Foray into teaching

I taught my first creative writing class this week! It was the first session of a free ten-week course at my local community center. So far I only have six students (and only four of them could come this time), but we’re hoping to grow as we go. I’m happy to say that the group seemed enthusiastic and glad they came, so I was thrilled.

Teaching is something I’ve always wanted to try. Now that I have an MFA, I’m technically qualified to get a teaching job at a university, but even the community college down the road (understandably) wants its adjuncts to have some prior teaching experience. I’d like to at least have the option of teaching a night class there (or somewhere) sometime in the future, so I figure this gig will give me the references I need to make that happen.

But the resume-building is honestly just a bonus of this venture. I’m teaching this course because I feel a strong need to use writing to help other people. My own writing happens in solitude, where the only person I’m helping is myself. Even teaching at a university often means merely helping students check another requirement off a long list. But teaching in a community center is completely different. Here, the students come because they want to. They’re not looking to fulfill an academic requirement — they’re looking to fulfill their dreams and deepen their souls. And that’s the kind of helping I want to do.

Two of my students — a married couple — told me they come to the community center on a regular basis to visit the food pantry. In response to one of the in-class writing prompts, the wife wrote a touching piece about what it would be like to have a full refrigerator at home. No more expired, broken eggs. No more going to bed hungry. Her honesty floored me. So did her lack of self-pity. And I thought to myself, this is why I’m here. I can’t fix the problems that brought this woman to poverty. But I can — I hope — make a small difference in her life through the gift of creative expression.

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