I come from a long line of uncommon teachers. An uncommon teacher is one who teaches or trains in the duties of an everyday work life, rather than in a classroom. My father was a videographer who far preferred explaining the intricate guts or the laborious editing process than the actual job of shooting a wedding or editing the event afterward. In his spare time, he would elaborate on the way a car engine was put together, why the clouds were cumulus before a storm, or the exact process of how to perfectly cook a soft boiled egg. My mother was celebrated as an encourager, a trainer, and a mentor. She relished in the act of taking a neophyte through[…]

Standing in front of a crowd of around 600 students seated in an auditorium, I held up my hand to silence them. In the quiet atmosphere of nervous silence, one of the girls sitting in the front row looked at the test and began to explain (in a rather loud voice) her displeasure at the nature of the test, speaking in a loud voice and prompting students behind her to peer over their desks like curious cranes at the little squawking bird flapping her wings. In all my years of teaching, that girl wasn’t the last outburst during a test I encountered – but never had I witnessed such an emotional reaction to an exam. Little did I know how[…]

My first “real” teaching experience was standing in front of a crowd of four year-old children, holding up cards of colors and numbers, and then dancing until my audience was giggling so hard that they forgot they were speaking a foreign language. While not all teachers may have had origin stories as kindergarten teachers, my journey into the teaching profession began quite unexpectedly. What you realize (even as a kindergarten teacher) is that teaching begins with relationship and only after a relationship has been established can learning take place. When the eyes of the teacher lock with the child and there is a spark of trust – then, only then – can learning begin. As children grow older into adults,[…]

The first time I heard the word career was in a high school business class. “You want to make sure you choose the right career, something you are really passionate in,” she said. “If you choose the wrong career, you may later come to regret that decision.” At the time I was sixteen years old. For years, I had been traveling with my parents to Amway conventions; most of these adventures I spent a majority of my time in the hotel room watching movies, swimming in the pool, or exploring the hotel for any secrets it might hold, but in recent years I had begun to attend the actual seminars, and when I turned 16 I bought my first IBO[…]

There are certain moments of sublime clarity I remember from my childhood. Sitting at home at the dinner table, the wax from two red candles burning between a baked turkey and a Chinese rice dish, and the prayers of my mother before the meal asking that God would watch over not only my brother and I during the school vacation, but also the Chinese family that lived with us as they were adapting to life in the United States. I remember visiting my friend from Iran and eating dinner with his family, studying the golden-framed paintings all over the house and trying to understand why a family would place so many sculptures in so many places. I remember a missionary[…]

Lecture Goal: Give a broad view of contemporary American fantasy literature and where the ideas came from   1. Sword and sorcery in the 30s-60s, based on Weird Tales and Lord of the Rings Weird Tales in the 1920s, born from Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft (Cthulhu) Fantasy, horror, myth, and swordplay – Conan the Barbarian, Robert E. Howard Fritz Leiber, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, and the idea of true adventure, from Conan   2. Heroic fantasy and dark magic in the 70s, 80s and 90s, based on Dungeons and Dragons (1975) Michael Moorcock, Elric of Melnibone, combination of heroic myth and popular fantasy Roger Zelazny, the Chronicles of Amber, and castles, dungeons, monsters and sorcerors Tanith Lee,[…]

I admire Lu Xun. Not for his timidness, which he was not; not for his resolve, which faltered often; not for his calculating mind, which carried the burdens of a man blinded with inhibited sorrow; and not for his kindness, which crossed blades with his cruelty so often he might have been his own doppelganger; rather, I admire his perspicacity with words, his transparency of soul, and his exuberant passion in the movement of ideas through the vehicles of people and systems. Once a teacher myself at Peking University, Lu Xun exhibits ideals I wish I had but also showcases the dangers of adorning the armor of a hundred ideals, each engaged in civil strife. “The present passes step by[…]

In reviewing the New York Times “Notable Books of 2011” I started compiling what I hope to be a different kind of categorization of fiction and nonfiction. As a writing teacher, I find it imperative to teach how good writing can flow from the classroom into society, and so in this categorization I am looking towards a fundamental understanding beyond already established genre classifications. While working at Barnes & Noble in the late 90s, I learned that classifications of books had become so ridiculous that fiction even had labels like “aviation fiction” and varying degrees of romantic fiction which I do not want to post here; nevertheless, as a teacher I find it impossible to teach good, solid forms with[…]