Saturday, October 29, 2016

Back in front of the classroom

For almost five years, economic necessity and family responsibilities made it impossible for me to teach, even part time. Long enough that I almost forgot why I wanted to do it. But this semester I got the chance to teach two sections at Mercy College's Bronx campus, and despite typical adjunct pay, a two-hour commute, and a class at 8:30 on Friday morning, I am loving it.

First of all, I quite like Mercy as an organization. They make a real effort to make adjuncts feel like members of the faculty. I mean, we don't get offices or anything, but we were part of the new faculty orientation, we are invited to all faculty events, etc. But more important, Mercy's mission is to provide higher education to underserved groups, particularly women of color, and while its marketing makes the school out to be very practical and career-focused, the truth is they work hard to sneak in a taste of a liberal arts education while preparing students for the job market. Mercy's students are 70% women (mine are more like 85%), and anecdotally, having fewer men seems to dramatically improve to quality and diversity of discourse. I had one section while a TA that was all women, and I think it was the only one I've ever had where everyone participated in discussion. I'm seeing much the same thing at Mercy, where classes are mercifully (heh) small enough to allow for group discussion. (The classes are also 1 day/week for 3 hours, so if I had to lecture the whole time I would pull something.) I don't want to come off like some white savior trope from a bad '80s movie (where I sit backwards on my chair, "get real," and teach them to believe in themselves through study montages and hip-hop dance numbers), but I do feel like I can make more of a difference at Mercy than I could at a school with a more privileged student population.

Anyway, it's also academic job-hunting season, and I've been spending a lot of time writing cover letters and teaching statements, in which I go on about how much I get from my students and what they mean to me, and I realized it was stupid to be saying this to strangers who probably aren't going to hire me anyway, and not directly to my students. So I did just that ("I swear, I'm not drunk...") They were amused, although I don't think it inspired anybody to study any harder for the midterm.

Although truth be told, I do feel a little drunk after teaching. It leaves me with a euphoria that I only otherwise encounter when singing. Maybe I just like an audience, but it genuinely changes how I feel about everything when I have a student tell me how much they love the class, or when I see the lights go on and they make a connection that goes beyond what they've been taught. I can't imagine doing anything else, which means I am kind of doomed. I love teaching too much to hold out for what my intellectual labor is worth, which means I am the perfect prey for the contingent-faculty monster.

My work is done here

The top search term leading to this blog is "drunken Noah." *micdrop*