My Favourite Machiavelli

My Favourite Machiavelli

The person who impacted me the most in regard to my writing was my grade five elementary school teacher, Mr. Seale. I absolutely adored him. He was handsome, had a wicked sense of humour, and best of all, he
was British. At that time, I had been in Canada perhaps two years, and I still missed England terribly. I felt like a square peg in a round hole. I dressed differently, and most importantly of all, at least to me, I spoke differently,a trait that other children were quick to make fun of. Mr. Seale, on the other hand, treated me as an intelligent child who had a valuable contribution to make to the class.
 I must say I tried his patience daily! I acted up, talking in class, throwing things at other students, and just being a general nuisance. Mr. Seale, though, soon found my weakness; it was writing stories. Whenever I thought I could get away with it, I would write furtively in my special notebook. I wrote mystery stories similar to those of Enid Blyton, whose Famous Five series I loved. I don’t know how many times I got caught
doing this in class, and Mr. Seale devised a perfectly delicious punishment. He would give me an after-school detention of one hour, and during that time, I was to do nothing but write. I was in Heaven!
He took to referring to me as “the naughty one,” which I secretly loved, but publicly made a fuss about. He also expanded my “punishment” by making me read my stories aloud to the class. At first, I was terrified, and the students were cruel in their taunts and criticisms of my work, but ever so slowly, that changed. It got to the point where they demanded more, and Mr. Seale had me read one chapter a day.
During that school year, I grew as a person and gained more confidence in my ability as a writer. As a side effect of my “punishment”, not only did my writing skills improve, I became a better student overall. I did not feel the need to act up any longer and disrupt the class. Mr. Seale still called me the “naughty one”, but it was kind of a joke between us.
That year, there was also a contest for all the students at the school, and joy of joys, it was a writing contest! We could write about anything we chose; it could be fiction or non-fiction, with a minimum of 500 words. I was overjoyed until Mr. Seale said I had to come up with something new; I couldn’t do what I had already done. My heart sank, because I had run out of ideas, but Mr. Seale told me that all writers have that problem sometimes, and there was a name for it; Writer’s Block. I capitalize the phrase because it seemed so huge and insurmountable. I would put
pen to paper, but nothing happened. Nothing. It was then I learned never to give up. Mr. Seale played word games with me, and in doing so, the block slowly disintegrated. By making word associations, and branching off from each one, I got an idea for my story. I didn’t win, but I came in third, which thrilled me no end, because I got a little trophy and a badge that said “Writer” on it.
Without Mr. Seale’s help and patience, I don’t think I would have developed such a love for the English language. He also taught me
to trust in myself and have confidence in my own abilities, even when others were cruel or unkind. When he signed my autograph book at the end of the year, he wrote; “To Susan Neri, the Naughty One.” I treasured that autograph for years, and looking back Mr. Seale was, in a way, a sort of Machiavelli, albeit a benevolent Machiavelli, and I owe him so much for the person I am today.

©Sue McCaskill, July 22, 2009

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