Only Child learns from teaching memoir writing

Sharon reading and teaching

Only Child teaching workshop

The past couple of weeks I was immersed in teaching memoir writing workshops at several Toronto public library branches. One workshop was a straightforward memoir writing gig; the other was called Blogging Your Memories and involved a PowerPoint presentation. Both have roots in my childhood, particularly with one thing about my mother – she showed me how to teach and that I could teach.

In my February 12, 2010  post, I talked about teaching my Mom to play the piano when I was 13. But that same year I had a grade 8 history class project and Mom was instrumental in  helping me make it a success.

As I write in my memoir, You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons:

I decided my lesson would tell the story about how each province entered Confederation and I was going to make it more interesting than a history book. I wanted maps, drawings and background history of the history. As she usually did with my school projects, Mom dug in and accumulated some of the research materials, a habit she’d picked up when I needed information about other countries for school projects. In those Internetless days, Mom visited consulates in downtown Toronto as well as travel agencies. In grade six, she had ordered the whole collection of the World Book Encyclopedia, from a door-to-door salesman. But World Book was no scam – it had detailed coloured maps and detailed text. I used it as part of the background for my Confederation lesson.

After I put the whole lesson together, Mom and I do several dry runs.

I prop up my maps on the dining room table. Mom stands at the other end in the living room and I start my spiel. We also do the dry run in the kitchen, where I go through the whole lesson, using my illustrated props and pointing with her long dressmaking ruler. She doesn’t tell me to talk slower or speak up; she listens, nods and smiles. When I am finished, she doesn’t need to say anything. I know I’ve done a good job and pleased her.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, Copyright 2010 Sharon Crawford)

Thanks to Mom’s patience and encouragement, the lesson went over very well in class. I think that’s where I got my love of teaching, although like my Mom I didn’t go into the teaching profession per se. I got into it via my writing and editing. I continue to learn lessons as I teach.

Each of my Memoir Writing Workshops had either a father and daughter duo or a mother and daughter duo.  Each daughter was helping her parent write his or her memoir and came to the workshop for some direction on how to do this. My approach here was to focus but also to remain open enough to be creative – a fine balancing act which I’ve had to learn in writing my memoir. The child/parent duos reminded me that without our parents there might be no family memoir and also showed me (and also reminded me) the beauty of parent and child working together on a project.

I also learned that there are many circumstances that evoke memoir – from the funny situation of two friends posing with a big wooden bird to a woman who lived through the Holocaust and had no family pictures except the ones inside her head. When we did the picture exercise, she had to go within  for hers and taught me that not all picture memories are in print or electronic. Many live on in our hearts and souls.

I also learned that there are different approaches to writing a memoir. One participant went in for the more creative way to write her memoir. Many wanted to write their whole life instead of focusing on one area but I hope I at least showed them how to focus on that, rather than change what they write about.

The Blogging Your Memories workshop was a whole other situation. First, I had to relearn Power Point and then how to do a presentation. I followed the old journalist’s rule – ask, ask, ask. Three experts, including my computer techie son, got bombarded with questions but I listened. And I put together my workshop and did a trial run at the library with the librarian’s help. At the actual workshop only one computer glitch occurred. Fast fingers here tried to go back too fast in slides and the program shut down. Fortunately Auto Save came to the rescue and I could proceed.  But my students taught me much with their rich range of topics to blog and all their questions kept me on my toes. One participant gave me a real workout with categories and tags for your blog posts.

Each workshop had around a dozen participants and the librarians were also pleased with the workshops. They want me to come back in the spring and do more.

I will oblige. Besides sharing my knowledge I will also learn more. All thanks to my Mom’s incentive and encouragement.


Only Child Writes

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Filed under Life learning, Memoir writing, Only child, Only child memoir, Parenting, Teachers, Teaching

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