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Teach again, learn again

By BARBARA GONZALEZ- VENTURA, The Philippine STAR Published Nov 12, 2023 5:00 am

In need of something new to do, I decided to teach writing again. It is a new season, I told myself, I should teach writing differently. I decided to reinvent the class and called it “Write About Life.” To decide how best to teach requires imagination, thoughtfulness and planning. I decided it would take five sessions to teach the technique plus one session with a publisher friend so my students know how much it will cost to publish a book. 

My first class had 10 students. That’s the maximum number of face-to-face students I can handle. Yes, all my classes are face-to-face. One or two who inquired said I must learn how to teach on the computer because their mothers don’t like face-to-face classes. I suspected they were lying because if they were in their 40s as they claimed, their mothers would be in their 60s. Not so hot on computers.

The author is a teacher and her first class had a maximum of 10 students.

I like to teach face-to-face because my students also learn the importance of real human relationships. We look at each other. We appreciate one another’s looks. We have lunch together, exchange notes on what’s delicious. We talk about our children, how different they are from what we were as children, how alike or unlike we are. We laugh at our jokes and comments. We forge genuine friendships. 

At the end of the class we have a graduation ceremony. At the end of the first class we had cheese and wine, talk and laughter because one of the students was a Filipina who married a Nordic and acquired an olive grove in Rome. The second class had a simpler graduation but more complex editing sessions. Both classes were happy and wanted more classes. But what more would I teach?

Collages and discoveries: Teaching can offer “an assemblage of different forms, thus creating a new whole.”

I decided the best way to decide that was to invite students from both classes to a brainstorming session. What do you want me to teach you? I asked. I brought several books. One was like a thick workbook. It was called The Illustrated Discovery Journal: Creating a Visual Autobiography of Your Authentic Self. It’s a big book by Sarah Ban Breathnach that I acquired sometime at the turn of the century, I think, at the same time that I was charmed by her books Simple Abundance and Something More. I showed this big book to them and how I had filled it with collages over the years. They loved it. They suggested that I teach them a class somewhat based on this big book but take it a step beyond to writing something new about themselves.

We all agreed that was a great idea. Elma, one of my students from the second class, decided to see what she could do about getting more copies of Breathnach’s Discovery Journal from Amazon. Her sister was going to the US and could bring back the only six or eight copies left of the book. This would be expensive but worth it to those who could afford such luxuries but I can think of ways of doing this differently at lower cost. No problem.

The author invited her students for a brainstorming session regarding what they want to learn from her.

Then Florie, a student from the first class, suddenly sent me a package. It was a workbook full of pictures you could cut out and use as collages. Come to think of it, the Discovery Journal and the workbook are both for collages; then we will write about our collages and give them deeper meaning about ourselves. 

What is a collage? Looked it up on Wikipedia and found this: “Collage (/kəˈlɑːʒ/, from the French: coller, ‘to glue’ or ‘to stick together’]) is a technique of art creation, primarily used in the visual arts, but in music too, by which art results from an assemblage of different forms, thus creating a new whole. (Compare with pastiche, which is a ‘pasting’ together.)

It continues: “A collage may sometimes include magazine and newspaper clippingsribbonspaint, bits of colored or handmade papers, portions of other artwork or texts, photographs and other found objects, glued to a piece of paper or canvas. The origins of collage can be traced back hundreds of years, but this technique made a dramatic reappearance in the early 20th century as an art form of novelty.”

My next class excites me. I sat down with Gilda and Che, the two women at The Sunshine Place who manage my classes. They also got excited. We agreed to call it “Knowing Me.” It will introduce us to the hidden mysterious parts of ourselves. That’s the precise reason why I love to teach: it makes me learn so much more about myself and others.

But there are many people who still want to take your first class. Can you not find the time to teach “Write About Life” again? Okay, I can teach that on Fridays.

So there: I have my new life in 2024. I will teach again and at the same time learn again. Wonderful!