In the near future I will stand in front of a classroom of about twenty-five freshman college students at my university, and teach them how to become better writers. I’ll teach how to develop a thesis statement, compile and cite sources, properly use quotations, and construct a (hopefully) clear and concise five paragraph essay.
The fact that I’m nervous surprises me. It wasn’t too long ago, only three months in fact, that I stood in front of a camera every morning and produced live reports on the spot day in and day out. I provided folks with the news of the day bright and early at five a-m.
Not long before that, about a year ago, I covered breaking news at a blistering pace every single day. I interviewed the family members of victims of horrible crimes; I gathered tips from law enforcement; I listened back and logged long interviews; I wrote my story, worked with a photographer to have it shot and edited, and fronted it all on air, usually live.
My deadline wasn’t tomorrow, or next week. My deadline was today. Every day. I delivered. We all delivered. We local news reporters carry the responsibility of finding the sources, checking the facts, delivering the news, and all the while trying to look good while doing it. I soon learned no matter how clear your skin is, one must re-apply and re-apply the makeup, because the stress of a day’s work will wipe it all away before you ever get a chance to go in front of the camera. I learned just because your hair looks decent in the mirror when you start tracking your story at 3 pm doesn’t mean it’s going to look even halfway decent at 4:50 pm when you are ten minutes from your live shot.
I empathized deeply with the people in my stories. Some of the stories haunted me for days. I wanted to do more to help, but I didn’t know what more I could do. Oprah once said she had a hard time as a reporter because she empathized too much.
It’s not easy, but we live and breath the lifestyle. Cortisol emanates from our pores. We cope with the stress in every way we can. I held on to a kernel of hope that I could make a difference, that I was making a difference.
I covered numerous stories about teacher pay, and how teachers were rallying for raises.
Did I ever dream that one day I would be one of them?
No. Life is full of twists and turns which we can never predict.
An English major becomes a journalist becomes a graduate student in English and Creative Writing/Fiction. Soon, I will teach a class of freshman. I’m eager and excited to share my love of writing and literature with these promising young students. I can’t wait to select readings I love that I hope they’ll enjoy. I’ve been the introvert afraid to go too far outside myself, and I’ve also been the loud extrovert eager to share my thoughts out loud, and willing to ask the tough questions. I can emphasize with the different personalities, interests, and abilities these twenty-five students will bring to the table, and I’m honored to be able to help them in their own unique and varied journeys.
The truth is, I am nervous.
When a TV reporter speaks to the camera, she imagines speaking to one person. She know tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of viewers are out there, but the reporter imagines speaking to just one. A middle-aged mom or dad, perhaps. A guy in his mid thirties watching the news before the baseball game. Teaching a class is different. You are standing in front of a group of people looking at you for direction, and you see their reactions in real time. Sure, if a reporter makes a mistake, she’ll hear about it later, but she won’t see the response in real time.
Not so with teaching.
Winston Churchill tells us, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
Great reporters do both.
I’ve stood up, and had a lot to say, and I continue to have a lot to say, but I sit down and listen too, to learn the extent of my creative potential, and to further develop the spark within me, so that when it comes time to stand up and speak again, which will be very soon indeed, I will be ready.