I’m reading about “it,” Daddy.

D: You’re still reading about “it?”

G: Yes, I’m still reading about it.

This is code between Daddy and me that I am reading something complicated for school and/ or writing. He knows that I am interested in assessment and writing for my research, and he knows that I like to read about “it.” Now “it” is full of meaning for us.