Forever a Teacher, Forever a Student


One of the bits of wisdom I share with my students in my writing classes over the years is the fact that if you’re serious about being a writer, you never stop being a student. And that’s very, very true. My students look at me as the accomplished writer, but I don’t see myself that way. I am always looking for ways to get better. Even my fellow professors make similar comments. We’re talking about holding a writing conference on campus in 2017 directed at high schoolers, and I talked about bringing in a high-profile writer to be our guest speaker, and one of our English professors told me not to “sell myself short.” I’ve written a lot of books, published a lot of article and stories, and yet, I feel like I’m just getting started.

When you talk about writing as much as I do to students every day, you end up wondering how much of it is soaking in. Sometimes you feel like you’re repeating yourself, especially after teaching in the same classrooms for 18 years. You wonder how much students tune you out, how out of touch you are. And then you hear your students–or your graduates–quote you or one of your stories as an illustration in a blog, or a presentation, or even a sermon, and it makes you pause.

Yesterday, I read a blog from one of my former writing students, blogging under the name Lyn Gilleland, and she mentioned a story that I told about when I was a student in college. Just the fact that she remembered that story this many years after I told it means a lot to me. It’s one of the things that makes teaching worthwhile, along with seeing your students succeed in their efforts after graduation.

I still use illustrations that I saw used when I was in college (thanks, John Rice!), and I suspect that some of the stories and examples I use will outlive me as well. I hope so. Just as I hope my books and stories withstand the test of time and stick around for a few more years after I’m gone.

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