Friday Friends: Six Degrees of . . . Connection

EASY AS A, B, C . . . from BB

I recently read an interview conducted by Kelly A. Smith wherein she had interviewed Allan Gurganus for the Spring 2010 Iowa Writers’ Workshop Alumni Newsletter. It was a brilliant, thinking-man’s, long piece. I kept a copy on file, and will probably be mining it for gold for a long time.

One quote which really got to the teacher’s soul was as follows:

“One of the great joys of being back at the Workshop is watching friendships grow between students. That’s one of the unsung roles of an attentive teacher—to promote comradeship in class. I tell my students on the first day that they’ll learn far more from each other than from me. And yet the teacher can be a secret mastermind, helping people notice each other, finding connections through each other’s consonant work.”

This is so true—students will learn from each other, and from the group at large, even more than from the person standing up front. I’ve noted connections throughout my very LONG career. I’ve seen them within a single group, I’ve seen them form from one year’s class to another, and —to my joy—I’ve even seen them develop across different schools, school districts, universities, and so on.

John, a debate student from Granger HS—years later—became a long-term judge for my students at Park City HS, like Wade, Tree, Wess, Korey, and many others. Wade became a connection of generations: his Uncle Keith, a former student from Granger, was apparently delighted that I had become his nephew’s debate coach as well. And, 46 years after Keith’s sojourn in my classes, I recently remarried: Keith’s Granger HS best friend, Herb. Jill, a drama student of mine from American Fork HS, helped me with everything from judging debates at Park City HS to helping out in a pinch with choreography for our musical. She, Wade and I have performed for various groups a number of times.

Then another twist: Shawn, from Park City HS, found out I was teaching a writing class in Canyons School District and encouraged his budding-writer high school daughter to come meet me to talk about writing.

What a joy to still be making new connections, and bridging them from one place in time and space to another, from one generation to another.

I feel unbelievably fortunate, “lucky,” if you will, to be—and to have been—a teacher.

See you day-after-tomorrow for “Sunday’s Snippets


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