As I Get Older . . .
Age is a funny thing. Perspective. Time. All of it. And, not that I'm feeling contemplative and even, dare I say, lugubrious (Inside joke, and I should have used the adverb --). I am feeling a bit thoughtful, though.
I used to be driven by my ego. I mean, she was at the helm of this sailboat. Driving along. And the funny thing is, my ego, she was a bit insecure. Always looking out, wondering who was talking about her and what they were saying. She was always guarded and protective. Always watching out.
And listen, I'm not saying she's gone. She's still here—strong voiced and sometimes pushy. But she's not driving anymore. At least not all of the time or even most of the time. I am.
I wonder if this shift is a function of age, or it's a practice or maybe it's a little of both.
In 2008 when the economy took a dump, I tried my hand at 'coaching,' and boy, did I suck at it. I was so concerned with what people thought of me that I failed.
Recently, my teacher (brilliant friend and mentor Jack Grapes) said something about his teaching style and what he said could explain why he is so brilliant.( Or it's one of the many reasons that he's so brilliant).
He said, "You teach to the student."
In other words, it's not about the assignment as much as the student and what the student needs. And it also means it's not about the teacher.
Every class I teach is different. Every student is different. Everyone needs something different. It's not about me and about my making that student get it right. (And, yes, I want them to be the best writers they can be and master the tools, but sometimes it's about something else.) If I force something on someone before they're ready to receive it, then I'm making my teaching about me, not them. I'm trying to be a 'good teacher.'
"You didn't do the assignment," Jennifer said to a student who had just read her piece. Jennifer had been studying with Jack for years, and she often called out people after they read, telling them why they didn't do the assignment right, or sometimes she'd turn to Jack and say, 'Yeah, but she didn't do the assignment.' Jack would then share his perspective on the assignment and how it's not about getting it right but about trying to get it right.
On this day, Jennifer's victim was a newer student. She was nervous enough without Jennifer calling her out. When you read in Jack's class you have to stand in front of the room and that is scary in itself. She was standing there, paper quivering in her hands, biting her upper lip, and looking as if she were about to crumble. And there was Jennifer, with an air of superiority and correctness, rocking in the rocker positioned in the corner near the doorway. Her eyes were drilling in on the woman, her jaw schoolmarm stern, her hands clasped on her lap. Jennifer never took notes in class, but she was sure fast to give them to her fellow writing students.
"It's not always about getting it right," Jack said. Then he assured the girl at the front that she wouldn't have written that particular piece of writing if she weren't trying to do the assignment. Jennifer frowned.
Jennifer liked to be right, and she was sure to let everyone know when she was. My guess? Her ego was at the helm of her sailboat. I get it. I used to be like that. Used to want to be right. No, I needed to be right. If I was right, I was good. If I was wrong, I was bad.
With age, comes growth. With age, comes the realization that I don't need to be right all the time. It's not about me. I guess, as they say, with age, comes wisdom. And if you want to know, the truth is, I learn more from my students than you could imagine. And The more I learn, the better a teacher and mentor I am.
I hope that Jennifer has mellowed with age as I have. I want to say I'm sure she has. Although who knows? Some wines age well, and others go straight to vinegar.
Okay, so it's my Birthday Week, and I want to invite you to my classes in September. See below for dates and times. And, let's write together....
If you register by August 11th at midnight... (SEND ME AN EMAIL TO REGISTER THIS WAY)
you can receive a discount. Class usually is $350, but you can join for just $297
EMAIL ME TO REGISTER
Let me know the day you want to take class, and I will send you a link to register at this special price.