Showing posts from May, 2015

Memoir as an art form

I love memoirs. They combine the most fascinating elements of fiction with the best aspects of first-person experience. They are true and not-true, specific and universal, full of fact and full of fancy at the same time. They distill the most telling detail of a moment in a person's life and make that detail one that every person can embrace as his or her own. One of my favorites is Vladimir Nabokov's Speak, Memory.

A memoir is not an autobiography. It is not exhaustive, not chronological, and not filled with verified facts. Because it is the personal experience of the author, imbued with the caveat that it is a memory rather than a list of events and places, a memoir need not be unduly sparing of the feelings of other people whose lives touch the author's: people are less likely to sue the writer of a memoir for slander or libel, since the haze of gentle memory hangs over the memoir like a protective shroud.

Wikipedia's article on the genre of memoir says this:


Teachers who care too much

For the past 30+ years, I have been a teacher. I've taught writing, career development, English literature, conversational English, human resources, sociology, grammar, psychology, communications, history, journalism and economics. I've coached people for standardized tests (TOEFL, SAT, ACT), helped people write resumes, and taught people at church schools as a volunteer.

Thousands of people, ages one to 76, have been my students over the years, and I have cared about the future of each one of them. That's a lot of caring, maybe too much.

All good teachers have this in common: they become very involved in their students' development, far beyond whatever the subject being taught. That is, the relationship between student and teacher extends past the simple exchange of information that most people (those who aren't teachers) imagine is the purpose of teaching.

Here are three truths for committed teachers:

1. Teaching begins hours before the class and goes on hours (ma…