I'm Still Trying to Figure It Out

You may recall that I graduated with a Masters degree in English language and literature a couple of years ago.  I spent a few months luxuriating in the freedom that comes with the knowledge that the last paper has been turned in and no one will be placing an eight-page syllabus in your hand anytime soon.  I celebrated by reading whatever I wanted.  Strangely, I sometimes wanted books on theory or even the occasional classic.  Mostly, though, I read the type of books I had read before I started my program.  I read science fiction and fantasy, romances, suspense, and horror.

I also tried to find my writing voice, the one that wasn't concerned with sounding smart but with good storytelling.  It was a struggle.  Years of academic writing seemed to have obliterated my creativity.  Everything I wrote seemed stilted and dry.  Boring.  Pointless.  I began to fear I had traded my creative voice for an education, and that the trade-off might not have been worth the price. 

So I turned my attention to teaching. I had this fancy degree (not as fancy as a Ph.D., mind you, but certainly something more substantial than a bachelors) that said I knew a little something about English.  I had studied composition and rhetoric and felt ready to tackle comp/rhet courses at a local community college or university.  I sent out CVs (an academic resume) and cover letters stating as much.  Eventually, I got an interview at a not-at-all-local community college and was offered a first year composition course.  

I taught that class last fall and it was a great learning experience for me.  I found there were things I enjoyed and things I did not.  Classroom discussions were great but only when the students had actually managed to complete their assigned readings.  On those days when it seemed no one had even attempted the short stories or essays we were meant to cover during our three hour class meeting, I was irritated and uncertain of how to proceed.  I learned, though, what to do when my students didn't come to class prepared.  We spent more time on grammar.  I created groups and assigned each a different essay and tasked them with creating talking points. We would move to the computer lab and write. 

It was an adventure and one I'm glad I had.  However, there were drawbacks that seemed to outweigh the benefits.  I enjoy teaching and I want to do more of it, but I don't want to miss important events in my kids' lives because of it.  If teaching were my only job, I could accept positions during the hours when the boys are in school and do my prep and grading in the hours between my classes and the kids' arrival home.  That's not my life, though.  Teaching is something I do "on the side" because I have a good paying day job with benefits.  Leaving it for the classroom would be a ridiculous move financially, and, Heaven knows, I've always done the practical thing when it comes to helping support the family.  

Teaching as an adjunct (part-time) instructor is still appealing as long as the course fits into my schedule and doesn't conflict with my kids' needs.  I won't miss an entire season of games ever again.  The boys will eventually graduate high school and their sports schedules will disappear with the arrival of that diploma.  It's then that I foresee more flexibility in my schedule. 

There is some risk in taking time off from teaching.  It's a gap in the resume that may scare off a prospective employer.  I may never even make it to the interview because of it.  I'm fully aware of this and trust that whatever happens was meant to be.  

I'm hoping, though, that my latest gambit will help bridge the gap.  A friend of mine mentioned that the community education program in her area was looking for instructors and suggested that I reach out to the community education program near me.  I did, and I'm glad I took the risk.  It seems I might be able to teach a couple of creative writing courses in the near future, perhaps even as early as July.  I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am by this.  I've dreamed of teaching a creative writing course.  I've often wanted to work with young adults or even children interested in writing.  The community education program may very well give me an opportunity to do both.  

The first course I proposed is a novel writing course intended for adults who have always wanted to write but haven't yet.  I intend to give them some tools to help them create characters and plan their plots. I hope to leave them with a beginning already written and a middle and end that they can envision. 

The second course, which I'm still working on, is intended for children ages 8 - 13.  This one is trickier, but I've been tossing around the idea of having them work on short stories in a shared universe of their picking.  I'd like to give them a published product, which means I need to do some more investigative work with local printers.  At first, I considered using Smashwords and generating an e-book.  The more I thought about it, though, the more complicated it became.  Parental permissions, internet accessibility, e-readers...the list goes on.  As I said, it's still a work-in-progress, but I'm hoping to have a reasonable plan of attack by the week's end. 

As I said, I'm still trying to figure it all out. 


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