Sunday, June 14, 2020

Trying to Make (Teaching and Writing) Magic Happen from Afar

Today, if COVID-19 hadn't happened, I would have been in Roanoke, Virginia, getting ready to start teaching the Advanced Creative Writing Tutorial for the Graduate Programs in Children's Literature at Hollins University for their summer term that begins tomorrow. Instead I'm here in Boulder, Colorado, getting ready to teach the same course online.

After teaching online this past spring for University of Colorado (philosophy) and University of Denver (children's literature), I've made my peace with teaching online. But, oh, giving up the in-person Hollins experience is hard. Teaching at Hollins isn't just about what happens with the students in the classroom. It's about being fully immersed into the life of this truly enchanted place, teaching what you love most in the world to students who want most in the world to learn it. To enter Hollins, I once said, is to "enter the portals of paradise."

This summer there will be no early morning walks past pastures where horses are out to graze.
There will be no writing at "my" table in the beautiful Hollins library.
Or writing in a rocking chair on a veranda.
Or eating divine cafeteria breakfasts with made-to-order omelets. Or walking home from stimulating evening talks past trees festooned with fireflies (we don't have fireflies in Colorado). Or encountering children's book friends hiding in the shrubbery.


But the director of our program, my dear friend Lisa Rowe Fraustino, has urged us to still make as much of the Hollins magic happen as we can, and I'm going to try with all my might to do that.

I'm going to lavish love on my six students, adding individual one-on-one ZOOM meetings each week to our class ZOOMs and Moodle discussion boards. I'm going to "attend" every ZOOMed evening talk and savor every morsel of wisdom. I'm going to immerse myself in revising my verse novel and try to vary and beautify my writing spaces right here in my house. I'm going to walk with my favorite early-morning Hollins walking partner, me in Colorado and her in South Carolina, while chatting on our cell phones. I'm even going to make myself omelets-to-order.

I am committed to making as much magic as I can this summer for my students and for me.

And maybe next summer I'll be there in Roanoke once again, with the fireflies.

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