This is a post that is related to education; I was asked to interview a contemporary who blogs for ChicagoNow. There are a number of us who interviewed each other. This blog is about a writing professor who teaches and lives her life with “heart.”
Portia spoke of it. Annie Lennox sings about it. Writing Professor Kerri Morris, who also writes Chicagonow’s blog “Cancer Is Not A Gift,” lives it. I promise I’ll get to Kerri’s blog, but first I went to talk about her. Though I’ve never met her, I get the sense that she’s an incredible teacher. I love her philosophy: “teaching is a kind of love.” Kerri teaches writing at Governor State University; in fact she left Alaska to work with an administrator there.
Kerri equates teaching with giving. So many teachers would be right there with her on that point!
Sadly, cancer may limit the time given to one’s students. But Kerri didn’t treat her diagnosis as an ending. She treated it as a modification. She spoke honestly with her students about the consequences of her illness and then rolled up her sleeves and got to work, teaching them about writing, with even a unit on blogging during which fellow ChicagoNow blogger, Sheila Quirke (and others), comes in and lectures about the art of being a blogger.
Kerri considers suffering as a catalyst for writing. Once she started to teach a blogging unit, her students became more aware of what she was experiencing.
Her students’ response? When she got to class after a treatment, they were holding a huge bouquet of flowers for her.
I’m sure that her students love her. I’m also sure that they value her honesty. It’s the power of a two-way relationship between teacher and student.
More mercy: though she’s in remission, Kerri still attends her cancer support group. She’s a listener. “I’m someone who can cope with listening; people do not want to hear about hard stuff.” I’m not sure that people want to listen much these days, but that’s the stuff of another blog. Kudos to Kerri, kudos to a teacher who listens to others, whether about writing, blogging, relationships, and/or cancer!
Mercy, cancer, and connections: Kerri not only writes about the disease, she writes about how cancer informs the human condition. Her goal is to create “awareness and perspective about cancer.” What can come from a community of folks dialoguing about cancer? One of her most compelling blogs is on the late David Servan-Schreiber’s book, Anticancer—A New Way of Life. According to Kerri: [h]is book was a syringe full of empowerment.” She wrote about his accomplishments, how he kept going while in remission and after his cancer came again and again. How he lived harder and pushed to recover harder through “nutrition, exercise, and meditation.”
I love the way her blog is organized with separate links to related issues, i.e., cooking and resources.
Community is very important to Kerri—her student community, the cancer community, and the outside world.
Here, too, she spreads her notion of mercy—towards public figures like Gwenyth Paltrow and most recently, towards Bowe Bergdahl. Bergdahl’s pained eyes reminded her of her encounters with newly diagnosed cancer patients. All have been tortured—nothing they deserved—and merit mercy.
Kerri Morris is a writer who understands the human condition. In the end, it all comes back to writing. Take time to scroll through Kerri’s enormous contribution to ChicagoNow. “In the process of writing, I understand better and also get a better handle on what I have to deal with, writing is a connection, empowering, and builds community.”
Welcome to the “heart” of the ChicagoNow community! Kerri Morris is someone you should know!