ICYMI #003: Teachers, students, and lessons learned.


Teachers, students, and lessons learned.
ICYMI no. 003  |  September 2020

Welcome to ICYMI Monthly. Every month, we feature four essays and two craft pieces handpicked by our editors.

In our 25+ years, Creative Nonfiction has published hundreds of original works, most of which have never been available online. Now we're sharing some of our best writing with you. Happy reading!

ESSAY  |  CNF #38, Immortality (2010)
A philosophy professor reflects on the best course he ever conducted

"About a decade ago, I decided it was time to confront what seemed to me to be the most important issue a human being can face: death. I decided to do so in the way you might expect an academic philosopher to confront a difficult issue. I would teach a course about it. Along with a dozen or so willing (or unwilling) fellow travelers about half my age, I would read about and reflect upon the fact of my mortality." Read →

ON CRAFT  |  CNF #67, Starting Over (2018)
COMPLETELY NAKED  |  Jill Christman
On discovering strength by allowing vulnerability in the classroom

"A writing classroom is an intimate space, and so before I tell you about this night, years ago, when I was still what might be classified as a young professor, a fresh transplant to Indiana soil from the wilds of the Pacific Northwest via the red clay of Alabama, and a mother to a seven-month-old baby who took most of his nutrition from my body—before I bare all—I need to tell you something about what I was wearing. I’m sorry, but I do." Read →

ESSAY  |  What I Didn't Know (In Fact Books; 2016)
When school is a battlefield, language becomes a weapon

"I was constantly shocked by what came out of my students’ mouths. In the same way foreigners learning a new language can scoop only a few familiar words out of the conversation soup, during my first few months at a public high school in South Central Los Angeles, I could hear only the curse words, sometimes strung together five deep." Read →

ESSAY  |  CNF #48, Southern Sin (2013)
HARM  |  Michael Copperman
A young Teach for America recruit discovers what he’s really capable of

"One Tuesday, everything went wrong—two boys fought over a pencil, derailing the math lesson I’d stayed up planning until midnight. The entire day was sustained chaos; the children refused to quiet down or focus on anything. Perhaps feeding off that energy, Talika refused a simple request to sit up in her chair. Instead, she slouched lower still, and when I took her recess minutes, she had a fit and knocked her desk over and launched into a diatribe so profane that I sent her to the room next door; then, during my planning period, I called the number I had for her home and left a message on the answering machine, detailing her behavior." Read →

ON CRAFT  |  CNF #63, How We Teach (2017)
JUST WRITE  |  Matthew Mercier
At one NYC school, High Intensity Practice writing keeps young writers engaged

"What is the Statue of Liberty thinking? ... I gave this prompt to my freshman high school writing classes at Avenues: The World School, located in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, the week after the 2016 presidential election. I’d planned the lesson far in advance, hoping the question would provoke thought no matter who won. It didn’t hurt that a palpable sense of disorientation hung in the air above our heads, which is not always desirable for life but often makes for bold writing." Read →

ESSAY  |  CNF #73, Memoir (2020)
THE WOLF & THE DOG  |  Megan Doney
In the aftermath of a school shooting, a teacher plans for the next time

"On the Tuesday after the shooting, I, along with other faculty and staff, convened on campus with administrators and the director of the counseling center at Virginia Tech; fortunately/unfortunately, we had their experience to guide us through our own horror. We sat in an auditorium that had once been a movie theater. I chose a seat at the back, close to the door. Did I realize even then how space would rearrange itself, so that I would never again see a door as a benign architectural necessity? I was wobbly and frightened. I had gone back to my classroom with my father just three days earlier, the day after the shooting, to collect my belongings, and now the college was reopening. I had no idea how I was going to face my students the next day." Read →

Thanks for reading!

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