Monday, January 10, 2011

The Tales They Tell -

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In a way, this is a familiar story: A dedicated teacher exhorts her pupils to reach deep within themselves for intimate details of their personal struggles, knowing that sharing these truths will have a profound impact on their lives.

The difference here is that most of the students are old enough to be their teacher’s mother or father; the average age in Mary Jane Roberts’s writing class is about 80. The jostling among her most devoted students for front-row seats “is always some traffic jam,” she said, often involving walkers and wheelchairs.

For 18 years, Ms. Roberts, 62, has taught a class she calls “Autobiography” on Saturday mornings at Emeritus College, a program for older adults at Santa Monica College, on the beach edge of Los Angeles. She has worked with two distinct generations of students — the first ones came of age during World War II, while her current pupils hail from the far safer world of suburban sprawl.

This is a “performance” class, more about students sharing what they have written and less about writing style. Ms. Roberts believes that what matters to her students is the chance to take stock in a safe setting, among peers. She still recalls a Dachau survivor who never spoke of his experience in class until the day he got up to read an account of the day the camp was liberated.

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1 comment:

  1. I thought you might want to know that the Visiting Nurse Service of New York launched a contest called "Celebrate Caregivers." You can win an iPad or an iPod for telling your story as a caregiver. Check it out at and spread the word! Thanks, Stav