Wednesday, April 15, 2015

It's a Trap!

This afternoon, I went to talk to a class of TAs at SDSU. I had been asked to be there by the TA Coordinator, who had been my professor when I was in grad school. I was happy to go to the class and chat with them, answering whatever questions I could. His idea was that he wanted to give them a recent grad's perspective on how to go about getting a job at a community college.

Again, I need to stress that I was happy to do it. It was fun to be back on campus and to see students who are going through what I went through. It's a difficult time. For those who will be graduating next month, they are really nervous about getting jobs, and we hear all the time about how awful the market is out there. I wanted to go there and let them know that there is hope. I also wanted to give them some "real talk" about what they need to do.

That being said, I was kind of caught off guard when a student said, "My plan is to teach as an adjunct for a while and get my PhD. I want to teach at a university. So how does one avoid getting caught in the trap of community college? I mean, I don't want to get stuck there, so how do people avoid that?"

Wait. What?

It isn't a trap. People who teach at the community college level are there for a reason. I'm here for a reason. I'm not here biding my time until something better comes along. This is where I want to be. I told him that there is no trap. People who "end up" teaching at this level are here because this is where they want to be. Sure, they may have had other plans, but sometimes, plans change. People actually like teaching at a JC! *GASP* I told him that if his goal is to teach at a university, he should stay on that path, and that's where he will end up. It isn't a trap. It isn't a punishment. No one is settling for anything.

I don't think I changed his mind. I'm sure he's dubious of my answer. I would like to say that he thought about it later, or maybe he will think about it when he's an adjunct biding his time for his "real job." What I do know is that for other TAs in that class, they were able to see that I like what I do, and I don't feel like I fell into the trap.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Zombies, and Faulkner, and Letters, oh my!

This semester, I am teaching two hybrid 116 classes, so both of those are new for me! Prior to this, I taught basic writing courses at UCSD, tutor training at Mesa, and a couple 115 courses. Because I was a new teacher, my friends helped me out A LOT as I pieced together course schedules, reading materials, and lesson plans. I don't know what I would do without my colleagues.

This semester, I was given the opportunity to peek in on some of my colleague's courses, but from there, I chose all of my reading materials and let my excitement run free. I am thrilled at the choices I made for our readings this semester. I am, of course, cautiously optimistic as sometimes we think we have the most exciting, engaging, thought-provoking material around, and it falls flat.

My "theme" in the class is relationships: our relationships with friends and family, our partners, and our communities. To delve into the topics, we will be looking at epistolary texts, an awesome group of short stories, and a unit on zombies.

I'm not going to lie: the students have expressed a lot of interest in the zombie literature. We are looking specifically at a few zombie short stories (beginning with a chapter from Zora Neale Hurston's book Tell My Horse) and the students will be writing their research papers on our culture's "obsession" with zombies. I'm excited to see what they come up with. :)

After listening to our opening day speaker, I have been thinking a lot about the kind of student I was. I'm trying to connect back to her to remember the classes I had to miss when I couldn't find a babysitter, the buses I had to leave class early to catch, and the hours of sleep I missed because between working two-three jobs and having two kids, I didn't have much time to both sleep and do homework. Sometimes the homework won, sometimes it was sleep. I had quite a few caring and understanding professors. I had some who weren't. I want to make sure that all of my students know that I want them to succeed. I write that on my syllabus, so I want to make sure that they believe it.

Here's to a new semester.