Teaching, Writing, Teaching, Writing

My first teaching job was as a Sunday School teacher, which winds up being very good experience for being a writing teacher in New York City. Because the thing about teaching Sunday School is you can’t force anyone to stay. You can’t bribe them (although you can give the occasional bit of chocolate.) You can’t scare them (and you don’t want to. Of course.) All you can do is keep it interesting and hope they will want to stay in class.  During my time as a Sunday School teacher I was always trying to come up with ways to be interesting. I recall using sugar cubes to create a model of the great temple of Jerusalem. I would hide passages of the Bible and kids would have to find them. There were always a lot of marshmallows involved. And fire. If you give an 8th grade boy an opportunity to set something on fire, he will bond with you immediately. (For Ash Wednesday we would write down things we were sorry about and set them aflame.) The nice thing is that really all of my Sunday School students have gone on to be great people, and I love running into them. One is a minister. A great joy. When you teach a class of adult students, especially at night, when they are tired, many of the same rules apply. Without the fire. You have to keep things moving. You have to surprise them. I’m forever hunting for fun writing exercises, and for things to do at 9:30 at night, after we’ve all been sitting there for two and half hours. I’m always conscious of the fact that people are choosing to be in class, and they might just easily choose not to. When the class is over, and people are leaving and smiling at me and saying, “See you next week!,” I always feel like I’ve won a victory. And then I run for the train, and go back to my quiet little room and my dogs, and I write.

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