From Writer to Teacher

Would you consider teaching a class?

That question was posed to me about a year ago by the nice folks at UAB’s Alys Stephens Center. They have a public arts education center called ArtPlay where they teach all sorts of arts-related classes to children and adults — everything from ballet to improv to photography. 

Sure, I replied with more confidence than I felt. I’d love to! I said trying to convince myself more than them that I really would love to.

Now I’d never taught before. Sure, I’d spoken to various classes from high school all the way up through college about everything from resume writing to creating a marketing plan. But those were an hour or two here and there. I’d never designed a whole curriculum before. 

And now, boy, I was in it. 

Come to find out, much to my surprise although it shouldn’t have been, that even though you can do a thing like writing, you might not know exactly how you do it. So I knuckled down and did my research. You have to be able to analyze your process, which means realizing that you actually have a process and figuring out what that is. Then you have to break it down into some sort of steps or reasonable sections. And then you have to figure out how to verbalize it. 

But I did it. I came up with my plan. And last February, I taught my first class in creative nonfiction writing. 

In the beginning, I was shaking, sweaty, and nervous. 

Did you know that I’ve worked for years to overcome a pretty serious case of stage fright? Even in small groups, I go all hot and at the same time cold while my heart tries to climb up my throat and out of my eye sockets. But the way to get past these fears, is to force yourself to do it. And it’s been working! 

I made it through my first class. Then the second. The class members seemed to be learning something and having fun too. They read awesome stories that they had written. We laughed together, and we got teary-eyed together. We shared praise and constructive feedback. We grew together.

Then, before I knew it, the whole six weeks had passed and we were having our last class.

And I was so sad it was over. I really had loved teaching.

That class ended the week before the world shut down. Since then, they asked me to do some videos for kids who were stuck at home during the pandemic (you can find them and all sorts of other fun things at the Alys Stephens Center’s  YouTube channel). I taught an online class for them over the summer. And they’ve asked me to do it all again in March 2021.

Next week I’ll teach my last class of the fall season. Even though I’ve only met these class members through tiny boxes on my laptop screen, I’ve gotten to know them through the beautiful words and stories that they’ve shared with me. They’ve been fun and funny, they’ve touched my heart and warmed my soul, and taught me more than I could ever teach them.

And that brings me to the fifth lesson I’ve learned in 2020, which is twofold. (1) teaching creative nonfiction is fun, and I really do love to teach even though I wasn’t sure I could even do it. And (2) sometimes the teacher winds up learning from the students. 

(This year for #BlogLikeCrazy, I’m talking about 30 lessons I’ve learned in 2020. Read the other entries here).

8 thoughts on “From Writer to Teacher

  1. I was honored to be in that very first writing class, and it changed my life. So thank you, Audrey, for making me realize I really could write engaging stories in my own voice that was silenced for so long.

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