***Sorry I’m late today! I was giving a presentation to the Women’s Club of Wisconsin. So much fun!***
And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
Yesterday, April 19th, was my “teachaversary”. I’ve been teaching now for 27 years, and the last 18, have been through my studio, AllWriters’ Workplace & Workshop, though I am always appearing and teaching elsewhere.
27 years. I think that’s pretty good for someone who never ever said, while growing up, “I want to be a teacher.” Teaching wasn’t a goal, a dream, a passion, not even something that I thought would tide me over as I was earning my riches being a writer (HA!). I’d heard, over and over again, “Those who can’t, teach.” And I didn’t want to be someone who “can’t.”
27 years ago, I received a call from the Park & Rec department of my city. The person they had teaching their one creative writing class, Seniorscribes, for those 55 and up, suddenly just up and quit, fleeing for Ireland. Somehow, the Park & Rec people heard of me, and they called me to see if I might want to take over the class.
55 and up? I was all of 35 years old then. I didn’t want to teach “old” people. They’d likely be writing about their operations and their grandkids! And I didn’t want to teach in the first place.
For some reason, I told my then-husband, who never turned down the opportunity to make money to support his gambling habit, particularly if he didn’t have to do the work. I finally agreed (gave up) and said I would do it, but that “if I’m ever teaching more than I am writing, I’m quitting!”
I walked into that classroom, full of angst and assumptions. I walked out excited, my mind spinning, and I couldn’t wait for the next week. My students weren’t the ones who had a lot to learn; I was.
Word got out that I was teaching, and that my students very quickly began to see success. By the end of my first year, I was teaching 65 hours a week, at Park & Rec, plus the University of Wisconsin – Waukesha, the College of Lake County, online for Writers’ Digest, Writers’ College, I-University, and many more. I began to develop my own private classes, went back to school to earn my MFA in fiction, and in 2005, did something else that I never wanted to do. I opened my own small business, AllWriters’ Workplace & Workshop.
Teaching grew into a passion. A dream. A goal. I was, of course, teaching more than I was writing, but because I was teaching, the writing remained steady. I would never ever allow myself to teach writers if I wasn’t writing and publishing myself. It became a hallmark of AllWriters’ that, whatever class you took, you were led by someone who was succeeding at doing what you wanted to do. I was all about proving that teaching had nothing to do with the “can’t” in “Those who can’t, teach.” Teaching made me even more devoted to my own work.
I didn’t realize, when I got up yesterday morning, that it was my teachaversary. It was my day off, and it wasn’t until I slept in, lazily got up, wandered to the laptop in my jammies and shared my breakfast with my email, that I saw, in Facebook memories, that this was the day. I wasn’t on Facebook 27 years ago, but I’ve celebrated that anniversary in the years since getting on board with social media. So after reading about my own milestone, I sat there for a bit and stared at the screen.
27 years. 27 years! I finished my thirties, my forties, my fifties, and I moved into my sixties.
Other than writing (started in elementary school, published at 15) and parenting (39 years), there is nothing else I’ve done for a longer amount of time than teaching. I am so glad I started doing what I so didn’t want to do.
We often hear that we should “follow our passion”. And I have, with writing, without a doubt. But I think I’ve learned that you also have to be open to what comes along. Sometimes, you don’t recognize a passion until you’ve been doing it a while, and then suddenly, you realize you never want to stop doing it.
One of my passions has become helping my students achieve their passion, and they achieve their passion doing what I’m passionate about. Each publication by a student or client is like a grandchild. I am so proud.
27 years. How about that?
Let’s start pushing for 30.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.
An addendum several hours after posting this – I just realized something. I need to be grateful to my gambling then-husband, because if he hadn’t insisted strongly that I take that first job teaching, I would never have learned of my deep love for it. Good lord. I don’t wanna be grateful to him. But for this, I will be.