Week 2 of Graduate School and Teaching Comp

I am a big fan of montages in movies. Some say that they’re a poor way to show a person’s developmental progress, but I think they’re great at making the tedium of getting better at a skill look interesting. As a recovering lethargic person, sometimes I wish this part of graduate school could be a montage. I already have a few of the shots in mind.

Smash Cut: Me, played by Michael Fassbender ala Shame, on the first day teaching stumbling over words and revealing too much personal information about myself to my students in an effort to make them like me. Smash Cut

Zoom out to: My fictional self alternating between doing pushups while reading composition pedagogy and improving my public speaking with the best Toastmasters in town.

Wideshot: (move in through the 3rd floor window of 322 Blixey) Students are all raising hands and weeping whenever I select one of their peers to move the discussion forward. Intensely intellectual, but non-cruel zingers are flying left and right and my hairline is perfect and my students are perfect and the quarter ends and four years from now they’ll email me, saying they decided to form a non-profit corporation on the last that of class and it ends up curing cancer and they also form the first in a new generation of big band acts.

Unfortunately, this won’t happen. Teaching well is hard and the goods ones I’ve encountered here at OSU and elsewhere rarely seem to slack off where it counts. In one of my readings for a graduate Rhetoric course, the author (I’m assigned a lot of readings so no names will be provided and you may smite me with your MLA stick if you must) states that a lot of what we recognize as poor teaching trends in composition, an emphasis on grammar; spelling; and on not informing students on the why of what they’re learning, occurs because of the time it takes to do all of this well.

I heard a similar idea from one of my former 6th form Literature teachers this past summer when we were talking about teaching and I asked her if it was hard. She told me it was and I asked her if it would be easy to get by only doing the minimum. She said it would be. I didn’t bother asking why she didn’t do that because having taken her class it was evident that she felt a strong sense of responsibility to her students despite being, as the unnamed author also said, poorly paid and hardly recognized for her efforts.

Before writing this, I was reading through my students free writes from earlier today. Midway through them I looked up and told my girlfriend, “I hate how much I like my students.” Being the great person she is, she just looked at me in a way that said she understood where I was coming from without punching me in the face, but that may have just been because I interrupted her story-writing session and she knows what look works for any given context.

Like so many other teachers, I am poorly paid. But like the good teachers I’ve had in my life so far, I love teaching and so I’ll give up my montage dreams and continue giving this “working hard” thing a shot.

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