Twenty-seven months ago I finally took pen to paper – well, fingertips to keyboard – and began writing the teaching memoir that had been lying in wait for years. Originally titled My Mother [crossed out] Professor Never Told Me There’d Be Days Like This, it would regale readers with the endlessly entertaining story of my career: a step-by-step replay, from my first childhood inklings that I wanted to teach.
My younger son always warns listeners: “Ellen Ljung, telling a story, making it long.” Determined to leave nothing out, I drafted my memoir in excruciating detail, step by step.
My amazing writers’ group, Night Writers at the Geneva Public Library, challenged me at every session:
“Who is your audience?” they’d ask.
“If this is for your family, a legacy for you grandchildren, fine,” they’d say.
“But if you want to draw people in, just tell your stories,” they’d advise me.
And they were right. So I began to list the stories I remembered, to draft each one for the next monthly session.
Stories emerged, some partially written before I even sat down at the keyboard. But they all had one important trait: the stories that mattered were stories in which I had learned. My students taught me, my colleagues taught me, and sometimes parents taught me.
John Cotton Dana wrote: “Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.”
I retired a very different teacher from the youngster entering her first classroom in 1970. This blog and my teaching memoir [to be published someday] offer my eternal gratitude to those from whom I learned.