The Writing’s on the Wall


pencilI work for a company that provides “educational services”. (My boss says that is as specific as I can be without getting sued.) In my line of work, I come into contact with the written work of students of various grade levels and abilities.

If there is one thing that haunts me endlessly about my work, besides the state of public education in this country and the fact that the children are our future and we aren’t necessarily teaching them well so they can lead the way (RIP Whitney Houston), it’s the ridiculously bad handwriting I see on a continual basis.

Their fucking handwriting! Christ. Some of them look like they wrote with their feet. Seeing as how I spent my first three years of college as a psychology major, I feel pretty comfortable making broad, sweeping generalizations about children based solely on their handwriting. Here are a few types:

  • Teeny Tiny Printing: Some of these kids can fit 50 words on a single line. I swear they can hand-print in a size 6 font. I don’t know how often these children’s helicopter parents (Dr. and Mrs. Teeny Tiny Printing) are making them rewrite their homework, but these kids must only have one bowel movement per month, that’s how anal retentive they are. Don’t get me wrong – these kids generally write pretty well, but damn. I’m 38 years old and on the verge of needing bifocals. Give me a break, kid.
  • Fat Loopy Cursive with Hearts Over the I’s: These girls don’t generally knock it out of the park academically. I’m sure they are popular, have their own credit cards and drive a Volkswagen Beetle, but they aren’t going to change the world. They will do an excellent job decorating it.
  • Doctor Scrawl: I don’t know if these particular kids will ever actually make it to medical school, but their careless, “I can’t be bothered” handwriting has me convinced that these entitled average-achievers already possess one of the personality traits necessary to sustain a thriving private practice: they don’t mind inconveniencing others.
  • Serial Killer Handwriting: The stuff written in this hand is either terrible or fucking brilliant. The pages look like ransom notes: the letters vary in size and sometimes the pencil presses so hard against the paper it’s amazing it didn’t tear. You never know what kind of manifesto this crazy bastard is going to turn out when you start reading this mess. These are my favorite.

Although those are the main types, sometimes I get bored, like today, and I have to invent games to keep myself entertained. I came across something unusual that sparked my imagination, hence:

  • Secret Encoded Message Writing: This occurs when, due to the student’s hand or a computer glitch, random words appear several times darker than the surrounding text. It might look like this.

In my post-afternoon-break haze, I decided that the student was trying to send me a secret message. I tried reading just the darkened words, but they didn’t make any sense. Damn. I thought about rearranging the words and trying again. (Hey, what do I know? Maybe they didn’t want to make their secret code too obvious.) Instead, I just let it go. I was ready to move on, but that was a fun 30 second diversion. I can’t wait for the next one.

If you’ve recognized yourself in any of these psychological profiles, you’re welcome. This is the first step. I’m sure if you “Google” or check WebMD or something, they’ll have some answers for you that will get your life right back on track. Or maybe you can just type everything from now on.

Disclaimer: When it comes to talking about children, schools, and education, it can sometimes be an “If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry” situation. I take my job seriously, and I’m awesome at it. I joke because I care.