As a teacher, this semester has been rough for me. I’m dealing with heavy absences, students who don’t turn in assignments, students talking or putting their heads on their desks in class, and other generally disrespectful attitudes. I’ve left class frustrated many days, wondering why I bother. It’s way too early in my career for me to already be questioning my choice. However, I guess it’s better that I realize now that just because I’m passionate about English and teaching gives me joy, being a teacher can very often be exhausting and despairing. Like so many other worthy avenues in life, I must take the good with the bad.
Some days, however, I get the validation I need to keep going…to keep grading poorly written papers, to keep lecturing even when no one seems to be paying attention, to keep pursuing the education I need to teach more classes.
Dr. Sepko had asked me at the beginning of the week to substitute for her advanced grammar class. After the first class yesterday morning was over, I was gathering my papers to head to the next grammar class. One of my students from last semester walked into the classroom; his next class was in the same room I had just finished teaching in. I greeted him and then walked out the door to the next classroom, and a few minutes later, I saw my former student standing at the door. I went out to talk to him, and the conversation went something like this:
Student: “So how many classes do you teach?”
Me: “Just the one–your class–1300.”
S: (crestfallen look) “Oh. That’s all?”
Me: “Yeah. I’m just substituting for advanced grammar today. But I only teaching the Fundamentals of Writing class.”
S: “Oh.” (walking away)
Me: “When I finish my Master’s, I’ll be able to teach more.”
S: “When will that be?”
Me: “Two more years.”
S: “Oh.” (walking away, disappointed)
Okay, so maybe you picked up on it, maybe you didn’t. He wanted to take more of my classes! He enjoyed my class and learned a lot! He misses my instruction! (I’m sure it’s all of that.) It definitely brightened my day. While most of my students this semester might not appreciate me at all, I’ve already influenced some students (for the better, it seems).
And another signpost: I substituted for 2 advanced grammar classes yesterday (which I’ve already mentioned). This entailed me passing out study guides and answering a lot of questions from students who are wading through an analysis of phrases and clauses. From all my years of tutoring for this class, I know that this section is the hardest for most students. Students who found nouns and adjectives to be difficult find dependent clauses and relative pronouns to be the stuff of nightmares. But when students call me over to their desks to check the work that they’re doing, and when they get excited that they found the relative clause and figured out that the clause is functioning as an adjective, it makes me excited to see that they’re learning. I’m delighted when they ask about my schedule in the writing center so they can come for more tutoring.
I want to keep doing this. I want to be wrapped in the world of academia forever. I want to analyze sentence structure and talk about symbolism in works of literature and figure out why writers use certain narrative structures. I love English. And I thank God for the days when He shows me that my passion and talents are intertwined, and He reveals to me that I’m on the right path.