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OMG I Missed Teaching

25158417 business ideas handwritten with white chalk on a blackb

Cause knowledge is power!

Sort of.

I missed teaching.

I didn’t miss the joys of adjuncting: not knowing my schedule, having to hold “office hours” that no students showed up for because I was just an adjunct, having absolutely no job security, having no support or help from the colleges I worked for, getting paid way less than a full-time teacher while having all those issues listed above… Well, the list of things I don’t miss is probably longer of the things that I do miss.

I missed teaching.

I didn’t realize it until I was teaching again. As a sort of nervous habit, I check Craigslist for jobs. Most of the time, all I do when I search is look at things, think “I could do that,” and then realize that either I can’t do it or there’s no way I want to do it. Things like working at a pre-school or teaching in a foreign country fall under the things I don’t want to do, and writing at a full-time job fall under things I can’t do (see my other blog to learn why full-time jobs aren’t right for me right about now). Regardless, I check the listings semi-regularly, and a while ago, I found a listing for teaching writing classes for continuing education. I thought, why not? And I applied.

I missed teaching.

I didn’t know that I was really missing teaching at that point. I just thought it might be fun to teach again, with less of the stress and pressure, and in a condensed time. I figured it might be kind of neat to come up with all my own stuff and be able to talk about something I loved doing. I went in for the interview, talked about what I’d teach, and got the gig. So starting a few weeks ago, I showed up with a ton of notes, a lot of pieces of flash fiction to read, and a cool writing exercise to do. And the students really seemed to like it. It was fun, for them and for me.

I missed teaching.

I didn’t think I had missed it. I definitely didn’t think I would regret my choice to stop teaching. But on some level I did. On some level I wanted to go back and start teaching again. But then I went back and thought about all the bad things about adjuncting, and I thought maybe I didn’t miss it as much as I thought I had. Maybe it was for the best that I’d stopped doing that. But that didn’t mean I had to give up teaching altogether. Cause here’s the thing:

I missed teaching.

I need to teach. Deep down inside, it really is my vocation. I like giving people new information, helping to guide them through how to do things, sharing what I’ve learned. That is what I miss. I don’t miss all the bullshit that goes with higher education. But I miss the connections, the ability to help other people and know that they are going to move ahead in their lives (or their hobbies or in any way whatsoever) because I was there for them.

So maybe I don’t miss *the* teaching, but I missed teaching.

The Art Degree, Part II – Disillusionment

It’s begun.

I’ve been disillusioned with my art degree.

Why?

Because I totally suck at it.

Okay, maybe that’s not a fair assessment. I didn’t originally think I sucked at it. I didn’t go into the program convinced that I sucked at it.

Then I thought that I was learning.

And, to be fair, I am still learning.

I’m still drawing every day.

I’m still seeing improvements.

But the second projects are harder than the first ones, and I feel like I’m not keeping up.

My portraits are…uhhh…well, they sort of look like people. Mostly.

And my design class…we had to draw in it, followed by making a 3-d design from an abstraction we made from the drawing. My final piece, the drawing of the 3-d design, reminds me a lot of a truly abstract Tank Girl. (That part is cool, I admit.)

So I’ve gone ahead and included some of my current work, and we’ll see how it goes.

I haven’t given up, and I don’t plan on giving up. But it’s definitely getting to be more of a challenge than I had originally planned on.

Charcoal "Portrait"

Charcoal “Portrait”

Abstract Design Drawing

Abstract Design Drawing

Second Abstract Drawing from Design Class

Second Abstract Drawing from Design Class

3d Design (Cardboard and Tape) Made from Second Abstract Drawing

3d Design (Cardboard and Tape) Made from Second Abstract Drawing

One week in!

"Blind" contour drawing of my hand from day one...

“Blind” contour drawing of my hand from day one…

Being on the student side of the desk was about as weird as I thought it would be.

This, my first semester of my AA of Art degree. I’m in two classes that each meet twice a week for three hours at a go. The last time I sat in a classroom like that was in 2005. So, yeah, this is definitely a little bit different.

Really, just about everything is different.

First off, I actually have more degrees than my teachers (mine are in English, though). And I have more teaching experience than one of them. The one who has more teaching experience than me has most of it at the 4th grade level, though, which really comes through in her classroom management style.

Second, the students are so annoying! Seriously! I love the fact that they all say, “I’m not straight out of high school. I graduated in 2013.” Wow, a whole year?! Your level of maturity must be off the scale. That must be why you have absolutely no idea of what TMI means, and you announce that you’ve had an ant bite on your nipple to the whole class. Thanks; we needed to know that.

Third, the total apathy is there. I really thought positively about college students. Okay, maybe not that positively, but before, when I judged the students, it was as a teacher. Now, as a peer, I have to say how insanely sad and disappointed I was to hear fellow students complain about being forced to take a government class because they don’t care about the government. I want to shout at them – “You should care! Maybe someday you will care, and you’ll regret it then!” (Ooooh, my aching old fogey head!) And the lack of supplies with students saying that they don’t have the money. Yeah, I get that we’re all poor college students, but shouldn’t you at least buy the least minimum to get through it? Sigh.

Fourth, yeah, I’m so judging my teachers, too. Not having a copy of the syllabus, saying your students can get it online, but then admitting you don’t know where it is online…telling us you’ll always let us out about an hour early (for a three hour class) because you want time to eat in between classes you’re teaching…not good things. So easy for me to lose respect for you as a teacher.

Finally, the big positive:

I’ve learned stuff!

From my design class, I’ve learned a lot of vocab and worked towards my first project, realizing that planning really is an important part of it. That makes a difference since I just picked up some canvases this weekend that I want to do…something…to. I’m not just jumping in. I’m thinking about it, and I’ll mock some up before I actually do it.

From my drawing class, I learned about lines. Which, to me, sounds way basic. But I’ve found it helpful to pay attention to when lines curve, go diagonal, or are straight.

I was working on a cross-stitch pattern, and when I examined the images and text, I used the principles I learned in my design class to make the letters look good (or, at least, I think they look good), and I used the knowledge about lines from my drawing class to figure out how to recreate images on canvas. I noticed lines that, once, I would have called curved, but there were actually some straight lines in there! Who knew you could learn things in school?!?

Oh my God, I’m an undergrad again!

Image by StockImages via freedigitalphotos.net

Image by StockImages via freedigitalphotos.net

It happens on Monday, although I suppose technically since I’ve already made the first payment on my tuition, it’s really that I’m already an undergrad.

It’s kind of freaky – I have just a few degrees already to my name, and I haven’t attended a community college for over 10 years. (Although I taught at them for over 10 years…) I’m about to turn 39. And I have very little skill at my chosen major: art.

So why am I doing it?

Well, number one – student loans are evil things. They are money that you expect to somehow, some way, some day have the ability to pay back. Yet even if you have plenty of degrees, the jobs aren’t always there, and if they are there, they are often not what you want to do. And the student loans are also evil because they keep you in school, they get you addicted to liking school, to liking getting an education. Then – wham! Suddenly you’re all done with the degree and then you get these letters in the mail and realize that you have to pay more money in a month than you make on a car payment. And that you don’t have that money.

That’s definitely part of it. But the other part of it – number two, let’s call it – is the more important one. That’s the one that says that I do want education to be fun.

I’m not saying I haven’t enjoyed all of my degrees to some extent, but I’ve always been super worried about what I could/would do with them. Super worried about what my grades were. Super worried about all the work I’d be having to do.

This degree, though, doesn’t have that stress attached to it. Yes, I want to do well at it because I like doing well at things. But I also want to do well because I enjoy it. I like art. I’m not very good at it, although I try, and I’m hoping that taking actual art classes will help with it.

I’m also going in with no plans of what I will do with it in the future. Maybe I’ll love it, get semi-talented through practice, and wind up working with kids, doing some sort of art therapy. Maybe I’ll wind up offering free classes at nursing homes. Maybe I’ll just be able to design better cross stitch patterns and better jewelry and 3d art. Who knows?

The thing is, I’m going into this with a completely open mind, and hopefully my brain will get full of art stuffs.

Why should you bother reading yet another blog on higher education?

Kate at Grad
I will explain. No, wait, that will take too long. Let me sum up.

First – I loved my first high school. Private. Catholic. All girls. You’d think I’d probably have hated it, especially since I hated the Catholic school I went to from fourth to eighth grade, but this school was different. Hard classes. Hours and hours of homework. I even swapped out my study hall period for Latin, so I was taking both Spanish and Latin. And almost all of our teachers were nuns. (Yes, I was learning Latin from a nun.)

But then it happened. My parents ran out of money. I went back to public school. And it sucked. It was boring. It was easy. No one cared what I did there, and I slowly slipped out of caring myself.

Then more stuff happened. In my sophomore year, I had the nerve to get tonsillitis repeated. Even though I had received excellent grades, and even though I had plenty of notes from my doctors, the school determined that my absences were “chargeable,” and they failed me for missing too much school. Whoops. I caught up. But then, in my junior year, I foolishly let myself get strep throat repeatedly. Again, my school decided that I should be punished for getting sick. Again, I failed classes that I had been receiving A’s in because I spent too much time with a high fever and being contagious.

I rallied, though! I would pass! I would get through it!

Senior year. Weird stomach issues (that have repeated throughout my life and still never been figured out). By the time it hit Thanksgiving, I had missed too many days again. And I was going to fail. Again. I did the only thing I could think of; I dropped out.

I got my GED before the rest of my class graduated. I had no urge to go back to school after that. Completely unattractive to me.

Somehow, though, I got convinced to try again. I went to a local community college in my home state. Took two classes. Failed one, passed the other. The one I failed? It was because I had gotten sick, and I didn’t know to talk to my teacher. Although I couldn’t help but feel that if I had been older, I might have gotten by. Why? On the first night of class, the teacher got up and announced, loudly, how much she preferred night classes to day classes because the students at night were older and wiser. She spent a good ten minutes making fun of how her younger students were stupid and ignorant. Oh, yeah. That felt good.

So how did I wind up where I am today? And where am I today?

That’s right – today I have an AA in General Studies. A BS in Information Technology. An MA in Liberal Arts. An MA in English Lit. A Post-Master’s Certificate in College Teaching. Forty-eight hours at the doctoral level in Post-Secondary and Adult Education. And, as of the end of this month, I’ll have an MFA in Creative Writing.

Crazy. Absolutely crazy. And also some good reasons as to why you should come on back and check me out next week.