If I’m not interested in teaching college English as a long term goal, then why do it? Ironically, I find my several semesters of being in the classroom something of value, especially as I’ve been getting my act together. Yes, I used the past progressive, not the passive voice in past tense. I have been working on being a better teacher, but I am also working on skills that will help me in my new career path.
Going back to school to earn another degree is crazy enough. On top of that, I still have to work. I have to fund my MLIS program and still have to pay for the other things life requires. I also don’t want anymore student loans. Juggling classes and a job (make that plural) can be chaotic. I remember that from working on my BA and I took public transportation to get everywhere. I now have a car and much of my coursework will be online, but I still have the classes and any other jobs to balance. Getting some library experience will certainly add to the chaos in my life less than a year from now.
I quickly developed a system that’s still in progress. I’ve organized my assignments and made sure to return them no more than two class meetings. I have a system for my grades. The rubrics for writing assignments make them easier to grade, and immediately recording the scores in Excel saves time. I’ve kept grades in my head in the past, which is a very dangerous thing to do. There is no solid evidence for why students get their grades, even if I knew why and could explain it. Grade sheets, if demanded by the school, then become works of fiction (despite whatever knowledge is applied). In recording grades in a timely manner, I create an honest record where I have solid evidence for why the students did great or did poorly. While no less busier, sanity is something I’ve gained. Also, being prompt makes things much easier.
Grade inflation is something I can avoid in working more systematically. When I was near finishing my MFA, I got in trouble with a professor over grades that were too good for my break-out sections. I as the the student wanted to help them out, give them a break. However, I might have just helped them move on with the bad habits they acquired in that literature class. They then are not equipped for the next class and they will fail. What I do in a non-classroom setting with an employee, whether it’s training them or giving them an idea about their job performance, may not help if I communicate with them unrealistically. For example, if I lead someone to think they’re doing great when they’re not, they’ll just continue on with their bad working habits until it becomes necessary to fire them.
Interacting with students teaches me to deal with various kinds of people. Most people, given a fair amount of respect and commitment, will behave reasonably. However, there are those who will push and see what they can get away with. In some classes, there are only a few people like that. Here, it’s easy to handle them and the group dynamic makes a wonderful back-up. However, when there’s an entire group of them, like the “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps),” then gaining control is difficult. Also, if authority isn’t established in the beginning, then having anyone work within expectations becomes a nightmare. I don’t want any more “Scary Monsters” in any situation. If I’m too nice, people can take advantage of that, and if I’m too adversarial, then I alienate them. Students teach me that I must be fair, but firm with people.
I feel silly admitting this, but communication is something I’ve been learning in the classroom. Outlining expectations and continuing to make them clear is one thing. Giving them what they need to know in order to carry out their task is key. I can’t be like Miranda Priestly and say, “Bore someone else with your questions.” Also, I’ve been learning to let people know where they stand and how they could improve. That way, I catch their bad habits and failures early and I can hopefully set up win-win situations without resorting to inflating grades, performance evaluations, etc.
Needless to say, I haven’t turned into a teaching saint, become professor of the year, or achieved perfection. Perhaps in the last semester I ever teach college-level English, I’ll have mastered these lessons. In the meantime, I am cultivating the skills that will help me later on in life.