Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Mentoring Aspect

Like many of my fellow pre-big-time authors (I think we all have the hopeful optimism that we'll be "big-time" authors one day), I still have what you might call a "day job." And I'm lucky enough to have a day job that I enjoy doing; the kind of job that doesn't make Monday into a four-letter word.

You might be wondering at this point what exactly I do for a living: I'm an English teacher at an Alternative High School for at-risk teens. And in the short six months that I've called this school my home, my kids (as I can't help but refer to them as) have taught me more than I can possibly explain. I'm proud to say that for a certain few of them, I've given back almost as much as I've received.

My students come from various backgrounds. They have different family situations, different sets of problems they deal with, and sometimes different criminal records. (And yes, I love each and every one of them; problems, misdemeanors, and all). My point is; they all have a very different story to tell.

That, as you can imagine, is where I come in.

Not every one of my kids finds solace in writing like I do. Some rap, some are athletes, and some find peace in ways I wish they wouldn't. But a special few (I suppose I might be guilty of having a few "favorites," as much as I'd like to say differently), are writers at heart. And another special few are readers. And these are the students who I am in a position to make a difference with. A huge difference. At present count, I have four students who are endeavoring to write full-length novels. One is nearly done with a full draft of a fantasy novel. They see my small (to me) writing credentials, and the hard copy of my first novel as real power; and this has inspired them. It's shown them that it is indeed possible. I've taught them proper formatting, worked in lessons on grammar, and explained structure to them. Mostly, I've been incredibly impressed.

Some days I feel as though my job takes away from my writing. After a long day or week, and having brought papers home to grade, written lesson plans, and finally torn my eyes away from the computer screen, sometimes I just can't bring myself to open up the document for my latest novel, even though I should. (Even though I can practically hear my agent tap-tap-tapping her foot all the way across the country). But when one of my kids hands me a roughly typed ten pages, and proudly states how many hours it took her at the computer to write, all I can think is that this is where the real value is.

So I guess my whole point here about writing, and the writing process, and the writing profession, is that I've finally discovered the mentoring aspect of it all. And even though I've been very grateful for my writing skills time and time again (especially during my AP English exam), I think this tops them all.



Katie McGarry said...

My high school teachers were very influential in my life. They helped me become the person you are today. If they haven't said it, I will. Thank you for all that you do!

Katie McGarry said...

I meant to say: I am today. :-)

Kristin Lenz said...

Very nice post, Nikki. I'm a social worker and I can relate to what you're expressing. Children and teens are so resilient, they inspire me, and it's rewarding when you're able to make a special connection with them, especially through reading and writing.