Interview with Kate McCahill on Teaching

1. What kind of teaching are you doing?
2. Do you find that teaching helps your own creativity, hinders it, or affects it in some way? Apart from the issue of energy–teaching may take time away from writing etc.–how do you find teaching and writing interface?
3. If you could communicate one central thing to your students, what would it be?

1.)    I am teaching a range of courses- Advanced ESL, for English Language Learners, is one of my favorite classes to teach, because I get students of all ages and from all walks of life. This semester I have students from Asia, Africa, and Central America, and their stories, values, and languages are fascinating to hear about. Plus, I know what it’s like to try and learn a language as an adult, because I spent one year backpacking around Latin America, and so I like to think that my background as a learner helps me to be a better teacher.  I’m also fortunate enough to be teaching English 120- Exploring Creative Writing- and so far, the course is a great success. We’re reading ‘On Writing,’ by Stephen King, and it’s given us much to talk about.
Also, I teach Travel Writing in Continuing Education. This is my second time teaching that course, and it’s truly been wonderful. The students are traveled and have such interesting lives, and so it’s wonderful to come here on Saturdays and talk about writing with people who, well, love to talk about it, too. When we’re talking and writing, or talking, or writing, I think to myself, “I have my dream job.”
2.)    When I come home from school, I feel exhausted and exhilarated both. My mind is racing, poring over the events and conversations of the day. So I sit down at my desk, put my hands on the keyboard, and unload. I made it my New Year’s Resolution to write every day for at least ten minutes, and my classes have helped me to accomplish that. I freewrite with my students in each class, and on most mornings I’m up at five to write. I’m trying to finish a book, and I want to get it done by the time I turn thirty…which is coming up soon. This is how it was for me in graduate school, as well; I worked full-time and completed my assignments in the darkness of morning and evening. And it worked. Sometimes, when I have too much time on my hands, I don’t get any work done, and so, although I don’t sleep enough, I manage to write every day, at least a little. Plus, many of my colleagues at the community college are writers, too, and so I feel like I’m surrounded by writing all day, from morning until night. Writing is what I love, and so here, I feel blessed.
3.)    I always tell my students that each of our lives could be made into a book. Our lives are important, the details we surround ourselves with are important, our triumphs and traumas and disappointments are important. What we write is important, and so is what we read. We all have something to give to the world, some lesson we’ve learned, some advice we’ve come across, some experience we have endured, and when we write those things down, we’re giving ourselves a gift. Even if no one else ever reads what we put down on the page, we have done important work.  Our voices are distinctive, our work is necessary, and every day matters.

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About Miriam Sagan

I'm blogging about poetry, land art, haiku, women artists, road trips, and Baba Yaga at Miriam's Well ( The well is ALWAYS looking to publish poetry on our themes, sudden fiction, and guest bloggers and musers.

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