the power of our students—and the alumni memoir panel, at Penn

Friday, October 26, 2012

Tomorrow I'll be at my alma mater and spring employer, the University of Pennsylvania, joining in on the alumni memoir panel being hosted by Kelly Writers House for homecoming weekend.  I'll be reading from Handling the Truth (Gotham) and talking about the prickly enterprise of truth telling.  I'll be answering questions.  But what is making this already wonderful opportunity even sweeter is that I'll be seeing some of my past students.

This morning, for example, I woke to a glorious long email from Katie, who brought such golden light to the classroom this past spring and who emerged, during those Tuesday afternoons, as a real writer.  If you're lucky someday, you'll meet this Katie of mine (of ours), whose email included the news that she has been accepted into top-choice medical programs.  Katie is spending her gap year at a health ministry in a city that needs hearts and minds like hers.  In the off hours (though it sounds as if there are no off hours), she is enrolled in photography classes at an art school.  Katie has stories to tell, things to share, and this weekend she's returning to Penn, and if I'm lucky, I'll get to stand in her shimmering light for a while.

Nabil Mehta will be there, too, that engineering student and child actor whose highly poetic work enthralled us and whose essay appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette not long ago.  And perhaps Liz, supremely wonderful Liz, on her way from the west coast to the east.  And among those who may join us that afternoon is my just-named spring semester apprentice, Alice, who will be working with me as my Florence novel unfolds—conducting research, interviewing doctors, discovering how fact becomes story.

We adjunct teachers out here teach because of the doors that open when we do.  We teach because our students keep us young, and keep us whole.  This morning, when telling my husband of Katie's news, tears fell.  When I read Nabil's essay in the Gazette, or Joe Polin's Gazette essay before that, when I saw Rachel dance in Red Dot Dreaming, when my Kim celebrated her engagement, when my Moira got married, when Jonathan challenges me (with a smile), when the letters from galentines and searchers and doers enter in, joy breaks through.

That's the power of our students over us.


patti.mallett_pp said...

Wishing to be there for this!! May it be all that you hope for, and more.

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