One of my best teachers when I first started college was a playwriting teacher, Robert Flynn, at the Baylor Theatre of Paul Baker. I was only seventeen but had written a play vaguely based on my own experiences living in Mississippi (but I had been a small child then—not an adult). I guess I was aspiring to be a female Tennessee Williams. I wrote about a young woman caught in a context of poverty who had just found out she was pregnant. (This could have literally been one of the girls who lived next door to me when I was in Mississippi.) But, frankly, the play stunk! I was too young and inexperienced for the subject matter. Somehow Mr. Flynn helped me understand that my play was bad but that I had great potential as a writer. He didn’t sugar coat things but he gave me feedback as one peer would give another. He was very specific about the things I had done right as well as helping me understand the content was absolutely wrong for where I was in life.
I noticed what he had done, thought him brilliant, and determined to emulate that kind of feedback to others. I appreciate and strive to be someone who really listens and analyzes another’s work, tries to reflect back the best parts of it (even if there is little I can find) and then make concrete suggestions for improvement. I think of it as being on the same team rather than a top down hierarchy from me to them—and I want our team to be the best it can be. Now I have been mentor, coach and trainer to hundreds, maybe thousands, of teachers. I hope that I have helped most of them both see their strengths as teachers as well as work to stretch their capabilities so they can even help kids who are very different from themselves.
Who was your best teacher? Why did you like him/her? What did you learn from this teacher about life? About yourself?