Once Upon A Time An Inept Teacher Taught A Class

Week 6 of Graduate School and Teaching Comp


Today, Friday November 8, 2013, I’m writing this from my partner’s cubicle over at EWU’s Cheney, WA campus while she’s at her practicum class along with the rest of first year comp GTA’s. It’s colder here than it normally is in Corvallis, and the heat in here is lulling me to sleep while the loud conversation between the office’s administrative staff keeps me alert to the fact that I am not alone. Since I am in Washington, I asked a fellow 1st year GTA to cover my 11 am comp class today, to which he kindly accepted. A little after noon I receive an email from him that ended with the following paragraph:

“They[my students] are more than confused about Unit 2. I told them think of it as a story of their research processes. Hopefully this aligns with your approach.”

            After a year and a half of teaching writing at the University of Houston’s Writing Center and a month and a half of comp at OSU, I think I got a decent handle on what my strengths are as a teacher. I’m pretty ok at coming up with an analogy to explain an otherwise abstract idea. I can bring the funny once in a while when my students are on the brink of total disinterest, which is almost constantly. And I can tell when my students are quiet whether it’s cause they haven’t done the reading or just didn’t understand what the fuck I told them the last time we met. What I do honestly suck at though is explaining assignments, which in some ways I’d trade in all other strengths just to be a little decent at that.

My logic is that in two to three to five years from now, whenever my students do graduate (God, I hope they graduate), that transcript they send out for job or graduate school purposes may or may not be a big deal. In the case that it is though I would like to limit the impact my incompetence had on how successful able they were at completing at assignment. As things stand right now, confusion is the pervading emotion that comes across most students’ faces when I try to discuss a prompt in the little time I tend to devote to such “trivialities” like assignments and grades. “Don’t worry bout those, guys! You are learning writing! It’s greatest thing you can be doing with your time,” I tell them with my eyes and just my eyes since to use my mouth to form those words would perhaps label me as a fool to the lot of them.

I think I may be telling them not to worry about the assignments because controlling anxiety seems like a pretty important things these young students should be focusing on and the last thing I’d want them to think is that I or someone else will judge them too harshly based on the grades they receive in the course. The truth is though that there will be a bunch of jackasses that think they’re dumb for having not done so well in my class despite the fact that I may be doing it in a total dipshit way at the moment.

On the bus yesterday I managed to get ahead on my readings for next week as well as a chunk of next week’s Book Impressions…book Richard Russo’s Straight Man. The readings themselves were all rhetoric centered, a good thing except for the fact that the writing of these academics is sometimes so dull that even the poorest of jokes evoke a laugh from me after reading twenty pages with subtext that shouts “You’re too dumb to get this, dummy” [note to readers, originally typed dumby].

Earlier this week I had a minor freak out and a short, but manly cry concerning my rhetoric program and the potential issues I will face in adapting theories that seem are American-centric to Belize, assuming that the government hasn’t managed to suck the last bit of remaining funds from the national universities.

Now though, I’m in my partner’s office, and she will be back any minute now. We will go back to her apartment, drink beer, and watch Netflix before taking an afternoon nap.

Some days it’s nice to be a graduate student. Hopefully Monday feels like such a day. Til then…Mmm, beer.


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