I left my first teaching position feeling, to put it simply, bad. But bad is anything but a simple emotion. It was: guilt, anxiety, homesickness, exhaustion, failure, hypocritical, oppression, emptiness, guilt, disgust. And these were all directed at my self. Not the students. NOT the students. I cared about them deeply, and bad was a consequence of letting them down. Even if they didn’t know it.
Now I am very critical of myself and because of this, now creeping towards two years later, I am still reflecting on my experience. I didn’t leave teaching, I ran from teaching. I felt selfish applying to grad school and starting a program that could take me away from teaching. But for all the bad, there was good. I miss teaching. I want to teach, to be a teacher because I know better. I know more. This isn’t a matter of learning better practices or better texts and assignments, its knowledge of myself. I feel I can be myself as a teacher, not slip into a teacher’s guise, like I felt forced before. Teaching is very personal. I used to scoff at my peers in the college of education for saying teaching was their passion before they even tried it. Or worse, that literature was their passion, and they wanted to pass it on to their students. I thought I’d be stronger because I’d enter without naivety, which was naive. I fought being myself, teaching as myself. This is difficult to explain, but I’m a punk. Not the spitting, growling, mohawk wearing archetype, but in state of mind. I wanted to teach because I wanted to expose the system. Not kidding. I wanted to get inside of education and help students liberate themselves from social, economic, political, cultural, religious structures. I didn’t want to set fire to education, but I definitely wanted to point out weak points in the building and clear out some of the dust. Not anarchy, but education that is truly student centered – exploratory, messy, in the moment, shifting with interests. Talking about it in this way makes me seem like I’m creating myself as some comic book heroine, but I didn’t want to save the students, I wanted them to be free agents, pushing back in ways they designed. This isn’t easy to do, especially as a new teacher. I didn’t do it. I even abandoned it. Where was my anti establishment t-shirt slogan to wear to staff meetings? I sold out. Spirit deadened. I even wore khakis. It came out in small ways, the decor in my classroom, supplemental materials I brought in to share, structuring my class on discussion instead of lecture/recitation/replication/regurgitation, and some of my assignments. But I didn’t push. I asked students questions that questioned and they questioned back, small rebellions, but I was still part of a system. A cog. And I think I could have done more as a part of the system. Not crassly accusing, but thoughtfully questioning.
I’m in my third semester, a student of the university, and I’m applying to teach as a graduate assistant in the fall. College freshman instead of high school. I couldn’t have imagined that my course work would reignite my academic rebellion. That I would work on disrupting settled Composition. That perhaps I could be good for some students. This is part exploratory because I have to enclose a personal statement on my professional and academic goals. At this stage, I imagine my competition to be tough. We all have unique perspectives that could be good for students and re-imagining what composition is and can be. Selling what we can bring to the program and the university. How can I sell myself without selling out? A comic heroine, with lofty ideas of her selfs and what she can do. Or a composer of thoughtful negation.
teaching credentials: zines, writing taboos, compositional materiality, new media and intermedia designs, visual rhetoric, box logic, decollage, can play covers and re-mixes of Geoffrey Sirc, Anne Frances Wysocki, William Burroughs, Marcel Duchamp, Joseph Cornell, George Maciunas.
cuts own hair, asymmetrically. Bold enough?
2 thoughts on “teaching credentials”
I love this, so much. I love that while our goals are similar, while our interests sometimes overlap, we are still very different individuals. This reads like a manifesto. Jana’s GA app manifesto. Jana’s pedagogical manifesto.
This: “Not kidding. I wanted to get inside of education and help students liberate themselves from social, economic, political, cultural, religious structures. I didn’t want to set fire to education, but I definitely wanted to point out weak points in the building and clear out some of the dust. Not anarchy, but education that is truly student centered – exploratory, messy, in the moment, shifting with interests. Talking about it in this way makes me seem like I’m creating myself as some comic book heroine, but I didn’t want to save the students, I wanted them to be free agents, pushing back in ways they designed.” falls right in line with the article I just read in the nytimes about blogs versus term papers. The journalist quoted a few names that I recognized and I could feel my blood boiling as I read it, in defense of blogs and habitual, regular, small writing over term papers and heavy reading. I really liked the arguments presented. The link to the article is here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/22/education/edlife/muscling-in-on-the-term-paper-tradition.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2&partner=rss
I am always impressed with your ability to express your thoughts and ideas pertaining to all of this – whether it be that poster you made, or even here understanding that writing (in blog form!) is exploratory, rather than always intended as part of a step to becoming a formal thing (even if it does). It’s almost like there are two types of value: that of craft, of making something, and that of anticipated validation (or not) from a perceived audience.
I’m nervous about the competition too. Especially because you’re one of them. 🙂
Thanks for the support. Exposing issues with my identity has been hard, and frankly, not something I feel like I’ve been able to do since leaving that first position. When/if I talked about it at all, I just got responses like “it was your first job. of course it was rough.” But that’s not it. And it is big.
I’m happy to hear you’re applying for a GAship too. You have so much to offer students in understanding the intricacies of composition; you have a way of revealing fibers to pull on, leading to some previously unnoticed or disregarded or compartmentalized small truth.
I read the NYTimes blog post, and felt a lot “grrrrs”, grumbles, and flushes across my face. All the more reason we need to becomes GAs.