Tag Archives: college

Gig Poster


The rock star poster for my upcoming class! (The class itself WILL include accent marks… I’m guessing maybe the poster font can’t handle it or something? Anywho, that’s the only part that bugs me.)

It always gives me a little thrill when my program director makes these up to hang around town. We’re gonna have FUN!

Also, I took Hank (4 years old) with me to pick up my materials from the college yesterday. I got him a honey bun and a soda (BIG special treat for our family) from the vending machines in the building where my classroom is, since he was a real trooper about climbing to the top floor to find the room with me. (He was impressed with the size of it, and found it quite space age when I let him push the buttons that make the movie screen come down out of the ceiling.)

Later on at home, he was talking to a neighbor kid who had come over to play and said something about “when we were at my Mama’s work.” It’s been a long time since one of my kids has used that phrase. Another little thrill.

They are adding up.

Finding my niche

Leave it to me to take a humble little molehill and dream of it growing into an amazing mountain.

I found out yesterday that my molehill did get a little bigger. I’d previously learned that I would be teaching a 3 hour budgeting class at a local DSS office for clients applying for cash assistance. Two classes, actually, one in English and one in Spanish.

Now I’ve learned that we finally made our minimum enrollment on a beginning Spanish conversation class through the continuing education department at the community college that is contracting me to teach the budgeting class. This is the third semester my class has been in the schedule, but the first time there’s been enough interest.

Let the good times roll!

I’ve always wanted to teach, and I’ve struggled for years with the idea of getting my teaching license and working at a high school. Because here’s the thing: I hate grades. I hate red tape, I hate mandatory testing, I hate all that extraneous garbage that wastes valuable time we could be spending working with words.

And with continuing education classes? No grades! No one is forced to take the class for their major or to graduate. There doesn’t have to be any testing at all. Every activity, worksheet, homework assignment, every last little thing we study is simply for the benefit of the student. Does that not sound like an educator’s dream come true?

Now granted, the budgeting classes have a mandatory element to them. All the folks in there are being required by the government to learn some pointers on how to handle money. And really, we can all learn more. Even once you have enough income and know how to manage it perfectly, you can then move on to investment information and things of that nature. There is always more to learn.

I want the class to feel like a seminar where they can gain valuable information to make important changes in their lives that will enable them to achieve their goals. Right out of the gate we are going to list our priorities, our habits and our goals, because you know what? I’ve been in survival mode. I’m not that far from it right this minute. And in that headspace it’s really hard to see the big picture. I want to take them to a safe place for a few minutes where they step back and think, oh yeah, I have choices, which choices am I making right now? What do I want from life? What habits have I picked up that are keeping me from it? What habits can I cultivate that will get me where I want to be?

I have high hopes, I know.

I have higher hopes for the Spanish conversation class. When I taught beginning French at the University of Oregon, almost every student was only in there because they needed two years of a foreign language to get their B.A., and all the Spanish classes were full. Bleh. Only a few students were really into learning the French language, or any foreign language.

But in this continuing ed class? Every student wants to be there for some reason. Hooray!!! I will make them super glad they took the leap. We are going to have fun and we are going to build a solid foundation for fluency in Spanish, and not even have to slog through much grammar to get there! (Unless they want to wallow around in the grammar for a while, because, being a word nerd, I’m all about the wallowing. Love me some delicious words squished between my toes!)

So is this my niche? I can come up with lesson plans, activity ideas, vocabulary lists, for HOURS and never feel like I’ve done a lick of work. In fact I savor such activities as recreation time! Can I rock these classes and get the word out, and become some kind of alternative teacher? Someone who makes the material engaging, relevant, alive? An instructor who draws you in so that you, too, feel like you’re playing, and you don’t even realize you’ve *gasp* learned something?

I know when I’m tutoring (which also involves no grades or tests or any other sorts of torture devices in order to address the subject at hand), I always walk away having been paid by the parent, and I think, wow, I get paid too? Because I LOVE it. I would do it for free, but I also like for my kids to eat, so I’m gonna take the pay and feel like absolutely the luckiest person in the world!

But okay, first things first. Dreams of a continuing ed dynasty of students in love with learning will have to just sit and brew. For now I have to make these assignments I’ve been given sparkle. I’ve got to do all my research. I’ve got to be fully prepared, and then some, to give all my passion and enthusiasm so that it becomes contagious and people are excited about things like managing finances that they had always thought was something hideously awful (guilty!).

Wish me luck.

Master of My Own Destiny

It must be because the huge cultural extravaganza known as “Back to School” is banging on the front door, but I return again to the ghost that haunts me — the Master’s degree.

As teenagers we were assured that you can’t make it in life without a high school diploma. Check. When I quit college at 20, I was warned that I’ve never make it without a Bachelor’s degree. I went back to college at 32, a single mom with three kids, and rocked it, graduating summa cum laude with departmental honors.

Has this piece of paper earned me any respect or validation? No. Tens of thousands of dollars of debt later, those in a position to hire still smile politely and roundfile my application as soon as my back is turned to leave the office. The new base standard is the almighty Master’s degree (cue angelic choir.)

I almost finished one in 2007. I could choose the path of regret, but I refuse. I hated my program and was only in it because I loved every minute of the accompanying opportunity to teach as a graduate fellow. I was marrying that man for his money.

And I still want to teach. My passion for language and deep desire to share it with others is the only reason I keep revisiting this unpleasant topic of validation-by-paper.

That crossroads is still there — to go further down the path of institutionalization, or just once and for all to jump outside the box and run.

The lure of respect, retirement, health care, all the fancy must-have perks of working in the system sing their siren songs beneath a banner embossed in gold leaf with my name, followed by venerable capital letters which would brand me as belonging to the Worthy Herd.

But the other path, that “road less traveled,” where could it possibly lead? How would a person walk it, and how would you know when you got somewhere?

I think the only way to arrive at a comparable level of respect and validation along an alternate path is celebrity by fame or huge accomplishment. Write a well-received book, found a successful institution, develop a new theory or become otherwise positively renowned and they will throw their honorary diplomas at you like confetti. And at that moment, rather than hungrily grab at them, you would smile a bit and half-interestedly watch them fall.

And if this path never leads to respect or validation by those who dwell in an office wallpapered with credentials? If the journey is never more than a humble scraping by?

Perhaps the most essential question is — how can I become one of them, participating in and advocating for a bloated, self-important system whose stranglehold on the job market might not reflect a legitimate need for more and more education but might simply reveal the epidemic of greed for tuition dollars?

But the most vital question for me personally is, shouldn’t I be willing to make any compromise rather than take the risk that I’ll never teach again?