Sometimes the beginning of the year feels a little like hitting the "refresh" button on my computer. You hope things will go a little better this time. Maybe life will be faster, or smoother or clearer. Still, you're not leaving the page, you're just re-imagining it, giving it a different version of itself. Wow, this is getting deep. Last year, I walked into a classroom in January to do something I thought I never would: teach a class. Be careful what you say out loud.
That class was a blessing in so many ways. It gave me confidence as a teacher, it reminded me of why I love fiction in a time of writing drought and it introduced me to a wonderful friend who helped me find the church I now attend. It was exactly where I needed to be.
Last night, I walked into this classroom:
I was ready for yet another group of students. I've taught this class since then, but this was the anniversary. This time triggered memories of nervousness and wondering if I was capable. I know now what I didn't know then: the first class is the hardest. This is where I wear power clothes and cram the three-hour class with exercises and interesting details. I have to prove to this group of people that I am qualified to teach this class. I know, because of feedback from other classes, that they walk in and think, "who is this 14-year old sitting in the teacher's chair?" I win them over, during the first class.
There is something that I didn't know last year and that is that while the classes are different, it feels like the same people take this class. I was waiting for it and I found the "actually, I was a [insert writing of a different genre] major and am working on a novel," person. She was even sitting in the same corner of the room. There are the women in their 20's and 30's who have always wanted to write and haven't, the 40-something man in skinny jeans who wears statement glasses and writes with a fountain pen, the older gentleman, the women who want to write historical fiction. This time I had a couple who want to write a book together. They admitted that their styles are diametrically opposed. As she put it: "He is like Stephen King, and I'm...not."
There was something else the same about this class. One of my students from that January a year ago was in it. An older gentleman, who wrote one of the most chilling stories based on a random object that I have ever heard. It's nice to know that someone enjoyed my class enough to register for it again.
There is always a little fear and trembling on the first day. I wonder if this will be the class that doesn't come around and feel like a family at the end, perhaps this will be the group that will not agree on a picture on the last day. Maybe they will go and tell stories about the freakishly young teacher they had this one time. But I can't worry about that. This year has kept me humble but it has also made me bold.