Thoughts on Teaching

I have many friends who are teachers. My mother is a teacher. My family and friends teach. It seems that all my life, I have heard stories of teaching, been inspired by teachers, and thought that I, too, might someday want to try my hand at this mysterious art.

So I did! After I got out here and found that my job would have nothing to do with what I’m actually trained to do by the Army, I started looking around for something that would help me keep my hand in. After Central Texas College hired me to teach some criminal justice courses, I dusted off some old material from my MCJ and sat right down to have at it.

I have since learned that all the gratitude I ever had towards my teachers was nowhere NEAR what they deserved. This stuff is hard. I’m in the middle of my third college class and I still feel like someone is going to point me out as a fraud and kick me out. I get nervous, my mouth dries out, and I feel like I want to run away. But then, class starts, we get into the lecture/discussion, and except for Monday when the loopy migraine meds hadn’t quite worn off, I am able to teach the material and think that the kids are getting it.

However, every class there is one kid that I just can’t figure out how to reach. The first one didn’t do any work and it was only by the grace of me being new at this gig and giving him lots of extra opportunities that he finally passed. The second one went home early and forgot he was taking a class, and then there was the one who didn’t realize you cannot copy and paste a bunch of stuff off the Internet and call it a day.

But this class, I got a kid who is trying, trying, trying. Sadly, I don’t know if he has ever written a paper in his life. Do high schools still require students to write papers? This is the kid’s first college course, and I kind of feel that when I explained that you need to write your paper using a word processor or some kind of program such as Microsoft Word, that I just did not get through. When my teacher friends tell me that the emphasis on testing as a way of measuring success in school is pure bullshit–I’m inclined to agree.

So, third class. Third time students have no problem taking a test (at least the matching and multiple choice parts of it). Third time I am spending half my time teaching criminal justice … and the other half of my time teaching how to write a basic research paper. This is not a complaint, just an observation. I don’t mind teaching writing and communication. I just find myself flummoxed at the basic levels of writing these students lack.

When I look back at my education, and the support of my teachers, as well as the emphasis on doing well that my parents instilled, I realize I am incredibly lucky. I grew up in a house that turned off the television (actually, cancelled the cable subscription and gave the thing away), but always had shelves well-stocked with books. When I told my parents I wanted to be (a writer, an astronaut, a singer, a geneticist, an archaeologist, a space shuttle pilot, a science fiction author, a newspaper reporter, a chemist), they never said: “Forget it.” (Although my mom did encourage me once or twice to quit “flitting from one thing to another,” of which I was guilty. But now, I’m a writer, so my excuse is because research. 😀 )

And thus I learned not just the stuff in school, but also the importance of asking questions and looking at a problem from both sides, of knowing that though I may be dead-certain I am right about a topic, I should still be able to entertain the opposite argument, because you never know when you are actually not all that “right” about anything. So, while I may be discouraged at times, and face grading this stack of rough drafts with a feeling akin to the sinking dread of a puppy in a clown-filled funhouse, I think back to the teachers that I had and once again think to myself, “Learn from them.”

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2 Responses to Thoughts on Teaching

  1. Trey says:

    I was certainly lucky to have good English teachers pretty much throughout my entire school career. If not for them, I wouldn’t be a writer today, or at least, not a good one. I seriously doubt they teach diagramming sentences to students anymore; that would be too haaaaaard.

    I also wish that there was a driver’s license-type equivalent for the internet: You have to get “there,” “they’re,” and “their” right on this test before you can log on…

  2. siegerat says:

    What are you talking about – diagramming sentences *is* hard.

    But grammar is worth it. I love you, grammar. Don’t ever leave me. I’ll work to make this relationship happen! 😀

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