Last Friday I went to another homeschooling mother’s home for a meeting with a certified teacher. (my degree is in Psychology and to homeschool in Iowa you need to either have a teaching certificate, prepare a portfolio, work with a school district or meet with a certified teacher. I’ve been doing the latter for 17 years) I had already met with the teacher in my home so I was in the kitchen visiting with whichever mother was waiting her turn. When both of the other mothers were busy with the teacher, I was left alone with one of the children, a sweet, but very shy 15-year-old girl. She had been sitting there for most of the afternoon, smiling, but not conversing at all. Alone together,I knew it was my responsibility (and I am shy as well) to start-up a conversation.
“So, what would you like to do when you are older?” I asked.
Her eyes lit up, her facial expression became animated as she blurted out, “I want to be a writer!”
I sat up straighter. “I’m a writer!”
We both recognized a kindred spirit and before long, were talking excitedly. She told me about the stories she made up for her younger foster-sister at night to help her get to sleep, and how she intended to write them down. I told her how I’d loved essay tests and writing papers in school and then got hooked on freelance writing the day I was paid $50 for a short essay.
“Do you live inside your head?” I asked, a question a non-writer might not understand, but she knew exactly what I meant.
“I sometimes have imaginary conversations in my head during the day, when I am thinking about the next segment of the story I am working on.” And then she leaned in closer and whispered, “Sometimes I play-act the characters in front of my mirror and become them.”
“Off with your head,” I announced, as my arm stretched out with an imaginary scepter, and we both laughed. (merrily, of course)
I enjoyed the meeting with this new teacher, who loved my left-hand theory regarding Matthew’s lack of math expertise. (I am convinced left-handed people learn differently than right-handed, as I had to teach Matthew, my only left-hander, how to read in a completely different manner than the others) He, too, is a left-hander who hated math, and he’d specifically chosen a college that didn’t require math credits. And he went on to become a high-school principal!
I also liked meeting with other homeschooling mothers, despite our obvious differences.
But what I really relished that day was my conversation with this budding young writer.
“I’d love to see some of your writing sometime,” I told her as we parted ways, and she blushed furiously, but smiled and nodded in assent.
She reminded me of myself at that age. I remember the new young teacher that began teaching English when I was in 8th grade. He must have sensed my real interest in writing because he asked to see one of the poems I’d scribbled during study hall. Circling a few key words to change, he wrote an encouraging note on the sidebar. I think I still have that edited version somewhere. It meant a lot to me to have that encouragement, and I’ve never forgotten that teacher. In fact, a few years ago I’d sent something about him for consideration for an anthology that never came to fruition. I should dig out that essay and give it to him. Teachers are one of the professionals that likely see little gratitude for their work.
I was in an adult writing group a couple years ago and since I was the only one who had actually been published, I ended up essentially teaching some of the basics of getting published. When I came home from those meetings and told my husband what had transpired that evening he usually said something like, “You know, you could be getting paid for that kind of writing help.” And he was right. There was one man in particular, who said he would be willing to pay to help get his work published. That group disbanded after I moved, but through participation in it I learned I liked teaching about writing. Meeting this enthusiastic young woman made me realize that I can also imagine someday being a mentor of sorts for burgeoning writers.
And if my proteges weren’t listening, I could always raise that imaginary scepter and announce, “Off with your heads, then!”