How Did I Get To This Point?

Think of community colleges as the MASH units of higher education. My job is academic triage, meatball education. I have two years to figure out who needs the least work, who can be patched up to make it to Tokyo, who gets a a toe tag. I get students ready to survive academic life (in my case, college-level writing) through the rest of college, and hopefully get them to complete an associate’s degree, transfer to a four-year school, and finish their undergrad degrees.

But god damn, the more time I spend in education, the more I suspect that I should have done something, anything else. And yet I stayed. For over thirty years I stayed. There are of course reasons why I shouldn’t complain, reasons why I should just keep my head down, don’t show up on anyone’s radar, teach my classes, and go home.

If I teach five classes, let’s say two that meet on Monday and Wednesday, and three on Tuesday and Thursday, and each runs for seventy-five minutes, that’s 150 minutes on Monday and Wednesday, 225 minutes on Tuesday and Thursday. Total classroom time, 375 minutes or 6.25 hours. Let’s add the ten hours a week I’m supposed to be in my office (which hardly anyone, especially me, ever adheres to). That’s 16.25 hours a week.

If I’m smart, I can get all my grading (ha!) and class preparation (haha!) done during office hours. And that, dear reader, is my full time gig. So why would I be so stupid and misguided as to examine the dentition of this equine boon? It’s a good question, one I struggle to answer.

Am I just some ungrateful, recalcitrant malcontent? Well, yes, I am. Is it some infantile response to authority? It almost certainly is. Shouldn’t I just shut up and be thankful that I in fact have a job? Well, yes, I should.

Then again, no, I shouldn’t. Sure it’s an easy job. Yes, I’m lucky to have health care and gainful employment that, as a very close longtime friend once put it, is as close to not working as working gets.

Still, there’s just too much wrong with the system not to point it out. As always, it’s the emperor’s new clothes. Everyone acts like nothing’s wrong except for one obnoxious little shit. He knows what he saw, and he’s laughing. And if I’m honest, I’ve always been that obnoxious little shit. Lately though, none of this is so funny.

There’s a bunch of us, you see, who aren’t in this for “the right reasons,” whatever the fuck the right reasons are. Many of us really aren’t teachers. We’re con artists, flim-flammers, charlatans. I hate teaching. I do it. It’s been said I’m even good at it. But it’s not “what I do.” It’s not a benevolent desire to help the community or a noble calling to better people through education.

My job has zero to do with Dangerous Minds, Dead Poets Society, Freedom Writers, Good Will Hunting, or Stand And Deliver. No, I hated it the first second I stepped into the classroom as a graduate teaching assistant in 1987. By my second semester, I’d already stopped caring and knew after the first essay who was likely to get an A and who was likely to fail. It was the B’s and C’s  hadwho to sort themselves out. In truth, that didn’t t take much longer. It’s still this way.

Teaching was never on my radar. I started out as a biology major. I wanted to be a zoologist, a marine biologist, something that would allow me to be around animals. I had a problem though. I couldn’t pass algebra to save my life. To this day I don’t understand why I needed that to go out and tag manatees or great white sharks or water snakes. But it was required for the major, so I was screwed.

I’ve always liked to read and write though. All my electives were in English, philosophy, and history. One day the head of the English department who taught Brit Lit 1 gave me back a paper I’d written on Beowulf, and said, all Carlton smoke and Long Island accent, “You really ought to be a writing person.”  So I became an English major. I graduated cum laude and went straight to grad school.

Soon enough, Masters in hand, I started teaching part time. Still hated it, but I didn’t really have to answer to anyone. I taught my classes, went home, got paid twice a semester, all without someone looking over my shoulder. Overall, teaching took the least time and put me in the path of the fewest authority figures. It made me far less likely to become suicidal or homicidal. This is even more true now given that I’m teaching from home during this pandemic.

Or at least I was. There’s been a push this year to get faculty back on campus, so over the summer I’ll be back to at least a couple of face to face classes. That means I’ll be back to my regular routine. Generally I get to my office five or ten minutes before class starts, which is more than enough time to remind myself what I’m going to talk about for an hour.

The extent of my class prep is a large red-eye from my local coffee joint. There used to be a couple cigarettes involved, but since I had a heart attack at forty-two, I’ve given that up. The point is, I could do this shit in my sleep. It’s not because I’m lazy or trying to avoid some kind of labor. It’s because after three college degrees and two decades in front of the classroom, I know what’s essential and what isn’t, and most of the crap most professors teach isn’t.

And so, here I am.

One thought on “How Did I Get To This Point?

  1. “And so, here I am”. Self noted you are good at what at you do and that is something that is not just self noted I’m sure. Hold onto that. 30 years allows you job well done, something noticed, proved I’m sure on the occasional kid over the years, plus what the hell are you going to do otherwise now? You just keep keeping.

    I think that myself. I’m pretty much fucked on any “new” thing now, though voice work keeps me going, something I need to get more serious of. I just keep treading and pushing off that tall bridge in the distance a little longer.

    Quit the cigarettes a little while ago too, minus the heart attack sorry, though, as you know, I’ve still found a way around it until I haven’t.

    Let’s just do Community College and voice work where it can be found and found horses to get on or off of until their ain’t no more horses.

    Liked by 1 person

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