I had this idea for a video as soon as the semester started, and I wasn’t standing in front of four new classes of students.
Instead of being depressed, I thought I’d reflect on what I loved about my job and what I’m going to miss about it.
Want to watch me be a weirdo and tell way too many stories about being in the classroom, check out my video about these ten reasons I will miss my job teaching English at UCO.
I loved connecting with my students, sharing stories, jokes, exchanging movies and books and game recommendations, having them learn how to trust me not to judge them or be a stuffy, uppity college professor.
I loved learning from them, about jet mechanics in the air force, about Korean drama and K-pop, about what it’s like to be an underage single mother, about drought and cloud seeding in Oklahoma, about what it’s like to be the eldest of twelve, about what it’s like to come out as gay to unsupportive parents…you name it, a student has told me about it. Written about it.
I’m going to miss teaching them that having their own perspectives is okay, and how to strengthen their own opinions.
Two—Those Aha Moments
When I’m building trust in the classroom, I like to show off. I like to blindside my students with facts or ideas that they’ve not thought of before. Then, I show them the connections and blow their minds. I love their wide-eyed wows and gasps and holy shits. When they tell me, I’ve never thought of that before.
Well, of course not. You’re not taught to look at things the way that I do. That’s why I’m here, to show you how. To jumpstart their critical thinking. To show them that something as stupid as Family Guy can be broken down to reveal the creators’ perspective and support it with connections and evidence.
It’s funny because most people complain about a lack of common sense or common knowledge. Welp, you know what? There is no such thing. Every one learns differently, has different pasts and perspectives, and it’s ridiculous to think that someone else has the same knowledge as you or your family and friends or community.
That’s where I come in. Let me show you what you haven’t thought about seeing yet. And you can show me. And we can expand each other’s minds.
Three—Revisiting the Material
I’ve taught a lot of the same lessons throughout my eight years as an English Professor. That means seeing the material over and over again. Each time I interact with a story or tv episode or article or topic, I find something new to say about it. I love that process. I love how it changes with each set of students, too, because of what they contribute to a class discussion.
Four—Being the Non-Traditional Professor
Y’all. If you don’t know already, I’m this weirdo hippie who likes vampires and violence as much as she likes to spoil people with baked goods. I walk around my classroom barefoot, swear, and show cartoons in class. We talk about so many things that we really shouldn’t. But my students are adults, so I treat them as such, and that allows us to have a good time. An informal time mostly, except when I hand out grades.
Since we have a bit of one-on-one time together, I also stop being that scary professor real fast. I’m there to help them. To REALLY help them, not just get a paycheck. So by the time we’re done with their first draft of their first paper, they’ve learned to ask me questions and laugh at my silliness, and forgive my terrible handwriting.
I’m no gatekeeper. I’m a mentor. So, let’s talk about that elephant in the room and paint him pink.
Five—Showing Off My Skills
When I’m building trust in my students, it’s a bit counterproductive to have the weirdo silly me up there, saying trust me, laugh with me, learn with me, if I don’t show them that I know what I’m doing.
Sometimes, this is simply my reading an assignment that I’ve asked them to do. Sometimes, it’s asking the right questions or having the right response to one of theirs. Sometimes, it’s commenting on something they said that other professors might avoid.
My favorite is when I ask them to write paragraphs about their hometowns, and I use my magic trick to tell them how they feel about home based on what they say about it. Nine out of ten times, I’m right.
I’m not perfect after all.
Thiers and mine.
I love watching my students improve. And most of them do. The ones who do even the barest minimum of work will get better.
And every semester, I have one student who doesn’t think they can do it, but I keep after them, and they keep trying, and they pay attention, and by the end of the semester, I get to tell them how proud I am of them for sticking it out. For improving.
They’re a lot smarter than they give themselves credit for sometimes. Yes, English is scary. Writing is hard. The only way to get better is to keep doing it.
That’s it. No magic advice. Just keep writing.
Then, I also grow with them. On top of them teaching me new things, I am always seeing new ways to offer up advice, to suggest attacking a problem, to get them to understand what I’m asking of them, to make them better writers.
I have to keep practicing, too, to improve.
My classroom, typically about four-to-six weeks in, starts getting loud. If I didn’t have a class full of talkers, by this time, students are starting to get to know each other and me better. By the end of the semester, we have a small roar to contain before class starts with people sharing breakfast, nursing hangovers, and catching up on assignments.
Many of my students make friends in my classes because I make them interact with each other. Group work without the pressure of getting a serious grade on it can help a whole lot. It also means that we get to have more focused lessons and those who may not speak out in front of everybody will talk in a smaller setting.
Even if they don’t make friends in class, they get to build some type of rapport with me.
I also get to keep tabs on some of them after they’ve left my tutelage. The internet and social media help greatly with this. I love seeing them grow up, graduate, get married, have kids, begin careers, and become smart adults. It’s nice to know I had a hand in that, even if only for sixteen weeks.
Eight—Baking Them Treats!
I like to bake, especially when I’m stressed. I also like to experiment. The only way for me not to gain a hundred pounds in this process is to be sure these treats get eaten by someone else.
Give me half a room of football players, and I have no trouble leaving school with an empty baking tray.
Plus, I love to feed the people I care about. And I certainly care about my students. It’s an easy way to show affection.
When I collect finals, we have no test. I simply sit in my office with my husband for four hours and have them drop off their portfolios. Usually with a new batch of treats, too.
This means students will come and linger, talk to us for a couple minutes or a couple hours. Get hugs. Thank me for being cool. Tell me about the other things they’ve started to notice thanks to my class. Offer me a treat in return. (I got some fabulous pumpkin cookies one year, with the recipe!)
They also get to chat with my husband, whom I tell stories about the entire semester because he’s lived a crazy ass life. And he’s more science brained, so those who don’t get to talk to me about that get to talk to him about that.
It’s usually a good time.
I worked with some amazing people. Other teachers who would share war stories and tell me about lessons they were testing and offering opinions amongst each other.
I love to learn, so I love with my colleagues teach me something valuable for life or the classroom.
We also simply have some awesome and ridiculous conversations. I’ve learned about their health, about their degree programs, about their families, about their creative projects, about their favorite books and movies, and so much more.
They’re wonderful people.
My bosses were also pretty darn great people, too. Mentors.
I could ask any of them for advice, and they’d help.
Plus, they let me teach how I wanted to teach.
Well, guys, this was a job I didn’t want to leave. One I resisted leaving for far too long.
I hope that I can find a new job that allows me to be the weirdo that I am.
Let me know in the comments, what your favorite educational experience is: a favorite teacher, lesson, class, student, experience. Anything.