I never thought I’d be a teacher. I still don’t actually call myself one. I’m more of a facilitator. The design of my Haven Writing Retreat is the ultimate teacher. The writing exercises. The readings. The guided feedback. The community of word-lovers. And of course, Montana. I hold the whole thing, ’tis true. And I love it with all my heart.
Doing this work has had me in reflection about the teachers who have shaped me, some of them no longer with us, but forever in my head and hopefully in my prose. Favorite lines like, “Get rid of the bombast and the deadwood!” (Gordon McKinley, Westminster school). ”Good Morning, Miss Munson,” (Malcolm Coates, yanking on my pony-tail as I was nodding off, making me read William Safire On Language out loud from the NYT magazine. 9th grade. Lake Forest Country Day School). Memorizing Desiderata in 7th grade and reciting it as a class. (Scott Bermingham, LFCDS). “You will get an automatic F if you use the Passive Voice.” (Thank you, English Department, Westminster school. BTW, I can still recite Sonnet 18. Shall I compare thee…). ”You really should think seriously about going abroad for an entire year.” (Nan Shiras. Spanish class. 6th grade. LFCDS). ”It was supposed to be an hour-long presentation on the Bruges Madonna, Laura. Not a short story about it being stolen by the Nazis from Mary’s point of view.” (D minus. Later published in a literary journal. Rab Hatfield. Junior Year abroad. Syracuse University. Florence, Italy campus). The answer Yes to this: ”I’d like to do an independent study on crayon drawing. But what I’m really doing is buying time to work on a novel.” (Tony Stoneburner– Senior year. Dension University). And perhaps the defining moment of my life: ”This is not cinema, Ms. Munson! Take this (full length screenplay) to the fools in the English Department!” (Elliot Stout , Cinema department– Denison University). And the consequent, “Where have you been for the last three years? I’m putting you in the advanced Creative Writing class.” (Dick Kraus, English department– Denison University). Bless you people. And so many more, of course.
Last week, I was inspired by a two time Haven Writing Retreat alum and retired teacher, Donna Naquin, to honor some of my favorite teachers. By the magic of social media, I found them, and asked them if they would answer these questions, or at least a handful of them. I will be posting their responses here on May 15th. I invite you to use this questionnaire with your favorite teachers. Feel free to email the responses to me and I will post the top five here. Laura@lauramunsonauthor.com
Q&A for Teachers (current and retired) (all questions optional but encouraged)
What is your definition of the “Teaching Spirit,” and how does a person know if she/he has one?
How did you become a teacher? (DNA, default, other?)
What gets you (got you) out of bed on the hard school mornings? (Coffee? Gerunds? That one kid in the back row?)
Which battles were/are worth fighting for? (Would love to hear some trench stories, esp if you’re retired and won’t get in trouble!)
What was the funniest thing that happened in your classroom? (Feel free to rip on us. It’s the least we can do. Fictional names, please.)
If you could give one piece of advice to parents of your students, what would it be? (Go ahead. Offend us. We really need to know.)
What were some of your “tricks” to connect with students? (My personal favorite was: Weekly ice cream truck– 3rd grade. Thanks, Mrs. Dino. 7th grade Math Hump Day cake was a close second. Thanks, Mr. Virden.)
Why do people say that teaching is one of the hardest professions? (Paint us a portrait, if you’d like. Day in the life…)
In your opinion, is college all that it’s cracked up to be? Ditto an Ivy League education? Ditto private schooling?
What is a moment in your teaching career that makes you especially proud? (BOAST, PLEASE! You deserve it! Or…full disclosure. ie: The day I nailed Suzy in the face with an eraser for picking on Matilda.)
Do you believe in the liberal arts education? If so, why? If not, why?
What can teachers do to prevent burn out? (ahem go on a Haven Writing Retreat in Montana ahem)
Any advice to law makers and administrators that you feel might change our public school systems for the better? (Here’s the soap box…)
What is/was your dream take-away for your students?
Will books ever die?
What will you/do you miss about teaching?
***There’ll be a pop quiz directly following this, FYI. Sharpen your #2 pencil. And spit out your gum.
WE LOVE YOU AND ARE SO GRATEFUL FOR ALL THAT YOU DO/DID FOR US AND OUR CHILDREN!
Now Booking Haven Writing Retreats 2017
For more info and to set up a time to talk, email Laura@lauramunsonauthor.com