Teacher feature: Tawni Waters on connection and discovery through teaching

Teacher feature
Date Posted:

Writing the Wave and The Writer's Eye teacher Tawni Waters shares some insights into both her teaching and creative processes.

Director Stacia M. Fleegal: What excites you, inspires you, makes you grin from ear to ear about your Center class? Where is the joy for you in the teaching? Is there any relationship between the pleasure you feel teaching and the pleasure you feel when you’re writing?

TW:  Teaching at the Center for Creative Writing is one of the best parts of my life, hands down. I look forward to cracking open my students’ work each week and seeing what they have to teach me. As cheesy as that may sound, I long ago realized that my students teach me far more than I teach them. And I feel honored every time one of my students feels safe enough in my classes to share his or her true heart with me and the other students in the class. I know I am being handed a sacred gift, and I don’t take that lightly. The intense connections this sort of sharing fosters makes me feel like I am doing something meaningful with my life.

I also love it when a student makes a quantum leap with her or his writing, when a lesson clicks and suddenly, whole new vistas of self-expression open. It’s such a gift to walk beside my students as they explore and grow in their creative pursuits. 

In some ways, the pleasure I feel when teaching is very similar to the pleasure I feel when writing. For me, a huge part of the joy of the creative process is in the thrill of discovery—discovering new things about one’s self, new things about humanity at large, new things about life, new ways to combine words to create the most powerful emotional impact possible. When I write, I engage in this process alone. When I teach, I engage in this process of discovery with my students, and while my own mind is limited to my unique perspective, my students help me to discover things I might never discover on my own. So working with my students can feel like the thrill of writing alone multiplied exponentially.

I grew up addicted to the written word. I was that nerdy girl in the corner reading a book alone during lunch. Now, I get paid to read awesome stories written by beautiful minds. How mind-blowingly lovely is that? I’m pretty sure I’m the luckiest woman alive.

Writers, what about writing brings you joy? Share with us in the comments!

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