Sunday, September 11, 2016

Credit to the Lord and Janis Kinsey Blocker

I rehearsed what I would write on the way to my parents' house; now I seem to be at a loss.  This post is a double tribute:  to God and my English teacher.  I say God because He opened my brain and let the knowledge Janis Blocker imparted take root like an oak tree, growing into the deep recesses of my mind until I would need it over 30 years later.


This is Mrs. Blocker's Facebook photo.  She and her husband own an RV and have camped all over the United States; they have visited each state, many multiple times.  She has been the Colleton County Republican Party Chairperson, and I believe years ago she was on County Council.  This lady would still run circles around many my age or younger.  Follow me back in time to my childhood when I was in middle school.

The year was 1974, and I was in a private school for the first time.  Due to the problems my older brother had with integration at the local middle school, even he told my parents not to send me there.  So, I ended up at John C. Calhoun Academy.  Mrs. Blocker was my 6th grade English teacher.  She would go on to teach me in the 7th, 9th, and 11th grades.  I must add this:  She went to college as a married mother of three and double majored in math and English at the old Baptist College in Charleston, graduating Summa Cum Laude.  Later, she received her master's at The Citadel.  Genius established.

I was a sponge in her class; I soaked up Emerson, Thoreau, her beloved Ben Franklin, and the grammar.  Oh, the grammar.  Diagramming was a game to me.  I didn't confuse gerunds and participles.  Yes, they can both end in --ing; in fact, gerunds always do, but don't confuse a participle with a gerund.  Gerunds are always nouns; participles are always adjectives that look like verbs, so they *might* end in --ing.  I still remember that infinitives are "to" plus a verb and can be nouns, adjectives, or adverbs.  Certain verbs can be linking, but to be sure, replace the verb with "am, is, are, was, were"; if it makes sense, the verb is linking.  Two examples are "feel" and "appear."

Ah.....I LOVED her class!  As I said above, God opened my brain to absorb all she doled out.  No other middle or high school class stuck with me like that.  Even the French, which I adored and excelled in, left me after college.  I exempted freshman comp (as well as French I) because she taught me the nuances of writing.  I understood how to use clauses and phrases to enhance my writing, especially at the start of sentences.  Simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences---I understood them all.

I used what I learned when I taught in Colleton County, but when I left, I was not allowed to teach grammar "in isolation," so the knowledge remained dormant in the recesses of my mind. 

Fast forward to nearly three years ago---over 30 years since I last had Mrs. Blocker in the spring of 1980.  I needed a part-time job and needed one badly (not bad...we need the adverb form here.)  I was online, filling out a JCPenney application.  I later went to a website I often looked at for grocery deals.  I saw an ad for an online tutoring company.  I don't need to elaborate on the steps, but within six weeks, I was tutoring online.  It was a God-led thing.  The way it fell into my lap was simply God-ordained.  My assessments from my mentor were always high---especially in content knowledge.  That was always "Exceeds Expectations,"  and it still is.   In fact, today my Senior Mentor is amazed at my content knowledge and how fast I am in asynchronous sessions.

 Within a few months I knew I wanted to be a mentor with a team of tutors under me.  I took the mentor test and passed, but I had to wait a year before I was invited to be a mentor.  God, in His infinite wisdom, knew that I needed the time to do mentoring work, and at the time I didn't have it then.  I currently have 34 mentors under me whose work I formally evaluate.  I also mentor them through emails if they have questions/concerns.  Finally, I conduct mock sessions of applicants to see if they have what it takes.  What I have declined more applicants over than anything else is grammar.  Very few have been able to "tutor" me on the simple concept of adjectives vs. adverbs.  (They don't understand that adverbs can modify adjectives or other adverbs; they seem to just know they modify verbs.)

So, a year after I took the test, I became a mentor with the company.  When I look back, He orchestrated the whole thing.  There were times when I was tutoring that I made over $800 and $900 a month; the average was probably about $500 a month...direct deposit every two weeks like clockwork.....u-n-r-e-a-l.  He knew back in 1974 when I first set foot in Mrs. Blocker's class that I would need all the knowledge she would impart.  As I prepare to retire next summer, this part-time job is my retirement career. 

So, like an oak tree becoming rooted to its spot, I grasped all the knowledge she imparted to us.  Over the decades, those roots grew deep, and the tree did not die, even when it was dormant.