Feeding my Soul

teacher_clipart_1I had the opportunity to teach a writing workshop this past weekend. It was a very small group, but it still felt great. Teaching writing workshops is one of those things that nurtures my soul. I wish I had the opportunity to do it more here.

I got into teaching quite by accident, although becoming a teacher was one of my earliest dreams. I had some wonderful teachers throughout my educational years who inspired and nurtured my talents. When I began my freelance writing career, I joined a large writers group and when I had been into it only a short time, one of the facilitators told me that the leader of a night writers group at one of the large community colleges was moving on. She told me she thought I would be a good fit to take it over.

I had a bad experience once as a member of that night group and although I had done some teaching in the corporate sector, I wasn’t sure I was even qualified. Still, I contacted the head of the continuing ed department and the rest, as they say, is history.

I led that group for several years on campus and developed more classes for the college.  I also led the group for several more years when I went renegade and decided to give myself more freedom and branch off from the college.

I converted the curriculum for online workshops, but I never felt as connected to the students teaching online. Part of the fun of teaching was meeting and getting to know the students.

I remember a lot of my students, but the ones who really stand out in my mind were the ones in whom I saw the talent and the drive to take their writing beyond the borders of their own journals and computers.

One student, a Muslim woman, took one of my workshops the weekend after the tragedies of 9-11. Still in shock over the devastation and in mourning over the thousands lost that day, this woman brought us all to tears when she read her essay about growing up Muslim in America. I assisted her with edits and urged her to send the piece to a local newspaper. The column not only ran locally, but also was syndicated in papers across the U.S. The woman quit her lucrative career as a healthcare executive and started her own consulting firm helping her clients with religious and cultural tolerance. Among her many clients is the military, she teaches officers about culture and religion before deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan. Another of her essays she wrote in one of my groups was recently published in an anthology of pet stories.

I’ve always told my students they need to think outside of the box and another one of them took the initiative and contacted a best selling novelist to see if she would be willing to read and critique his work. She was more than happy to help him and even gave him other contacts in the literary world.

And another of my former students wrote touching essays about her father’s battle with Alzheimer’s and her love for her land outside of the city. She recently became a regular columnist at a large regional newspaper.

There were many more, the essays, short stories and books in progress with great characters and plot lines I still hope to pick up at a bookstore someday.

I don’t take credit for any of the writing or the successes, but there’s nothing better for me than sharing my passion for writing and being able to help nourish the seed and watch it grow within someone else.

And what really mattered to me was if they accomplished their goals for their writing. All I needed to hear is what one said to me on Saturday, “This was great, much more than I expected,” and I knew I had shared my passion adequately. My soul is fed.

What is one of your passions?

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32 Responses

  1. Софт says:

    Хорошего без плохого не бывает – даже школьнику на каникулы дают задание. – Ч. Лэм

  2. iPhone says:

    Я отметила отлично 🙂 нацепила на голову тыкву и бегала по улице.

  3. Самое большое счастье в жизни – это уверенность в том, что тебя любят. – В. Гюго

  4. Keri says:

    My greatest passion is teaching my native language: American Sign Language at the local university. It’s wonderful to see my students graduate and see how ASL is incorporated in their lives: one student became the swim coach at Gallaudet University, one student traveled to Spain and worked at a Deaf school there (which meant he had to learn Spanish Sign Language as well!), one student fell in love with a Deaf man she met at one of the Cultural Events required for class and one student is a teacher who happens to have a couple of students who have Deaf parents. =D

    • That’s great, Keri. I’m glad you’re able to share that with so many people. I took an interest in sign language as a child, although I had no one in my life with a hearing disability. I taught myself the alphabet and some of the signs and it came in handy when I worked with the public. It’s beautiful, I love watching the scene from “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” where he finally communicates with his son through signing “Beautiful Boy,” brings tears to my eyes every time.

  5. MarthaandMe says:

    I taught a community ed writing class for a while too and found it to be a really good experience. I had to stop doing it because I just couldn’t justify the time for the very low pay.

    • True on the low pay, I don’t think teaching anything is done simply for the money (unless you’re a tenured full professor at a large university). It’s like anything else that’s associated with the writing business, weighing the benefits vs. the pay. My workshops were always on Saturdays during a time I would be sleeping in and I enjoyed it so much, it was worth the pay.

  6. You sound like a great teacher. Lucky students!

  7. Sandra says:

    Hi Kerri. Only in the past two years have I taught. Guest speaker at local University on Investigative experience. Loved it. Considering writing a book. You have inspired me. Since my husband’s bypass surgery we have developed a healthy diet that has lowered his cholesteral from 363 to 179. Diet and supplements. Yes it can be done. I feel other’s need this information that the books on the shelf, doctors and dieticians don’t know and/or are not telling people. I think I need a writing class first though.

    Also speaking on your hubby’s job search Not sure how far you are from this place they are hiring. http://www.ozarkmedievelfortress.com. They are building a full size castle in Lead Hill. 20 yr project! Heard it thru grapevine.

    • I got back on track with writing by taking as many writing classes as possible and attending writer’s conferences, Sandra. I hope that helps.
      Thanks so much for the job tip. I’ll check into that. Lead Hill isn’t that far.

  8. Susan says:

    To all you wonderful writers, I get to enjoy the fruits of your hard labor.

  9. Heather says:

    What a blessing you are Kerri to be able to touch people like that with your passion. You have inspired me to think about what my passions are and to get in touch with that side. Thanks for doing that!

  10. How great to have a small group…for the students it must have been amazing. There is nothing quite like studying 1:1 or in a small group with a great teacher. It’s enriching and motivating.

  11. Tammy says:

    Being able to teach is such an amazing skill. I wish we lived closer together; I would love to attend one of your workshops. 🙂

    As for my passions – I love writing, taking photos, and spending time with love ones.

  12. Alexandra says:

    Congratulations are in order that so many of your students have become successful. My husband was a teacher. He takes pleasure in having inspired so many former students to go on to careers in government, journalism, public service, in Sweden, economists, lawyers, “everything!” he exclaimed when I asked for specifics. It must be a real pleasure to have such a gift.

    My passion is writing. I run a B&B, but often find myself putting writing projects first, because writing is what I really care about, when I should perhaps be sifting through reservations or seeking new promotional opportunities instead …

    • Alexandra, I’ve long dreamed of running a B&B too, although I’m no good at making beds! 🙂 I think to be a teacher, all you need is the passion for your subject that awakens the passion and talents in the students.

  13. Deborah says:

    Good morning, Keri. I’ve always had a passion for writing and music (mostly singing and composition). I remember a time when I kept a synthesizer near my bed in case I woke up in the middle of the night with a tune in my head. I’d often get up and record something. Somewhere I lost that passion. I’m trying to get it back. It’s like love gone stale, I think. You have to stoke the fires of passion.

  14. Kathleen Winn says:

    As one of those lucky enough to have benefited from your teaching, I can say that I know firsthand how much you enjoy sharing your knowledge and experience. I learned a great deal from you as far as the technical aspects of writing and important concepts like “show don’t tell.” But what I gained most was confidence in my abilities and determination to pursue my goals.

    Your unwavering support and constant encouragement were critical in keeping me focused and determined in my pursuit of publication. I remember how adamant you were about calling myself a writer, even before I’d had anything more than a few letters to the editor published. I will be forever grateful for the wisdom and skills you shared so generously. I think the hallmark of a good teacher, is the ability not only to convey information, but to motivate and inspire as well. Those are the qualities that I believe make you such a great teacher. Thanks for all that you did in helping with my fledgling writing career!

  15. Will do, Mary. Thanks for putting the plans in place!

  16. Hi Kerri. I have many things I enjoy doing, but writing is my passion. Check out http://belarcowritersworkshops.blogspot.com

  1. January 25, 2010

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