I’m not fond of correction. Oh, I like giving it, just not receiving it. As a band leader and music coach, I frequently offer correction to those who I expect will receive it. Ironic, since my defensiveness is typical of the artist temperament, which Rory Noland aptly describes in The Heart of the Artist, a must-read for anyone who is an artist—or has tried to love one.

Recently when I was reading Matthew Paul Turner’s Churched (I wrote a review about it here), I recalled something from childhood that illustrates well my rejection of correction. Turner described an incident at his private church school that paralleled mine.

More Painful Memories of Church School

I’ve written a little about my church school experience, how we students were cordoned off from one another in case we might somehow corrupt each other—I mean, so we could work without interruption on PACEs, which were on-our-own workbooks for each subject. Each workbook contained reading and assignments.

There was very little interaction with teachers or other students—even a janitor would have been nice. If I happened to have a question, I’d grab my ever-present miniature Christian flag, perch it above my cubicle, and wait for my teacher or her assistant, neither of whom had been expected to fulfill the state requirements for public school teachers.

Even my assignments I corrected myself. At least I was supposed to. Upon the completion of an assignment, I would take my workbook to a standing, highly visible table stocked with answer keys and red pens. (No other ink hue was allowed at the table.) I was expected to compare my work to the answer key and appropriately denote any mistakes, return to my cubicle to redo anything that was wrong, then go back to the correction table to check again.

Like Turner, I didn’t like a lot of red X’s in my workbook, so instead of marking through my wrong answers, I made mental notes of the correct answers. Then I would return to my desk, erase any mistakes, and write down the correct responses. Turner did the same, except he didn’t trust his memory, so he put tiny, barely visible dots above the answers to be corrected. His dots led to his downfall. He got caught.

So did I.

The Case of the Missing Red X’s

A nine-year-old evidently doesn’t possess the mental capacity to remember all his mistakes when trying to cover them up. As a father, I know this now. Three-year-olds don’t and neither do twelve-year-olds.

It seems that I couldn’t always recall the correct answer to write down. So upon routine checks of my workbooks, my teacher noticed I’d had incorrect answers but no red X’s. (I suppose they could have been checkmarks too.) She further observed—who was she, Sherlock Holmes? She couldn’t get licensed as a real teacher but was hot on the case of the missing red X’s—erasures littered all over my workbook though with an astounding lack of red ink.

I wasn’t so creative back then. I don’t remember how I responded when she and the principal sat me down. I doubt it was gratitude for the mercy they showed, because they didn’t show any. In fact, that may have been the last time I sat comfortably for a while, since I remember receiving the paddle for my transgression. Those were the days when corporal punishment was still allowed, even celebrated.

I hope I’ve gotten better about receiving correction. Feel free to try me out. Post yours in the comment box. Sort of a public, social media version of the paddle. I think it even had holes drilled.

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