I'm teaching an advanced Non-fiction class this quarter at UCLA Extension and I'd like to tell my students how much I love them. (Actually I tell them this all the time, but I want to do it in public today.) There are twelve students in the class and each reads his or her work for feedback every other week. They also do writing exercises. Here's why I love them: they do their work, they give each other honest, thoughful and intelligent feedback. They're generous and serious. They laugh a lot and they cry when somebody's work moves them. And they work hard, really hard, and take risks with their writing.
Yesterday I read them a poem by Aaron Smith entitled "Like Him". The first lines are: "I'm almost forty and just understanding my father/doesn't like me." I had them do a five minute writing exercise based on those opening lines using their own age and then a recent insight/understanding of one of their parents, (the difficult one). What each of them came up with in five minutes made me realize (again and again) why I teach.
Try this exercise yourself. (You can find the whole poem on Poets.org (Poem-a-Day from the Academy of American Poets)