Teaching is in my bones.
Since I knew how to read at the age of two, my kindergarten teacher didn’t quite know what to do with me. After a couple of weeks, she decided. Every day, she propped me up on a stool for story-reading time and had me read to all the other five-year-olds, while she sneaked out of the classroom for a cup of coffee (and a cigarette, I suspect). My father says that he came into the class one time — banjo in hand, ready to play “Puff the Magic Dragon” to the children sitting on the worn rug — and saw me chiding a boy for not paying attention. “Jimmy, you’re not looking at the picture!” I said. (Apparently. I don’t remember that particular day. But I do remember that Jimmy often didn’t pay attention.) He laughs whenever he tells this story. “The word ‘teacher’ was stamped on your forehead at birth.”
For awhile, I resisted that. After all, both my parents are teachers. I remember watching my father grade papers at the kitchen table. My mother was a substitute teacher at my high school in southern California, sometimes in my classes. (Later, she went on to have her own classroom, and she still does today.) I swore — there was no way I was going to be a teacher.
I relented, eventually. All signs pointed toward it. After graduating college and working at a bookstore for a year, I realized I only had two choices. Go for a PhD or enter a graduate program in teaching. Teaching called to me, by that time. I didn’t want all my writing to be on one, academic subject. I wanted to write the world. Teenagers always appealed to me, much to the shock of other people. And besides, I told myself, I could write during the summers.
Some of the best moments of my life have taken place in classrooms. Raucous laughter, ridiculous stories, grammar lessons, and unexpected hushes when talking about death — it all happened within four walls. Most of the time, I was sitting up on a desk, my legs dangling, the students sitting in a circle, leaning forward. Of all the things of which I am most proud, it is the way those students listened to each other and respected each other’s stories. Yes, there were profound discussions of literature and tips on creative writing and the endless tape loop of me explaining why “Me and him went to the movies last night” is so terribly, terribly wrong. But for the most part, on the best days of teaching — whether on Vashon Island, New York City, or here in Seattle — I felt like a human being, listening, and those twenty to thirty other beings in the room were part of that too. In the best moments, I didn’t feel like “the teacher.” I just felt awake and alive.
And some of those students — quite a few — became friends over the years. One will be taking the photographs for our wedding. Another became like a little brother to me, and he will be filming parts of the day. A dozen more of them will be laughing at our wedding, dancing with me and the Chef, the great divide finally knocked down. Now, they are simply people dear to my life.
As most of you know, I am no longer teaching in a high school. There are plenty of stories I could tell about last year, and how I knew it was time to go. Or about the joys of this year, suddenly free to write as much as I need. (Summers never did give me all the time to write I craved.) But this isn’t the entry for that.
Instead, I am happy to say, I have found a way to teach again.
Starting next week, I will be team-teaching a cooking class at Puget Sound Consumers’ Co-Op (known around here as PCC), along with Sonya Joseph, on Quick and Easy Gluten-Free Menus. Sonya has been teaching gluten-free cooking classes for years in this area, and she has built a devoted following. In fact, I took one of her classes, early in my gluten-free journey. She recently moved to Portland, however, to pursue her dream of movie making, and teaching in Seattle has grown too difficult, logistically. PCC — one of my favorite places in the world, and a haven for those of us who have to live gluten-free — asked me if I would like to teach with her this spring, and then take over the classes by myself in the fall.
As the Chef likes to say, “Yes, please!”
I would love if readers from Seattle (and the area) came out to see us. The classes are reasonable and informative. Not only will we be making gluten-free macaroni and cheese, pan-seared halibut with black rice flour, chocolate mousse, and my fig cookies, but we will also be talking about the psychological aspects of living gluten-free, and a guide to the best gluten-free products.
Here is a list of the classes offered over this next month. Sign up quickly, if you would like to be there. One of the classes is already sold out!
May 23rd, 6:30 to 9 pm — Issaquah store
May 24th, 6:30 to 9 pm — West Seattle store (sold out!)
June 12th, 6:30 to 9 pm — Redmond store
June 13th, 6:30 to 9 pm — Greenlake store
I cannot wait to teach again. It has always been in my bones, and it always will be. I’m already starting to grow excited at the thought of meeting many of you, and feeding you good food. I can promise you laughter and stories. And I won’t even correct your grammar.
p.s. The photograph is a bit of a tease. We won’t be teaching you how to make crispy pork belly with curried chickpeas, and pan-seared asparagus and zucchini. Not yet. Nope, this dish was the Chef’s, on Sunday, when my parents did us the honor of coming to the restaurant on Mother’s Day. When the plate arrived, I made my father wait while I took the photo. Cruel, aren’t I?
I just had to share.