Sunday, September 03, 2006

Ellie's Questions: #1 Teachers

1. Who is your best teacher and what is the number one lesson he/she's taught you?

I'm a teacher and though I don't have a classroom full of wiggly first graders or jumping bean physical education students any more, I'm still a teacher at heart. This number one question for us was the most difficult for me to answer because if you are a teacher, you also have the heart of a student. It is hard for me to tell you what the number one lesson I've learned is.

I'm going to focus on writing lessons for our purposes here.

I could say that my mom was my best teacher. And she taught me many things, but telling an intriguing story was one of them. She could keep my brother and I entertained for hours, sitting at the kitchen table, with tales about her life, her father's and mother's lives, and her grandparents.

I had Mr. Rosen in 6th grade who taught me that there were other books than the Christian ones I'd only been allowed to read in my previous school. I was fascinated by Edgar Allen Poe! And you guys are not going to believe this, but until our move and entering public school, I had never heard of Nancy Drew. (I'm not inventing this story, either.)

In junior high my English teacher was a Nervous Nelly Type and she didn't understand me, even though I was one of the few students she invited to her apartment for a "going away" party (she was moving.) She didn't pick me for the school newspaper and I was devastated. But she picked me for the party. Kind of weird. (Became the story of my life--people liked me but never bought my submissions...Alas.)

In high school I took every single English class they offered (was the English Department award winner. Still have the pin. Big wow.) was on the school newspaper as the sports and art editor and won a scholarship in journalism at Ball State University because Mrs. Linda Bragg, our journalism teacher, submitted my work there for the scholarship committee. Mrs. Janet Gough was my library "boss," but she had been an English teacher before that. I loved the library, but she showed me how to not only use it, but direct it. And she trusted me. That was the best gift she could've given me. She let me do a lot of the important work in the library, keep scrapbooks for the pickiest teachers/coaches, and run things, as well as let me take home the electric typewriter in the library overnight (well, she did know where I lived.)She was a perfectionist taskmaster and demanded my best. Still, that sense of responsibility and trust she put into me is what helped me to believe in myself. I needed that above anything else.

Dr. Tom Jones, my pastor and mentor, taught me that I could do anything I was called to do, despite being a nobody, quiet blonde in Nowhere U.S.A. In that same little church, Karen Comer had a writing contest one time, and she chose my piece as the winner (I may have been her only entry, but I forget now,) reading it in front of the entire congregation (which was about 30 people.) She gave me a bound blank journal, which I still have.She taught me that I had a gift for writing and showed me that it was fun to have an audience. I cherished that "award" above even my "Best Actress" award.

Dr. Dennis E. Hensley taught me virtually everything I know about writing (my baseline x-ray,) but the most important lesson was that I could write anything I wanted to. (I'm still trying to figure out what that is, actually.)

Just when I think I have learned the best thing about myself and my writing, teacher Terry Whalin points out another thing that I can learn. I am in a perpetual school of writing by listening to what he has to say.

Stephen King in his book On Writing says: "If God gives you something you can do, why in God's name wouldn't you do it?" He taught me this lesson and also, "When you write a story, you're telling yourself the story," and he learned this from a guy named John Gould. It seems that Stephen King was a bit of a rebel in high school and was in detention for writing an underground newsletter called The Village Vomit (which he had foolishly printed his name at the top as the editor.) His punishment was to turn his "restless pen" to something more constructive--writing sports for the local newspaper and for Mr. Gould, the editor. King told him he didn't know anything on writing sports stories, but his new editor said, "These are games people understand when they're watching them drunk in bars. You'll learn if you try."

So, writing is something you do. All of the above-mentioned people have taught me this lesson. You write: You do it. So, that's what I do.

One of my writing friends who shares a love of lilacs, teddy bears, writing and God (not necessarily in that order) has started her own blog. Check out her Anchors, Signposts & Wanderings by Nancy J. Ring, a published writer who is a lot deeper than I am. You'll discover that she actually has important things to say!

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