MFA, University of Arizona, 1981
BA, University of Delaware, 1977
Fiction writing, creative nonfiction writing, expository and argumentative writing.
A couple of years ago in one of my writing workshops, what began as an exercise in the limits of authorship ended in a published short story-a collaborative effort by everyone in the class, including me. For me, teaching is an intense collaboration between teacher and student in the pursuit of knowing.
Teaching is the humblest profession. Good teaching is not just competency but an attitude of energetic, open-minded exploration-a driving curiosity, an eagerness to be surprised, and a willingness to be proven wrong. It is risky. I find most success when I talk across the table-first among equals-rather than down from the lectern.
Each semester, I teach writing workshops-in fiction and nonfiction, for novices and experienced writers. The workshop is not an editing session for "broken" student stories. Rather, it complements literature courses: we aim to learn how to read, not just analytically, but with an aesthetic precision.
Anyone who has ever tried to write a story will forever after read with deeper appreciation. I further urge students to take up the habit of art in their own writing-holding themselves always to a higher standard than any teacher, editor, or reader. My goal is to instill in them a passion for knowing.
The more I expect of students, the less I am disappointed in them. I have taught Faulkner to freshmen and watched graduate students conduct a panel that raised the whole tenor of discussion at a national conference.
For me, the issue of research vs. teaching is a moot one. As a working writer, I earn my classroom credentials at the keyboard. My writing lends my teaching urgency and currency. I do not teach anything I do not also practice to a professional standard. I write during every season and in a variety of forms. My class preparation begins as I struggle over sentences, continues through revisions, notes, related reading, and discussions with colleagues and editors, then finds its way into the classroom. But the classroom session is only the beginning of good teaching. In all my courses, frequent individual conferences are routine. And every student in every workshop receives a written critique from me of every story.
Besides traditional courses, my teaching extends to directing theses and directing on and off-campus internships, valuable for giving students real-world experience in writing and editing. Every writing course, from computer-assisted freshman comp to graduate workshops, is a new preparation, since a primary text is always student writing-the biggest challenge, and the greatest pleasure.
Download an excerpt of Philip Gerard's work (PDF)