Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Heart of Darkness

Oh, Friends of Writing Center Journal, down that path did I go after finishing my MA and my high-school teaching credential, straight into the heart of darkness, directly into . . . retail!

Well, actually, I had worked in a bike shop throughout grad school, so it wasn't a leap to go into that line of work despite the educational path I was pursuing. I knew I'd be heading east before long, and a full-time job with a salary and benefits was hard to pass up.

So there I was, two weeks into my job fixing and selling bicycles in Palo Alto, CA, when someone from Evergreen Valley College in San Jose, CA, called me at work. We have a couple of sections of composition open, he told me, and someone at San Jose State gave me your number.

I just started a new job, I told him, I can't quit now.

We ended our conversation. A few minutes later, the person called back, offering that I could teach a Saturday section so as not to conflict with my day job. But I work here on Saturdays, I told him, it's a bike shop. Still, in those couple of minutes between phone calls, the primary thought that ran through my mind was how ridiculous it was for me to be working in a bike shop when it was teaching that I really wanted to do. In fact, I was a fairly mediocre bike shop service manager, without the passion I had for teaching. I told my Evergreen College contact to give me 24 hours to make up my mind.

That evening, my soon-to-be wife and I weighed the pros and cons of the decision in pencil on a napkin at a local Japanese restaurant. It seemed the biggest reason not to leave the bike shop was my own sense of loyalty and reluctance to tell my boss I was leaving so soon after I had accepted the job. The pros far outweighed the cons, so the next day I called the college back, accepted two sections of first-year composition, gave two weeks notice at the bike shop, picked up a section of basic writing at SJSU, and my 7-year career as an adjunct faculty member (and "freeway flier" in California parlance) had begun.

Teaching three classes at two different colleges while working full-time for two weeks at the bike shop prepared me well for the multi-tasking ahead. I would end up teaching first-year composition, basic writing, creative writing, and business communication at 11 different institutions in three states. I would teach in rural and urban community colleges, in a small all-women's private college, and sprawling urban universities. I would teach in a program for Ford Automotive Technicians, on-site at several nuclear power plants, in a program for learning-disabled adults, and GRE preparation (mostly math, actually). I taught in formats ranging from completely on-line, to contact solely by sending student drafts back and forth via US mail, to workshops for one or two after those students have worked a 12-hour overnight shift. I taught as many as six classes a semester, and the day before I got married, I was sequestered in my basement responding to student writing while my wife and mother-in-law got the house ready for our post-ceremony party. I learned a great deal over that time, developing flexibility as a teacher and a range of skills. I particularly relished opportunities to work with basic writing students and returning adults, both groups often damaged by legacies of tracking, racism, and lost opportunities. I also learned that this life would burn me out as a teacher in a hurry. By the time my wife and I were getting ready to leave Maryland for Boston (where my wife had a faculty position), I was ready to go back to graduate school for the 'ol terminal degree.

Now this narrative might seem like a wide detour from writing center work, but certainly one-to-one tutoring was never far from my mind. I tutored for a couple of different private agencies while living in Maryland, and teaching students at a distance (whether via electronic technologies or the USPS) made me think a great deal about the nature and function of response, a key element of writing center work. But it wouldn't be for another year that writing centers, Stephen North, and WCenter would come calling. All I knew at this time was that I was heading to Boston to start a doctorate in education at Boston University.

And that's where this story continues tomorrow.

Neal Lerner


At 3:17 AM, Blogger tom naka said...

Keep it up. I enjoy your nice blog. check out my red lobster restaurant site. It pretty much covers red lobster restaurant related stuff.

At 11:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too enjoyed your blog. Isn't it interesting how life seems to take us where we hadn't planned? I look forward to hearing your continuing saga tomorrow.

At 7:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

runescape money runescape gold runescape money runescape gold wow power leveling wow powerleveling Warcraft Power Leveling Warcraft PowerLeveling buy runescape gold buy runescape money runescape items runescape gold runescape money runescape accounts runescape gp dofus kamas buy dofus kamas Guild Wars Gold buy Guild Wars Gold lotro gold buy lotro gold lotro gold buy lotro gold lotro gold buy lotro gold runescape money runescape power leveling runescape money runescape gold dofus kamas cheap runescape money cheap runescape gold Hellgate Palladium Hellgate London Palladium Hellgate money Tabula Rasa gold tabula rasa money lotro gold buy lotro gold Tabula Rasa Credit Tabula Rasa Credits Hellgate gold Hellgate London gold dofus kamas buy dofus kamas wow power leveling wow powerleveling Warcraft PowerLeveling Warcraft Power Leveling World of Warcraft PowerLeveling World of Warcraft Power Leveling runescape power leveling runescape powerleveling eve isk eve online isk eve isk eve online isk 血管瘤 肝血管瘤 音乐剧 北京富码电视 富码电视 富码电视台 7天酒店 7天连锁酒店 7天连锁 自清洗过滤器 过滤器 压力开关 压力传感器 流量开关 流量计 液位计 液位开关 温湿度记录仪 风速仪 可燃气体检测仪 宿县最帅的胖子

At 6:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We really love your blog, i haven't seen you keeping the posts in in some time now. Is everything ok. You can reach me here = web traffic@simply pet Thanks Again Rob Dog Crates, Dog Toys ( Dog Supplies & Cat Supplies Pet Store, Dog Collars) Send Traffic Now


Post a Comment

<< Home