The Semester that gave and gave and gave

Hi Folks, if you didn’t pick up on it I was pushed pedagogically, mentally and physically this past semester. I think the hardest part of struggles in life is that we often feel alone in our struggles. Plus who ever wants to admit…sometimes I might suck? My whole first year I will agree I was in the honeymoon phase where I believed I could and would save everyone and be the best teacher this side the world. I logically knew differently, but it never realistically clicked.

This semester I found my teaching methods pushed, challenged and questioned. Not by those around me but by myself. I tried to find ways to make my classroom more traditional and more of what one would expect walking into a freshman composition classroom. Well here in lies the problem. I am not that teacher. Sure there are aspects of me that are traditional but I know who I am and traditional is often not it.

I am not the cookie cutter teacher. And that isn’t to insult those that are. It just isn’t me. I had this idea in my head of what I should look like, act like and teach like. And well I set myself for a long, rough semester of work that I could not justify to myself and I hate that. To be bold, I will admit, I fell flat on my face.

One of the most important aspects of my teaching and a semi promise I always try and keep to myself (and to my students) is that I won’t waste their time or my own. I feel like I did a whole lot of that this semester. But I would not change it. I learned something very important about myself as a teacher and a person. Be true to who you are meant to be.

I lived life by this pretty little schedule, assign reading and busy work, turn it in. I grade it. You get it back. And that works for papers but for busy work it does not. In effort to not have them waste their time I wasted so much time grading nonsensical stuff that I found myself stretching beyond measure to have merit within my classroom. I upheld my promise to myself and even if non-verbally to them. But I made my life so much harder than it had to be. I swayed from who I am.

I am just not sure why I  had convinced myself that what I offered before that was less than what my students deserved. I guess I was afraid because being a graduate teacher is in all reality a student teacher. I thought if I looked the part and played the part I would successfully be the part. What I learned instead though is I am the part. I didn’t have to act or play.

I have been educated, taught and mentored to do this. I continue in that same path seeking out the knowledge to do this. That never changed. It doesn’t prove it more because I gave more homework and looked more like the movie version of Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society. I am more passionate about this job and composition and rhetoric than I ever was. I let my insecurities get the best of me and therefore I paid the consequences.

I knew by fall break it was too late to turn the ship around and I began to question if I was even meant to teach forever. And maybe I am not. My job became, as teacher, to be consistent and hold steady to what they knew and what I had established. If I know anything I know that my credibility lived and died by how I reacted to my failure.

But I am still where I always was. I love the written word and I want to share that love. I know not all of my students will be the next great writer. Instead my hope is that they can successfully pass my class and realize writing is not horrible because truthfully they often come to me hating it. They have had it drilled into their heads by teachers like the one I was portraying of what writing should be and should look like. In reality, it rarely does. Unfortunately, it was too late when I remembered that and even then I am not (or should say was not) mature enough as a teacher to identify it until I had fully stepped away.

So I can say it, I am not always “write”. Instead, when I think I know what is right I am often wrong. I doubted myself. I doubted my ability and it made my teaching experience so much harder than it needed to be. But I am right enough to see the mistakes I have made and hopefully fix them. I will never be perfect. But truly one of the most awesome parts of being human and a teacher is the chance to do it all over again at the start of every semester, day and so on. I may never be the best darn teacher to every single student that graces my class rooms. But I will continue to try and best the best I can be on that day and in the future.

The other day someone asked me what my master’s degree will be in and when I said, “Composition and Rhetoric” the question immediately was, “And that will get you a job where?” I am not sure if it was an insult to my chosen path or just true lack of knowledge of the meaning of a degree of that nature. Either way I know one thing. I will always work in the written word and the communication of it. It may be in a classroom or it may be in business, but I know what it means when I go to bed at the end of the night. I followed my dream and I still am despite the occasional bump. MommyRhetoric….till the end!

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