Tuesday, May 08, 2007

MY FIRST TIME TEACHING (me!) sandra, ttgp

inspired by: mattsblogblog.blogspot.com 5/4/07: What do you remember about your first time teaching?*


can't remember exactly what possessed me, but i do remember wonderin' if anyone at all would sign up for my class. i'd taken notes -mental notes- over the years: what i found valuable, what i thought a waste of time, and what was missing in these various creative writing workshops i attended

now i remember! i had seen an advertisement for another workshop. made me sick. -time to teach my own then.

i just knew i had what it takes to light the fire in people's bellies. oh! -but the thought of public speaking

why on earth, hating it the way i do, would i volunteer to do it? -somebody help me!

"you are a toastmaster graduate... winner of countless speaking awards..."

and i have some memory of making the call. three times before i actually spoke.

"did anyone sign up?"

and practically cried of happiness when i learned 6 people had signed up. six!

went to work right away on my plans for an 8 week course; so excited.

and nervous. terribly, awfully, painfully nervous.

by the night of the first class i stood before 12 people, if memory serves me correctly

and here's the thing:

my memory does not always serve me correctly.

ten years plus of post traumatic stress disorder. ten years of varying degrees of fright and flight chemicals racing through my brain. and when my stress is elevated...

i can drop out what i ate for breakfast by lunchtime.

so there i stood, voice a quiverin'... answering the question, what will i get from taking this class?

"i'll... have.. you.. writ-ting- bet-t-ter.. than you've ev-v-ver writt -ten beef- for" i braved.

and now, there you have it. -my memory didn't serve me correctly. i just pulled a picture from the archives, and i had 9 students, not 12.

my older brother, and younger sister among them. and i remember looking to their faces for comfort. when i did, and saw reflected back to me those keep going smiles

i kept going.

boy was i proud when i returned home from that first class. i survived! they had a good time i could tell... this is all going to work out just fine...

i see you didn't empty the dishwasher again

and everyone was on time, excited, it seemed to me, for the next class.

i see laundry piling up

and by the third week, i had secured a guest appearance from one of my all time favorite columnists: ray orrock. -so funny -so motivating -tips from a real live, highly successful and most importantly -regularly published- fellow writer. i had profiled him in college

one of the greatest pieces i'd written i thought. funny, delightful; just like him.

my instructor called it a stupid valentine. hacked it, left and right. i was not allowed to like people the way i did; write so complimentary. no! no! no!

the profile published in the paper -maybe- has two sentences from my original version; and no heart. i wanted to die. die at the thought of what ray might think. and no real way to explain the whole thing to him...

but he must have forgiven me, because he volunteered to speak to my class. and i thanked him with a dinner at girasole. (and that's how i earned that inscribed term of endearment from him: sandra "skoozy" kay... that bread!)

how many times have i told you not to wear shoes in this house?!

and by the next week, students were reporting back to me that they could already feel their writing improving. i was helpful! my feedback mattered!

yeah. you have time to read and edit, but no time for cleaning, that's what i see

and i knew, one of the most confidence building things i could do for my students was to publish their work. and so i had it in my mind that i would create an anthology; kinko's style!

i'm not paying for this!
-but, you see, if you subtract the amount they paid for class;
it's not much really; maybe even a break-even.
and i was really proud of myself when i was teaching, and there were these words i had no idea how to pronounce, and i didn't want to lose the respect of my students, several older and more educated than i; so...
"yes.. and deborah.. would you mind reading that aloud for the class."
and then i jotted in pencil in my notebook the phonetic pronounciation: -sue-nom-ee.
it takes too long to explain my past.
i read every word each student wrote. provided detailed feedback as to what i thought worked and why, and what i thought could be improved and why.
when is this stupid writing class thing over?
the synergy of this first group was amazing. everyone writing, reading, learning, laughing, improving..
and as a surprise, on the last day of class, i presented each person with a very self-published anthology i created at home and had bound at kinko's.
i believe everyone was very proud of their work. loved seeing it published. experienced magical kinship with one another. felt inspired and motivated to write more.. and more..
when i read the feedback questionnaires at home after the entire course was over
i cried and did a somersault. the praise was more than i could have ever imagined.
can you get back to being a wife now and do your real job!
i would go on to teach two more sessions before getting back to my real job.
several people returned for the subsequent sessions. -that's the real test.
three of my students went on to publish for the first time
kathy cordova
penny bartels
deborah grossman
second to the birth of my daughter and son, it's the most joy i'd ever known and the most proud of myself i had been in a long, long, good long, time.
and next i will write about my ex-husband in a way that will have everyone thinking i was the luckiest woman in the world to be married to such a wonderful, kind, funny, generous, rare human-being and i will turn myself in on some of my own shelfish and ugly behaviors
because we are all a mixed bag: dark and enlightened.
look for upcoming post titled: i am an incredibly difficult person to live with.