When you follow your bliss, doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors and where there wouldn't be a door for anyone else -- Joseph Campbell.

Pedagogy? Me?

Hell yes! At the very beginning of this summer, I was approached by a friend at Tunxis Community College with an offer to teach Introduction to Composition. To say that I was positively thrilled would be a heavy understatement. I remember shrieking with joy, jumping on my living room couch and running around the house like a mad woman. Oh, and I also did a little happy chicken dance. And they say teachers are supposed to be mature.

At this point, I have to say that wanting to take ownership of my own classroom has been a dream of mine since I first took Introduction to Literature. Add to that courses like British Literature, Writing of Poetry, Literary Criticism and Women in Art, and its a sure fire formula for a college teacher wannabe. People have asked me numerous times why I wouldn't just work towards my teaching certification and make life easier for myself. A) Because I'm a sucker for punishment - why stop at a teaching certification when there are multiple, more challenging and positively blood sucking degrees to be earned just floating about out there? Also, B) I have trouble accepting inane rules and regulations, and the state board is nothing if not a ball of red tape. Although, I think I happily ignore the red tape involved in higher ed, only because I want to be there, so badly. ( I know I'm going to design a course around Post Colonial Literary Criticism some day. I just know it).

I should get to the point. Thrilled as I was at the prospect of teaching my own course this Fall, there's something to be said for actual classroom experience, which sadly, I have none of, especially from the other side of the desk. So, I've decided to shadow the English department at Tunxis this semester before I fly solo in the Spring, and today was my very first day! I've had a bag full of wonderful teachers, and I've met most of them at lil' ol Tunxis, a college working very hard to be more than a nondescript dot on the higher ed map of CT.

I don't think the complete impact of the fact that I was about to begin teaching hit me until I started driving towards the campus this afternoon. Talk about being torn by mixed emotions. I didn't think it was possible to feel joy, excitement, anticipation, anguish, nervousness and fear all at the same time. Walking on to campus felt strangely ethereal as well. Well, without the smoke and mirrors though. The fact that I was walking up to the classroom as a potential faculty member was a tad bit more than overwhelming. Faculty? Me?

Over time, many faculty and staff members at Tunxis have become good and close friends, but please bear in mind, I've long idolized every person I've taken a class with at this school. And I haven't even added my teachers at Seton Hill to this mix yet. Standing by the courtyard this afternoon while I waited for the class to begin, my only thought was, "all my teachers are now going to be my colleagues."

And then I had to slap myself on the wrist. There's no way I could ever be in the same league as the teachers at Tunxis. I can see myself carving out my own niche in time, but some people will always be in a much higher league of their own. And yet, there's something to be said for the all the people who have unconditional faith in me and my ability to succeed. Not one person I came across today said anything that could have been less than encouraging. For all my nervousness and anxiety, there were people cheering on from the sidelines telling me I'd be great.

And then came the classroom. And the students. And the prospect of talking about writing, and writing well. The "nooks and crannies," the attention to detail, the ability to articulate, to ascribe a method to the madness of floating thoughts, a way to weave in and out of stories that shape writing, and at the most basic level, the need to communicate and express the self. Or an assignment. Whichever comes first. Grasping the opportunity to influence young minds. Or at least teaching them how to "write good."

This was the moment when every bit of the anxiety washed away. I've decided that I'll take whatever comes my way. Whatever, however, in whichever shape, size or form. From grading to meetings to department reports and every little task in between - I'll do it all and I'll love it all. I've come a long way from first learning how to write, to learning how to write well, to tutoring fellow students, and now, I have an honest shot at applying all that I've learned and more. Much, much more.

My Epiphany for the day? I'm going to leave the door open to allow teaching to become the passion and drive I've been searching for, for so long. I absolutely, positively, desperately, ridiculously want teaching to be my "It." I want teaching to be more than a job. I want it to be more than a living. I'd like it to be a calling that wakes me up every morning, filled with boundless energy, impatient to tackle the day ahead of me because it'll come packed full of surprises. Who knows? In another year or two, I just might be applying for a Fulbright.


Anonymous said...

I'm so happy for you. You know you're held in the highest possible esteem at Tunxis and they were likely holding a place open for you while you wandered. Certs? Papers? Rules can always be broken, Neha, and if anyone can do it, you can. Best of luck on the the highway of your journey.

susan @ spinning

neha said...

Thank you, Susan @ Spinning. It's good to hear from you - waiting to hear about your vanishing cloud.

Next semester, you'll have to come sit in on my class!

Gorelets said...

CONGRATULATIONS, Neha! You're a natural for this stuff. Like a blank sheet of paper, the classroom can be a creative and collaborative workspace as much as it is a theater for teaching and I hope it will thrill you and sustain you the way it has me. Keep the faith. -- Mike Arnzen

neha said...

Thanks Dr. A! I can't believe I'm officially on the other side of the first week. It's good to know I've studied with wonderful teachers - I'm bringing a lot into the classroom.

Farrie said...

Hey girl... CONGRATS! This is sooo cool! I bet you're a great teacher and your students will learn so much from you because you always have something interesting to say! Can't wait till you get here. We are sooo gonna partay, plot and chat up a storm! :)

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