Thursday, March 19, 2009

Teaching — The Icing on the Cake

Another class in Writing, Publishing, & Promoting Your Nonfiction Book ended last night. It was a six-week, 12-hour, non-credit course sponsored by the St. Louis Community College and held in a high school classroom. The class almost didn’t come together because enrollment in continuing ed classes across the community college system was way down. As it turned out, more people showed up on the first night than were originally signed up; and, as is also sadly typical, a few people dropped out. I never know why that happens; and, though it probably has much more to do with the students’ time constraints than the caliber of my teaching, one can never be sure about why they leave.

Those who remained were enthusiastic and involved. They shared their ideas and suggestions with each other, asked many questions of the speakers, took copious notes, and began to write their books. At the last class, they brought food, and we had a great “graduation party.” They were gracious and grateful for what they had learned. As always, that last class was bittersweet. As I said my goodbyes and packed up my materials and books, I was already feeling the familiar sense of loss. While it was festive and lively, and people seemed quite relaxed, I dread these endings.

Some of these students will simply disappear from life. Many of their books may never be written. A few, of course, will stay in touch, perhaps ask for my help, and take the process to its desired conclusion — a completed, published book. But if I go back over my class rosters for all the years I’ve been teaching this class, I will find those success stories to be rare.

People take this class for many reasons. Depending on their previous experience with non-credit courses, they are often surprised that I expect them not only to learn a process but also to actually begin to write their books. For some, that is just what they hoped for; for others, it’s far too big a commitment. What always surprises me is when people take the class and then take it again, determined this time to produce a book.

So, another class ends. I pack away the notebook and re-shelve the books I brought as samples of each week’s topics. And for several Wednesday nights, I will feel vaguely out of sync. Something is missing, I will think. And then I will remember what it is and hope my class will be offered in the summer or next fall.

Teaching fulfills me as nothing else does. How fortunate I am to be able to do it, even if only six weeks at a time.


Kim said...

Believe me, your students feel the same sense of loss! Well...except for the end of the class from hell. That was a relief!

Angela Dion said...

I feel the same way! I teach continuing education writing courses as well. When one of my students sends me an Amazon link for their book or a copy of the magazine their article appeared in, I do a happy dance. There is no greater feeling than helping another writer succeed.