It was now five months after the Grammy Awards Show. I was sitting in the office of the Director of Programming for the Teacher’s Certification Program at UWParkside. Terribly nervous, part of me was dismayed that I had listened to Steve and had called this woman and asked for a meeting. I was convinced that I didn’t have the qualifications necessary to even be considered for the position I was seeking as a teacher within the program.
Sharon, the Director, had welcomed me into her office and told me that she had received a letter from Steve, praising my skills and abilities, as well as the material I had put together while organizing and facilitating several day long workshops he had attended. She knew him well, because of his yearly participation in the Certification program.
She didn’t do what I was expecting, which was ask me about my qualifications and what I would be teaching about. Close to my own age, brown haired, and professional in appearance, she cocked her head and said, “I know you from somewhere, have even heard you speak. I just can’t think of how I know you. You are so familiar.”
I explained that I had graduated from the University several years previously, and that we may have met during my years there. She shook her head, explaining that she hadn’t even lived in the area at that time and she was sure it was far more recent than that.
Several images of me answering questions as I was interviewed on television and radio, or in the newspaper, flashed through my mind. “Well,” I said, “you don’t look at all familiar to me, but you may have seen some of the interviews on TV, or read something in the newspaper.”
She snapped her fingers, “You are that woman, the one that wrote the poem that won that major award!”
Smiling, I said, “We didn’t win it, but yes, my poem was the anchor piece for an Anthology that was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Spoken Word Category.”
“I watched and read everything I found about it. What an amazing experience you have been through. I really admired how you handled all of it, staying so calm, like it was the most natural thing in the world. You were…, I don’t know, just so real and honest.”
Now I was laughing, “I appreciate that you think so, but it was all a bit overwhelming, and I was mostly scared and constantly worried that I’d blow it somehow. Yet, it was also fun on some levels.”
“Did you have your Silly String party? I loved that whole idea.”
“Yes, as a matter of fact, we had it as Steve’s house.” This certainly wasn’t what I was expecting.
“So, do you think you could be ready for the next semester offerings? I’d need a syllabus, just a brief outline of what you would be doing for the fifteen hours needed for a single credit class, and you need to write up a brief course description. Could you have it to me in the next week, so it can be included in the course brochure?”
Thinking, “Holy, Cow! How did we get here so fast?” I nodded my head, she reached out to shake my hand and said, “Welcome aboard, Elizabeth. This should be fun.”
The next thing I knew I was out in my car, dazed, trying to wrap my head around the fact that I had just agreed to teach my first legitimate class at the University from which I had graduated. And I’d be teaching teachers, no less. She hadn’t even asked me what sort of class I would be doing. Too much to take in, a syllabus? What the hell was I doing?
A few months later, I found myself in a classroom, facing twelve strangers, as Sharon walked in and introduced herself. She outlined the schedule for the classes and briefly told them their responsibilities for fulfilling and completing the one college credit course. Then smiled and said, “Before I leave, I’d like to introduce you to your Instructor, Elizabeth.”
I was on my own, with that word Instructor ringing in my ears. The room was arranged in rows of long tables with a podium at the front. The first thing I did was asked them to arrange the tables in a square formation, so that we would all be facing one another in a quasi-circle formation. They did that quickly and without any grumbling. I sat down between two of my students and said,
“This course is titled Connecting With Your Creativity. It is writing based and you were asked to bring along a notebook and pens. Please get them out. As a warm up, I’d like you to define, in your own words, the word Creativity. How do you think and feel about it, and where do you see it in your own life experience? I’ll give you about five to eight minutes, then we’ll use that to introduce ourselves.”
Then, I got out my own notebook and wrote out my own definition of Creativity, while they did the same. When we were all finished, I told them that I didn’t like to ask anyone to do what I was not willing to do myself. That I would go first, introduce myself, and then read what I had written. I did that, telling them only that I held a degree in History and another in English, and that although I managed a bookstore, I was a published poet. After reading what I had written, I turned to the gentleman on my left and said, “Now, it’s your turn.”
As we slowly made our way around the tables, I was aware of the slim attractive young woman sitting to my right. She was sighing and fidgeting a great deal. When it was her turn, she introduced herself and told us that she was a high school gym teacher, then promptly began reading what she had written.
Her sense of the word was that creativity was art with a capitol A. An elite world she had never been able to enter because she had absolutely no talent. Had explored several forms: painting, sculpture, even a bit of writing. And had concluded that she didn’t have a creative bone in her body. There was a bit of anger mixed with depression in the tone of her voice.
I was stunned, why would anyone with those thoughts and feelings take a creativity class? I looked at her for a moment, then said the first thing that popped into my head, “I think your definition is quite narrow.”
There was a spark of anger in her eyes, but before she could speak, I said, “Let me explain. As I said in my definition, I truly believe that creativity is an energy, hard wired into each and every one of us. A natural healing agent that we need to find, explore and use to correct our own trajectory. Do you think a woman, who puts her children to bed each night, and tells them a story she makes up, on the spur of the moment, is being creative?”
“Yes, but…” Before she could continue another woman spoke up, “How about a well-cooked meal that is both attractive and healthy, is that creative?” And one of the men immediately followed with, “One of my friends works in a machine shop and is constantly telling me about the role he plays as peace maker between his fellow employees. What he is doing is incredibly creative and it allows the work to get done and no one gets hurt.” And another, and another spoke up with examples of creativity in ordinary everyday life. It was wonderful to watch, and incredibly exciting.
She had quietly listened to each and every one of her fellow classmates. When the room was quiet again, she turned to me, and said, “Okay, I get the point. I’ll stay and try my best.” I turned to the rest of the group and said, “The first thing we are going to do is take a journey into our own Creativity Closet.”
Five weeks later, on the last night of the class, the young gym teacher turned to me and asked, “You have a lot more of this you can share with us, don’t you?” I nodded and grinned. She turned to the rest of the group and spoke, “Okay, I’m hooked. I learned more in the last few weeks than I have ever learned in any of the other classes I have taken. I want more. Let’s ask Elizabeth to do another class. Anyone else interested?”
They all raised their hands. I was more than surprised, but quickly explained that it wasn’t up to me. That the Director of the Program would have to make that decision. Again, the gym teacher spoke up, “Would it help if I drafted a petition for a second class and we all signed it?”
I shrugged, but said, “I don’t know. This is my first class here, don’t really know how the program works completely, but I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt.” She whipped out her notebook, ripped a single sheet from it and began writing a letter to the Director. Then sent it around the tables to be signed by each student. She said she would deliver it the next morning.
A few days later, I got a call from Sharon. She was laughing as she told me that as far as she knew, this had never happened before, and I was scheduled to teach a second class, beginning in two weeks. As we finished our conversation, she asked, “So, Elizabeth, how does it feel to be an Ad-Hoc Instructor, here at the University?”
Laughing out loud, I said, “Is that what I have become? I think I am liking it a whole lot.”
“So am I,” she quipped, before hanging up.
( Conclusion and Summary coming up)