I wanted to be a teacher when I was the age my daughter is now. I went through high school thinking I would be a teacher. I went through most of my undergraduate study thinking I would be a teacher, though the subject I thought to teach would change. I went into and through graduate school thinking I would be a teacher, if at a different level. I spent my early career years–and that’s a strange phrase for me–thinking I would be a teacher. I’ve spent the past few years clinging to that thought, holding tenuously to the notion that I should spend at least part of my time at the front of a classroom, trying to help bring others along.
At this point, though, my grip is slipping–and not because I am holding on with one hand to keep my bloated self from falling into a pit from which there is little chance of escape. No, it is because I am struggling to hold what I realize has been an increasing weight off of the ground, one that I have been carrying for years in no small part because I have been too stubborn to put it down. I have tried to do well at the work, tried to be responsible and responsive, tried to make some difference. And perhaps I have done those things in some small way; I do, from time to time, hear from one student or another, and I am gratified by it.
More, though, I have made excuses for remaining in the college classroom, as a glance back across this webspace will make clear. I have tried to justify my continued presence in a system that has made clear it has no permanent place for me, even as I have found what seems to be a permanent place outside it (and one that does, in fact, allow me to make good use of the skills and expertise I developed during my formal education, if perhaps not as I might have expected and not as well as others with more focused training might have done). And it is clear to me that the excuses no longer work; it is time for me to put the weight down.
Given the academic labor market (about which, perhaps, this and this), I am certain that others will soon pick up the weight I set down. And it is possible that I will need to pick it up again, myself, in time to come. But for now, so far as I can see, I am ready to leave it. I am ready to let go my grip and finally straighten a back that has bent at such work, usually hunched in a chair in front of a computer not unlike what results in this present piece of work, drafting things that will not be read. But at least such work as this is work that I enjoy, and I can no longer say the same for what I do in the classroom, despite years of making a go at it.
Thirteen years of it is enough of a sample, I think.
I have been offered and have signed a contract to teach a class at DeVry University for the November 2019 instructional session, a section of ENGL 135: Advanced Composition. It is wholly online, with the session spanning 28 October 2019 to 5 January 2020; consequently, instruction will be almost wholly asynchronous, though I will hold a regular office hour, likely on Wednesday evening, given other scheduling concerns I have at the moment.
The redesign I mentioned previously seems still to be in place, but they seem to tend to less grading than I recall from earlier experiences teaching ENGL 135. I will have to generate new examples, of course, but I need to be doing more writing, anyway, and students continue to benefit from having the models to follow. Given broader events, I am not sure how I can produce ethically sound examples that will still do what I need them to do; I am not the master of my own curriculum, here, but am obliged to follow a prescribed sequence once again. I knew that going in, though; my comments from more than a year ago still seem to hold.
For all the problems that are in place with the kind of teaching I will be doing, I am still glad to have the opportunity to do so once again. Though I presently need the funding less than I have in the past–the regular job I work treats me pretty well in that regard and in several others–it is still welcome. More welcome is the chance to once again put to work the skills I spent so long developing; I hope they have not atrophied such that they will no longer serve me or the students enrolled in my class.
As happens every so often, other stuff has popped up for me. In attending to it, I’ve not been able to attend to this webspace (or a couple of others) as I would prefer to do. Rather than push out work that doesn’t meet (my admittedly low) standards, I’m pushing back a bit. I’m still working on the Robin Hobb Reread, and I mean to have my next bit of it pop out on Monday, 12 August 2019. Today, though, I’ve not got it ready.
Since making initial comments about the session, I’ve had some additional information come up about my work in the July 2019 instructional session at DeVry University. Namely, I’m only teaching one course this time around–ENGL 112: Composition.
The reduction in the teaching load does not mean all has changed, of course. The session still spans 8 July to 31 August 2019. On-site meetings for the class will still be Wednesdays at 1800 US Central Time in Room 105 of the San Antonio Metro Campus. Synchronous online sessions will still occur at the same times; sessions will still be recorded for later viewing. Office hours will still be online on Mondays at 1800 US Central Time; other meetings may still be made by appointment. And I still I appreciate having the chance to do this again.
Review of materials in the interim has shown me a few things about the course’s new assignment sequence. I am lucky in that some of what I have developed for my previous session teaching the course remains viable. There is still a profile essay called for, as well as a rhetorical analysis. Prior materials about the profile are here and here; those about the rhetorical analysis are here and here. I link to them again in the hopes that they will continue to prove useful to my students as they progress along their own work.
One of the larger shifts in the course is the alignment of the last two major assignments to a single topic. (There is mention of a course project as a separate assignment, but it does not appear in the gradebook, and it is not supported by other materials; I think it is a holdover from earlier iterations of the course.) I’ve still got some work to do on them, both in generating examples and in setting topics–for the assignments, a short essay and a short presentation, both work from a set of prescribed topics in the University’s online course offerings. The topics are decent enough this time; I’ve noted in such places as this my dissatisfaction with prior topic selections, but I think that is not the case with the new stuff. I still want to add more options, though, if only because I expect I’ll need other available topics if and when I teach the class again. My fallback, and probably the area in which I will develop the examples for the July 2019 session, is curricular reform. (I’ve floated the idea before, here and elsewhere. I’ll likely borrow from the older materials to generate the newer.) We’ll see how it goes over this time.
Over the next weeks, then, in and around posting class reports (since there are synchronous meetings, it makes sense to do them again) and adding to the Robin Hobb Rereading Series, I’ll see about getting the necessary examples and other materials put together. Even if I no longer put instructional materials together in the hopes of landing an academic job, I do still enjoy the work, and I do still think others benefit from seeing it out in the world. It is some comfort, at least.
ENGL 135 appears to have gone through a redesign, which means the materials I’ve prepared for past students will not be applicable, or not as much so, as they are for the present session. There do appear to be fewer deliverables, though, which means I will likely not have as much work to prepare things as I have had in the past–or as much work to grade, which also has its attractions. I’ll need to review the course in more detail before I proceed, however, but that’s not particularly onerous.
ENGL 112 also appears to have gone through a redesign since I last taught it, so I’ll need to review the course and generate new materials in response to it, as well. Honestly, though, it is good for me to do so. Refreshing my teaching from time to time is helpful; it keeps me from growing complacent. I have seen many instructors at several colleges and universities grow fixed in their ways, inattentive to developing knowledge in their subject areas and in teaching, generally; it has not helped the students to be mired in the understandings of thirty years ago and more, nor has it helped those of us who have done more recent work in the academic humanities, to have such be the case. Nor yet is it good for the world outside to have things root in the exhausted soil of conclusions decades out of date and unresponsive to the many things learned since.
The session spans 8 July to 31 August 2019 (that’s what my contracts say, anyway). On-site meetings for ENGL 135 will be Thursdays at 1830 US Central Time in Room 106 of the San Antonio Metro Campus; on-site meetings for ENGL 112 will be Wednesdays at 1800 US Central Time in Room 105 of the San Antonio Metro Campus. Synchronous online sessions will occur at the same times; sessions will be recorded for later viewing. Office hours will be online on Mondays at 1800 US Central Time; other meetings may be made by appointment.
As ever, I appreciate having the chance to do this again. I’d hate to think that I’d get no use out of the studying I did to learn how to do it…
At this point, I am back from my conference trip (about which I’ve remarked), and things are slowing down a bit for me. They are not slowed as much as would let me get started on what I want to do (I’ve got two gigs coming up, and my daughter is performing this weekend; such things need preparation.) Thus, as before, I’ll have to ask for a bit of forbearance as I get going again.
I am going to get going, though, and soon. And I know what I am going to be doing for a fair bit of it. Making reports on a class that meets online, and I am teaching one, seems a bit odd to me at this point; I think I’ll be on-site again soon enough, and I’ll make the usual reports at that point, but until then, no. Too, I may still do some of the In Response to posts that pervade this webspace; I run into things as I look at the world that seem to call for attention, and it does not hurt me to give it them. Neither, though, will be my focus moving forward for a while.
No, what I’ll be working on most will be something like my colleague Luke Shelton has had going on his website. (Check it out; it’s good stuff.) I’ll not be working on Tolkien, though; he’s already amply covered, and, after my recent conference trip, I feel so far behind in that research that I’ll not be able to catch up. Instead, I’ll build on the work I’ve been doing (less diligently than I ought to be) in the Fedwren Project and do an annotated re-reading of Robin Hobb’s novels. I had occasion to do some re-reading as I wrote the paper for the recent conference, and I was reminded in doing so of the love for the material I’ve felt for quite a while now. It sustained me through writing my MA thesis, and I realize I really ought to have pursued it more diligently in my research through the rest of my career in academe. (I might still have such a career had I done so, in fact, but that’s a different matter altogether.)
So, in the coming months, I’ll be working on that kind of thing in this webspace. I don’t know how long it’ll take me to do it, but I think it’ll be rewarding. I can hope I’ll not be the only one to see or feel the reward; I know what I’ve done on the topic has already helped at least one other person, and I wouldn’t mind adding to that, whether in the project itself or in others that I can hope might grow from it.
I have been working to post to this webspace at least every Monday and Friday, and I’ve generally done well with it in the past months. Occasionally, however, I have other things going on that keep me from doing as well with it as I might like. This is one of those times; I am preparing materials for the 2019 International Congress on Medieval Studies, and doing so is taking most of my attention and effort. I will try to have something up for the next scheduled posts, but I cannot promise it; I hope it will not be too much of a disappointment to have only such brief notes as this for a short time.
After the conference, though, I have ideas about how to proceed. I expect I will be able to spend some more time with them, and I hope they will be worth the wait.
I have been offered and accepted a class for the May 2019 instructional session at DeVry University, a section of ENGL 135: Advanced Composition. I’ve taught the course several times at the school, most recently in the November 2018 session, so I am confident I will be able to do so successfully again. Certainly, I welcome the opportunity to do so.
So far as I know, there have not been changes to the instructional sequence at play in the course, so I think my earlier examples will continue to work for the students. If there have been changes, I will see about drafting new ones to suit. As a reminder, those examples can be found linked below:
The class will meet online only, which will be something of a relief. I will be spared the commute I have in teaching on site, which will save me a fair bit of money. And I will likely continue my practice of holding office hours online on Mondays at 6pm US Central Time; it works as well as anything else, so I have no reason to alter it.
I am sure I will have additional comments about things as the session progresses. I still have to get through the March 2019 session, so it will be a bit. But I am still happy to have the opportunity I have to earn a little bit more by doing what I spent so long learning how to do. I remain an academic expatriate even so, but I might as well enjoy having a little bit of support while I can.
I have been offered a class for the March 2019 Session, a section of SPCH 275: Public Speaking, and I’ve accepted the assignment. It’s a class I’ve taught before, though it seems to have changed a bit for the upcoming term–in part because of an institutional push towards larger student-counts in each section that has me balancing on-site and online lecture. So it will be something of a challenge to teach it this time around.
I’ve not looked at the course in detail yet, but I expect that I will not need to develop specific examples of student work for it as I have done in my recent writing classes. For one, students are likely to be more familiar with speeches and oral communication than with formal writing. For another, I tend to lecture, perhaps more than I ought to, and those lectures are themselves iterations of public speaking. The examples are already provided by the nature of the course itself. (I will reserve the right to change that, though, since I might well find more targeted work to be of advantage.)
The on-site portion of the class is set to meet Thursdays at 6pm in the VCC at the San Antonio campus, beginning 3 March 2019 and running through 27 April; office hours will be online on Mondays at 6pm, US Central Time. I do have some travel and other concerns that will need to be accommodated, but I have every expectation that things will work out well as I have another appreciated chance to do what I have been trained to do.