Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Teaching Philosophy

This appeared in the semi-academic journal Writing On The Edge: On Writing and Teaching Writing, Volume 26, Number 1, Fall 2015.

Teaching Philosophy

what am I doing here?
this interview-slash-teaching demo
in a dress shirt
tie (ack!)
and shoes
my hair pulled back in a ponytail
(at least my tattoos aren't visible)
the dancing monkey
and for
the Committee

how did I even make it this far
to the final ten or twelve?
they want a rhetorician
but I'm not even a sophist—
a poet

they want me to pretend to profess
to talk a lot about comp theory
when in my classes
I don't talk hardly at all—
just to get things going
to ask questions
to show my students that asking questions
is ok
being curious the best way to learn—
the only way

the Committee
wants to know
if I'll be active on committees
in addition to teaching five classes a week
and grading five classes' worth of essays
on my weekends
so I lie and say yes
that I would love that opportunity

the Committee wants
to know
if I am willing to teach so-called
developmental writing students—
as if that were a punishment
or a burden—
before passing upward
to teaching 'argumentative' essays
and being able to spot misplaced periods in students' Works Cited pages
and I don't have to lie on that one
though I don't tell them that
my developmental students write poetry
every class
and actually know what it is
to enjoy writing

what am I doing here?
I should be in a fire lookout tower
on a mountain
in the desert
and watching the sun set
picking my nose
but I do enjoy teaching
I do enjoy being in the classroom
watching writing happen
watching students gain confidence
it's just that the Committee
wants to know
what I think teaching is
or rather
wants to know
that what I think teaching is
is what they think teaching is
and I just don't know—
teaching seems to me being a guide
providing a welcome community
where people can sit down and write
and write some more
and revise
and maybe revise again
because writing is a process
not a thing you do the night before something is due
and not a thing
where you start with a thesis statement
and an outline
and bullshit from there

but what do I know?
I still think college is a place one goes
to become a better person
and even most of my students
would laugh at that
and say it's to get a job
and with no middle class jobs anywhere—
and no middle class—
who can blame them?
and who can blame the Committee
for wanting to go along with the business model
for school

I can
I can blame them—
won't do any good
but casting blame feels good
everyone knows that

so I don't know
what am I doing here?
I should be hiking in the Grand Canyon
or just sitting in a café
in Portland
sipping green tea
and watching the women in black tights
and writing

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