21 March 2011

The Tao of Barbara

It was almost fall and everything was new, an oddity for sure since autumn is not generally associated with beginnings. For me, it was the start of my undergraduate career marked by nervousness and insecurity. The first day of classes was the most frightening of all, but even on that scary day, one in particular excited me. I had been able to secure a spot in a certain professor’s section who I had heard many interesting and wonderful things about. I walked to this class with a new classmate: across campus, through the rotunda, to the door and was finally greeted by…a clown.
“Writing skills?” She asked.

We nodded and stepped inside. Everyone looked as confused as we did, especially when she got up and walked on our desks. The first day of class, she proclaimed everything she could do despite her nervousness. After that, it would be up to us to keep learning and discussion alive.

Show and tell was a regular occurrence for this and every other class I took with her and it was certainly not limited to her own treasures. Though she showed us everything from pictures of herself in the Holy Land to pomegranates to foreign currency, if we brought in a rock and somehow made it relevant to the class, she’d love it.

We often took field trips, both during class time and after hours, to places like a local Indian restaurant, the graveyard next to the university and relevant movies. We studied the literature of the world in every class she taught and we were almost always able to have a real-life experience bring our education full circle. Each day in her class was a new adventure and I have never felt as good about writing as I did when I wrote for her.

In an effort to celebrate the life of this wonderful woman, I plan to spend a week in April sharing my own creative writing and hopefully that of many, many other people whether they knew this woman or not. Miss Barbara Hoffman taught Writing Skills, Introduction to World Literature, Plath, Sexton and Company, Creative Writing and Mid and Far Eastern Literature. If you feel compelled to write a piece relevant to any of those topics, please send it my way so I can include you in this tribute. Or, if you prefer, post your work on your own blog and allow me to link to it. Once again, I encourage you to think about writing something even if you did not personally know my favorite professor because she would be very glad to give anyone an excuse to write.

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