My goal this semester is to publicly share my writing. Since my writing is academic in nature, I offer this week’s writing assignment: a personal introduction.
In all honesty, I am taking Literature by Women of Color because the required Rhetoric and Composition course was filled. Because I am a nondegree-seeking, self-paying, graduate certificate student, my scheduling does not have priority when compared with degree-seeking students who must graduate within a certain time frame due to scholarship requirements. There is a longer story, but the short version is that the only option was to take whatever evening course was available that would help me meet the graduate certificate requirements.
I have an undergraduate degree in English and have taught high school English and reading (basically a preparation class for the state assessment, the FCAT) for fifteen years. My masters degree is in instruction technology, which basically means curriculum development with an emphasis in Internet-based instruction. I decided that I did not really want to be an administrator, even though I now have Administration on my teaching certificate, so I was left with nothing but to remain in the high school classroom. So much has changed in fifteen years, though, that I do not know how much longer I will be able to maintain my sanity. This is my professional sanity that I am referring to, though I do struggle with depression.
When Lee mentioned a year and half ago that he was interested in the possibility of teaching composition classes at the community college where he works, I jumped at the chance. Here was a way for me to remain teaching, but to do so without the constraints of the FCAT. I also love learning and was thrilled to have some direction in my life after feeling adrift for a couple years.
My focus at USF is on rhetoric and composition because that certification will most directly benefit me as I seek community college employment. I have, though, seen improvements in my teaching of writing over the last year that I have been taking courses. I don’t find teaching writing as stressful as I once did. In fact, I almost relish the conversations that result when students get stuck on a topic and we discuss what their options are. Just today, a county supervisor came to my room to check my writing folders and told me that she didn’t need to worry about me because of the amount and type of comments I leave on my students’ papers. Wow! It’s been so long since anyone from the county has said something nice.
One area I have struggled in over the last year is how to be more critical of what I read. Criticism at a graduate level for an education degree seemed to be much easier for me. I feel strongly about education since I love learning and have worked in the education field for all of my adult life. When I am reading literature or memoirs, though, I don’t tend to question others’ viewpoints, but I do often think about my own views. I remember just last semester, sitting in Dr. Metzger’s class, wondering how in the world the students were able to critique what we were reading. Part of the difficulty is that I am still developing my knowledge base. It is difficult to be a critic when one does not even know where to begin. After I received my first paper back last week, with the lowest grade I have received on a paper since, well, ever, I decided that this course was going to give me a solid kick in the pants with my writing.
I am not sure what my own contribution will be. I tend to talk too much, so I would like to be able to listen more. I do have difficulty hearing, so the fact that I have a sight-line to everyone as s/he is speaking will help me figure out what each is saying. I do hope that others will understand my own perspective as a white middle class woman. It is through my parents’ silent support when I decided, without their prompting, that I would earn a college degree that I am where I am today. My mom told me years after graduation that a degree had not been an expectation. She does not have a college degree, but she graduated from technical school when I was in seventh grade and now teaches the program she graduated from. My dad has a two year degree, and my brother has a high school diploma. Dad’s mom, though, earned her college degree in 1966, the same year Dad graduated from high school. My aunts and uncles, as far as I am aware, do not have college degrees. I, however, was in school with students who had no choice but to go to college, and so I did what they did. It has been to my advantage to have done so. If there is anything I am generally good at, it is school.