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Friday, January 29, 2010

a difference

Sometimes as a teacher, it’s difficult to know whether I’m making a difference. It’s certainly easier now that I teach adults because adults—and especially mothers—are more vocal in their appreciation than, say, a bunch of 18-year-olds. But even now, I sometimes wonder whether what I do matters.

Needless to say, it made my day the other day to get the following e-mail from a former student (from my first year teaching as a first-year MFA student at the University of Minnesota):

“It was a kick to see your story today at Brevity’s website. I thought, “Is that the same Kate Hopper who taught me first year creative writing at the U?” And sure enough, I believe you are! Gosh, that was almost 10 years ago when you were a TA for Maria-somebody. Anyway, I wanted to say hello, to tell you that I enjoyed your Brevity essay, and that I think of you often. I’m finishing up my MFA now in California, but you were my first creative writing teacher, the very first person who said, “Hey, these stories are pretty good. You can do this.” Since then, I’ve published several short pieces and am working on my first book.”

I sat at my computer beaming as I read that. I know I can’t take credit for Teri’s wonderful writing or the fact she’s finishing her MFA, but maybe my words of encouragement helped set her on the writing path? Perhaps. It feels like enough to me.

And her message offers me the encouragement I need as I gear up for my two spring classes and start pulling together exercises and a schedule for the first Mother Words writing retreat. I have one spot left in my online Mother Words class, which begins on February 10th. There are also a few spots still available for the retreat (and Faith’s Lodge decided to institute a sliding scale—$300 to $500—to make it more accessible.) So if any of you have a hankering to write more this spring, sign up.


cath c said...

the true joy of teaching is watching your students light up.

what a wonderful way to find out you had a lasting good effect on one!

Madmother said...

Teaching is the most important job in the world. I know from my own experiences the difference an inspiring teacher can make, and now I watch how much a good teacher affects my children, and how tragically a bad teacher can destroy them.

Glad you received feedback you so obviously earned. Now off to look at online course!

magpiedays said...

How great! (And I think it's great that she was able to find you again, and contact you, because of this crazy internet age we live in)

6512 and growing said...

Amazing how a word of kindness or appreciation can be enough; enough to make our day; enough to help us dive back into our work. Bravo to that former student for writing you!

unfinishedportraitofsam said...

at twenty-four years old, i LOVE teaching adults. i taught at a community college, and many of my students were old enough to be my mother or father. we had, much to my surprise, a fantastic relationship. there was this mutual sense of "i don't know what you know, but we can teach each other," and we were vocal and encouraging about it. we gave each other enormous amounts of respect.
i was teaching developmental writing at a community college with folks who hadn't been in school in 10, 20, 30 years, most of whom hated to write. it was a joy to watch them come to appreciate written expression; some of them completely opened up on the page. it was such a little thing and such a piddly class, but it meant a great deal to them and to me. it was one of the most surprising, heartening experiences i'd had, to date--that "lighting up" that Cath C mentions.

kate hopper said...

I'm still so happythat she DID contact me. It reminds me how important those kind words are!

unfinishedportraitofsam, welcome to Mother Words!

The Blue Suitcase said...

This workshop really sounds special, Kate! Lucky signer-uppers!