Ruminations of a Red Dirt Hussy

December 18, 2011

If I could just stay on the porch

Filed under: Blogroll,Writing — Vadasmaker @ 6:14 pm
Tags: ,

Every semester, I stand before a class of freshmen, and I can’t say who’s more frightened. I’m sure they look at me with every bit as much trepidation as I do them, and maybe more. After all, I have the grade book, and for many, my class is the first of their college careers. For more than a few, it is one of the most dreaded—freshman composition. The syllabus might as well say Introduction to Drawing and Quartering or Beheading 101.

I didn’t set out to teach, but once you’ve got a master’s degree in English, what are you gonna do? Once the idea was presented to me, I liked it a lot, and I knew that if I did teach, I wanted to do it in the same community college where I started. And I had big ideas. I wanted to change lives the way others—almost always teachers—had changed mine.

While I’ve had a few success—and by success I mean a student I taught actually learned what I was trying to teach—I doubt that I’ve changed any lives. Still, I haven’t given up the hope that I might.

One of the first things I impress upon my students is that I’m pretty much a one trick pony. I can write. Period. I’ve proven time and again that I’m geographically retarded as well as mathematically and scientifically challenged. It’s harder to convince them of this than you might think. So I tell them about blowing myself off the front porch.

Fifteen or twenty years ago, before charcoal became a carcinogen, I was trying to get a fire going on the grill. Rain was on the way, so I placed the grill on the porch. The measly fire I’d started went out—again—so I poured about half a container of starter fluid all over the charcoal, closed the lid and the vent on the lid, and waited a few minutes. When I thought the fluid had done its job, I opened the vent and dropped a match in.

Well, people, let’s just say it was ugly. Ugly, ugly, ugly. I narrowly missed a crepe myrtle and ended up on the gravel driveway. It wasn’t very far, but I’ll tell you for a dead-dog certainty that being blown any distance by—what do you call it? Combustion? Stupidity?—is scary.

In addition to telling them how deficient I am in multiple areas, I am sure to let them know that however hard writing may be for them, the fact that I can do it does not make me in any way superior to them, and that their proficiencies are every bit as important as my one ability. I’m continually amazed at the talent surrounding me in a classroom—young people for whom math, science, the secret workings of cars and computers and bodies are no mystery. They understand myriad concepts and processes that give me a headache to think about. I admire them for their accomplishments, however undeveloped their writing ability may be.

Yeah, I know. Everyone needs to be able to communicate orally and in writing, and I often work hundred-hour weeks to see that my students do so. However, there are days when you just need somebody to keep you from blowing yourself off the freaking porch.

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4 Comments »

  1. I’m going to send this link to my daughter. She cursed Frank Keating nearly every day of college for all the extra hours she had to spend in college math and science classes just because of his mandate. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard “I don’t make him speak fluent German and Japanese like I can. Why should he make me take college algebra and biology until my brain hurts. We all have gifts. Math and science aren’t mine.” I know she’ll appreciate what you have to say here, and since she had a jerk for her first freshman comp class, she’ll wish she had had you for a teacher too, so she and the other 63% of the class wouldn’t have had to drop out of the class midway in the semester and lose tuition money. Keep it up, Carol–you’re an important component in this world! Even if you do get blown off the porch once in a while.

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    Comment by Left-Brained Business for Write-Brained People — December 19, 2011 @ 10:22 am | Reply

  2. You’re lucky you weren’t a dead dog, but it’s lucky for me that you’re still around to teach Comp I, and you know why. I was so intimidated that you nearly made me cry the first day in the writing lab, but if you’d told me the porch story I would have laughed until I cried, like I did just now. Your doubts may be a poor barometer for whether or not you’re changing lives.

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    Comment by Michelle — December 19, 2011 @ 1:04 pm | Reply

  3. […] realized is that obeying traffic rules and wearing a helmet would not help me a bit as long as stuff like that kept happening to me (see how I took the blame off me? I know, right?). And if there is one thing I […]

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    Pingback by How to avoid becoming Asphalt Butter « Ruminations of a Red Dirt Hussy — March 15, 2012 @ 6:30 pm | Reply


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