Sometimes I complain about teaching. In fact, about three weeks into any given course, I tend to have a fair-to-middling-sized meltdown. I’m working 9 to 5; I’m critiquing 50 pages of student writing a week instead of writing my own stuff; my free time has gone from two nights a week to one; I’m drained, weary, drowning in track changes but parched in every other way.
The thing is, though, that I love teaching. Years after I read them, images from my students’ stories stay in my mind—and those of you who know me will understand what a triumph this is (for I’ll watch an episode of Homeland or Firefly and forget, the next day, how it ended). I remember the student who wrote like Cormac McCarthy, but also, gloriously, like himself. I remember a boat surrounded by a sea of blueberries; I remember a white bull who appeared in a snowstorm, in the Annex, and spoke. I remember ancient automatons, broken-hearted Reapers, Aces and Magpies, smartass swords, loyal, angry brothers and lonely weres. New worlds and dying ones.
These classes go way beyond the writing. I’m lucky enough to still be in touch with many of my former students. And I’m lucky enough to have students who go from reading free writes aloud in a stifling classroom in University College to landing a four-book deal with St. Martin’s Press.
Case in point: Leigh Evans. She called me Gandalf, almost from the beginning. She trusted me with the first draft of something she wasn’t sure was going to be a book. Only it was a book—and it’s about to be four.
And Anna, whose unpublished book (read by both me and my elder daughter) has just been longlisted for an award (though this seems not to have been formally announced, yet).
Pride, yes. Hey, I had something to do with this! But also pure, unadulterated, altruistic joy.
A new class started two days ago. The meltdown should be coming in about 2.75 weeks. But already there are ryphoons, skawps, spaceships, burr slings, enigmatic lowlanders, kick-ass lady mechanics, possible dead guys, a flame-bleeding Rumour, and a lonely, lost, teenager who’s about to discover, to her and everyone else’s chagrin and wonder, that she’s something special.
So, to all you once and future students of mine: a multitude of very slightly melted-down thanks.