As you read this, I’m starting my first day at my new job in a school – and probably fumbling nervously with all my stuff and wishing there was a world in which I could hide in the corner forever. But all good things start just beyond what you’re comfortable with, so hopefully I’m holding my own.
What I really want to talk about today is a super fun surprise – we’re having Back To School month here on the blog! I am so exited and I have an awesome lineup of posts for you, including author interviews, book reviews, and a flash fiction contest! I hope that you’ll join the fun, and together we can celebrate new beginnings, my favorite season, and the joy of wonderful words!
Today’s post is a short one but starts off our Back To School theme:here’s Three Things I Wish My English Teacher Had Taught Me.
1) That some classics have to be grown into.
When I was in seventh and eighth grade, even into high school, I loathed most classics. These books that all my smart friends loved, like Shakespeare’s plays and Oliver Twist and Sense and Sensibility – not a fan. I liked books that moved fast and had big stakes in them, and I almost never read about teenagers. I figured the last thing I wanted to read about was people doing the same things I was doing. I was afraid that it meant I was dumb. But it turned out okay – I mean, I’m still just not much of a classics reader, but in college I fell in love with certain stories like A Tale of Two Cities and Pride and Prejudice…and The Hunchback of Notre Dame is still one of my favorite books. It just takes time to grow into them.
2) That writing could be powerful and narrative matters
For the most part I had great English teachers and we read and wrote interesting things. But I was never really encouraged to find my voice or tell my own story. I had one creative writing class, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me, but my regular English was heavily focused on essays and research papers, and for a long time I wasn’t sure I even liked English that much because the things I liked most about language and expression were entirely absent from the curriculum. I know the standards are tight and test demands high, but please teachers – don’t let the creative spark die out.
3) That writing is not a dichotomy
Maybe this one is cheating, because I’m not sure it was my English teachers that taught me this so much as a cultural perception, but I grew up with parents who saw writing as a little hobby, somewhat quirky, and pushed me into a career that would pay the bills. Contrary to what many writers may feel, I think this was a good thing. It’s true that you should pursue the passions in your heart and celebrate what makes you feel joy, but you also do need to be responsible, pay bills, make a contribution. Writing especially can be a very self-filled and focused endeavor, and I firmly believe I benefited greatly from being pressed outside of that narrow field. But I felt I learned or saw that either you were a writer and ate/slept/breathed writing and nothing else, or you were not a writer because you did other things. English teachers, give your students the pleasure of appreciating reading and writing as part of a well-rounded and fulfilling life. Words are for everyone, everywhere, and it’s okay to have many passions and achieve many things, both as a writer and as, say, a fireman or a mail carrier or a lawyer. Life is what fills your writing, so remind your students to embrace it all, to write and to live in equal portions, and not feel less because they do.
What do you wish your English teacher had taught you? Also, what’s some things you hope we cover during this Back To School month?