"I am pleased to inform you that on the recommendation of your department, you have been selected to receive a Teaching Fellowship for the Spring Semester 2011." So starts the letter I received last fall. It was quite a thrill, one of many that happened during 2010. One of my goals when applying at Boston University was to teach upon graduation. As I wrote in my personal statement:
And I do get that. I don't think children should get trophies for just running out on the soccer field. There are winners and losers, and there is talent and then there are the wannabes. But what I've spent a good amount of time and energy doing is trying to figure out how to set up an environment that is encouraging and nurturing. A place where, if you really want to write, you'll get your chance. I don't want to get touchy feelie about this, because I truly don't see writing being that way. I guess maybe because I've always been able to do it, it doesn't seem that hard to me. It just takes practice. In my case, about forty years of practice, we all had to start somewhere. For me it was sophomore year in high school, where a student teacher named Miss Harbert showed me how to be a writer, then I turned around that craft back on her. On her final, she asked what we had learned, and I answered nothing. That writing in itself was what was needed. Or some such snotty reply. She was devastated. That's the power of words right there.
I still have the letter she sent me, hand-written from her home in Connecticut, telling me all classes weren't like hers, and all schools weren't like the one I was in, a public school in Cincinnati. And if I could find her today I'd tell her students would be lucky to have a class like hers. She got us to write, which is all you have to do. Sit down, and write everyday. If you do it every day for a semester, you'll certainly be better at the end of the semester than you were at the beginning. I'd almost guarantee it. Write every day for ten years, and you'll certainly be better. You might not be published. You might not be famous. But you'll be a better writer. And that's all you really should strive for. The rest is gravy.