Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sometimes Teachers Really Do Make a Difference

72º~ sunny days continue, headache inducing sun to tell the truth, a promise of more moderate temps for next week

Monday evening I had the double-whammy-pleasure of being reminded that sometimes I do make a difference in my students' lives. 

First, here's S. Mara Faulkner, one of my own former instructors who shaped my future and still means the world to me.

Mara Faulkner, OSB, instructor, mentor, friend 

As for Monday night, I attended the dual launch party for the student literary magazines from PTC and UALR.  Many of the creative writing students that start at PTC (community college) go on to earn degrees at the University of Arkansas Little Rock.  They make me so proud.  In any case, at the launch party several of my former students read their work, work that was originally written in my creative writing class and that went on to be published in one of the journals.  A few of the students pointed out the fact that they began the poems while in my class.  The attention was slightly embarrassing, but it really did warm my heart to be reminded that there are people still interested in reading and writing poetry and that I can help guide them on their journeys.  (Yes, I really am that earnest.  I can't help it.  I'm from the Midwest.)

When I got home from the launch party, I found another such moment waiting for me in my inbox.  Below is the text of the email (with permission from the writer, of course).  For clarity's sake Governor's School is a summer program for rising high school seniors.  Students live in dorms at a local college and experience college-level classes while meeting new peers from all over the state.

Hello Sandy,

My name is John Andrews and in 2005 you taught my creative writing workshop at Arkansas Governor's School (I was the guy that journal-ed all the time).  Since then I've graduated from UCA (BA in Writing - Spring 10) and am now working on my MFA in Poetry at Texas State (just started this Fall) and cannot thank you enough for putting the MFA seed in my head!  

The serendipity of today was that a friend suggested I read your book, they said "you know, you kind of write in the same style of this poet.... I think you'd like her." Kind of blew my mind.  So I found your blog and thought to touch base with you and thank you for inspiring me in 2005, and now!

Thank you, more then you know,


PS I can't put Blood Almanac down and remember you reading "Lover, Say Prairie" to us in class.

It may seem like I'm calling attention to myself by posting about these two experiences, but that is not my intention.  Both events just made me so darned happy that I feel like I must share the joy.  And for all of those fellow teachers / instructors out there...we really can make an impact on our students' lives.  Every once in a while we get the gift of knowing that for sure.

Thanks to all of my students past and present for making my life the fuller for knowing you all.


Anonymous said...

Hey, Sandy, it's Al Maginnes. Great blog entry. Sometimes things like this happen to me as well, and they are sometimes what keep me going when, like now, the papers are stacked to the ceiling (I have to tell my night class tonight that I do not have the papers they gave me last week)and it seems like there might never be time to write a poem ever again. Thanks for this. It was right on time during a difficult morning.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Ah, Al, glad it helped out this morning. The stack-o-papers threatens to tip in my office as well. We can only do what we can do, but it is good to know that sometimes it helps.

Michelle said...

Hey, Sandy.

Your post made me all weepy and sappy. You and I were so fortunate that Mara influenced both of us so profoundly, and now we can only hope that we have some sort of positive effect on our students' lives. I, too, have a mountain of papers to grade, but your post puts me in the right frame of mind. Thank you.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Yes, Michelle, we were lucky! Thanks for the note, and I'm glad the post helped.

Nancy Devine said...

i think we teacher need to hear, from time to time, that we do have an impact on our students. so much of teaching and learning is intangible, elusive; a concrete reminder that it's worthwhile is needed every so often.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Nancy, thanks for stopping by. Glad the post resonated with you. It is a gift to hear from students, and I hope all the great teachers out there get a gift like my Monday gifts very soon.

Kristin said...

Because we're on a weird quarter system, we have graduation tonight. Lots of folks complain bitterly about our graduation attendance requirements, but I love graduation. I love to be reminded that students go on to succeed! Your post reminded me of that graduation night feeling.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Happy graduation night! It is fun to know we were part of the success.

Shin Yu said...

What a touching note from your former student...

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Shin Yu. It made my week!