School Days: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly for Memoir Writers

School attendance is a high profile current topic and rightly so. We spend so much of our childhood in school, it has a profound effect on our likes, dislikes, character, love of learning, and friendships. These experiences provide a motherlode of material for memoir writers and family historians.

When I’m doing oral history interviews or memoir coaching, I find that school memories are always a rich source of content. We remember the GOOD, cherish, and laugh about it. We shudder at the BAD and often still carry the scars. We might count the UGLY among our most embarrassing memories, our funniest, or any number of other emotional boxes we shove our stories into.  

Working on your family history or memoir? Think about experiences with teachers and schools, both GOOD and BAD.  I had many great teachers, a few indifferent ones, some who were pretty average, and yes, some who were just bad. But, doesn’t this describe most of us at different times in our career and lives? We might never know the back stories of those whose lives intersect our own, including teachers and schoolmates. So, I have compassion, healthy boundaries, and have tried to learn from each of these educational realities.  

You might have been shamed by a teacher frustrated that you didn’t “get” their favorite subject matter. Geometry anyone? How you handled this, or didn’t, and moved forward is an important part of your story.  Maybe you were encouraged by another teacher who saw something positive and excellent in you? Perhaps it was wordsmithing skills in composition class, or your face lighting up (not literally- that might have been on the BAD list) over a chemistry experiment, an art assignment, building something useful in shop class or having a great understanding of history.   Whatever it was, these experiences shaped you.

I’ve been an educator much of my life and love to see those “aha” moments when an idea becomes real and personal for someone. It happens in workshops, on zoom calls, even in feedback on social media posts. The lovely thing is, I’m always learning right along with you! Think back on your school experiences. There was GOOD, there was BAD, there was UGLY! Each of these is full of story, dig in and write about them.  

Want to join others interested in writing their story? I’ve opened up a new private FaceBook group, Family History & Memoir Writers Fellowship, just for you! We’ll encourage each other in our storytelling journeys, have fun, share stories, crowdsource solutions, and prompt each other with inspiration and great ideas. We’re stronger and more creative together. Click the link above to check it out and I’ll see you on the inside!
Karen
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    Karen Ray

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