I'm reluctant to say that I went into teaching as a fall back position. You see, I was going to do GREAT things--none of which involved teaching. As a young person, I wanted to be a great writer, but I listened to too many people who said, "You'll starve" or "You can't do anything with that." As a result, I didn't follow my heart. I majored in communications and worked on an on-air shopping channel. (I still don't say that too loudly.) Realizing that I hated working in television, I went back to graduate school, quickly realized that teaching could work, but that academia wasn't for me. Well, teaching HIGH SCHOOL came with lots of holidays. . . So. . .
I began teaching high school, and after a few bumps and starts, came to love it. Even when I was challenged and stressed, I learned to look beyond the sometimes resentful faces of my students and read their stories. You see, when I first studied to be a teacher, I hadn't realized I'd be teaching PEOPLE. I was going to pontificate, and they would listen like my enthralled subjects. I'm sure all teachers reading this are laughing. The change came within me. I saw that not only were my students people--they all had a story to tell and needing to be heard. They became not only people, but interesting people. Every person has his or her own personal pain, triumph, and hopes. Listening to their cares and concerns also made me hear the words of others. My pen (or my laptop) was set free. I wasn't telling any one person's story. Stories would intertwine and provide a tale.
In recent years, I see more and more the impact teaching has on lives. I'm now living my dream as a writer, but I still teach. My former and current students still hold special places in my heart. Through Facebook, I've reconnected with many of my former students and colleagues. My memories from my early teaching days sometimes flood my consciousness. In those early days, I finished my dissertation and honed my skills as a teacher and writer. Who could forget those times? When my principal announced to the kids I'd finished my doctoral program, they drew hearts on my board. When I hit forty, a banner saying "Weaver is forty" appeared on my door. When a rumor started that I had six toes, I wore a fake one and threw it at them. For years, I was "Six Toe Weaver."
And now--many of them still send me message and even make an effort to see me. Some say, "I still read Shakespeare because of you." Or, "I took four other Shakespeare classes because of you." I hear their voices, and because I see every person as an actor in his or her own story, I understand them, their hopes, and their struggles.
I wrote BURIED TRUTHS (www.redrosepublishing.com), my first published novel, after Katrina--when I was ending one job and starting another. I've often wondered how Heather Kerry, my protagonist, entered my imagination, and recently, I've come to understand her genesis. In the novel, Heather Kerry is fighting for the kids of the archdiocese while facing her own personal turmoil. Like me, Heather hears their stories and fights to keep their dreams alive.
And telling stories has become more and more important to me. Writing doesn't conflict with my teaching. It enhances it. When I wrote LOVE AT WAR, I was telling the story of my mother's generation. When I wrote PIRATE WOMAN, I was telling the story of a brave woman and a proud country. My DOCTOR AND THE WAR WIDOW prove that love is powerful and transcendent. Teaching has taught me all of these things.