|I began writing and reading poetry when I was in elementary
school, thinking I'd be a poet all my life. I have spent much of my
life writing, mostly fiction, but poetry as well. Words, their
histories, their subtle shades of meaning, their mirroring of the changing
world, fascinate me. In fact, the one non-fiction book I've written,
Acronym Soup, is all about this modern word form and what
various acronyms have to teach us about the last 60 years.
At UC Berkeley, I majored in English, with a focus on modern poetry. The mid sixties was a wonderful time to be in college, especially at a campus like Berkeley, where looking for the meaning of life began with your breakfast granola and didn't end until you turned off the lava lamp late at night. I learned a good deal about Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton, but even more, I think, about social injustice and the power of people to make change.
I began working on my Masters at UCLA, , imagining I'd end up as a professor at a university somewhere, teaching and writing poetry. But then Watts exploded. The inner city was on fire, and I felt I had to help somehow. A couple of friends of mine, also in the Masters program, agreed, so we three musketeers took a year's leave of absence, presented ourselves to Los Angeles City Schools, and offered to teach anywhere in the system, anywhere we could help. We ended up interning for a summer, where I chose to work with a reading rather than an English teacher, thinking I'd probably be teaching people to read. I was lucky. My master teacher was a terrific mentor, feeding me books on reading theory, showing me with her inspired teaching how much a good reading teacher can empower people. The year I spent teaching reading in the inner city changed my life.
I did return to college, and finished up my Masters. (I wrote a thesis on E. M. Forster, who's still a favorite writer of mine.) But I also studied Learning Disabilities for a year, and worked as an Educational Therapist at Fernald School, UCLA, for several years. I still continue to teach one-on-one, helping people with Dyslexia and other learning disabilities work with their unique combinations of strengths and weaknesses. Then I came to teach reading and writing at Santa Monica College. It was a wonderful challenge, seeing how much of the individualized work I'd done as an Educational Therapist could be transferred to the classroom. I continue to work at "pushing the envelope", finding ways to help people with many different needs and learning styles. One idea I stress in my classrooms is the delightfulness of our diversity. People have so much to give each other, if only they feel safe and appreciated. I work to make my classroom a place where that can happen.
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Last Update: 05/10/01