Project Thankful: Reason #221

Because I am a Teaching Assistant (TA), I have to take the required course that all TAs take.  As part of this course, the instructors emailed us an assignment to complete before Orientation.

The assignment is a reflection where we have to think about a teacher or an experience in a classroom that influenced us as students in either college or high school and which might also influence us as teachers.  The instructors asked us to end the reflection by thinking about how these experiences might influence our roles in the classroom, our teaching goals, and our interactions with students.  When I first read the assignment description, I didn’t know what to write.  At first, the assignment sounded like the instructors wanted us to write about someone or something from either high school or college that inspired us to pursue teaching.  Yet upon re-reading the assignment, I better understand what the instructors are looking for.  They want us to reflect when we were student writers and to think about a person or an experience that influenced us and perhaps influenced our interest in teaching.  And so, here is what I have been throwing around so far:

I’m a shy person.  In high school, I was at my peak shyness.  I was afraid to express my thoughts out loud, to participate in class discussions unless called on by the teacher.  More than that, I was afraid that my ideas, my literary interpretations, did not measure up; I would wait with intense anxiety to receive a graded essay, praying that the teacher would give me a passing grade.

In college, that anxiety continued as I tacked assignments with a looming uncertainty regarding how they would be graded.  During my second year of college, I took a course entitled Recent American Fiction with a professor whose reviews on “Rate My Professor” indicated that she was a tough grader.  As the course progressed, however, I found the professor was less a tough grader and more a gentle facilitator of discussion.  She was more concerned with what ideas her students had about the text instead of if they had a fully, grammatically correct paper.

One of the texts I read as part of the course was Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl, an electronic retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  I had always been interested in monstrous literature, but my classmates in high school did not share my interest in monsters; I quickly learned that openly expressing an interest in monstrous literature would garner alienating stares, the result of which caused me to keep my interest in the genre quiet.  Yet, here I was in a college classroom, being required to read a text that coincided with my interest.  I wrote a paper exploring the idea of self through monstrosity in Patchwork Girl which not only received an “A” but acceptance into a conference.

Taking that class and writing that essay allowed me to more openly explore my areas of interest.  When it came time to write my Honors Thesis, my thesis mentor, having had me in his English Ghost Story course, understood my interest in monstrous literature and encouraged me to pursue a topic on that.  So, what did I write about?  Vampires, of course.

Investigating a popular culture topic through an academic lens abated my previous anxiety regarding being a student writer.  More than encouraging my ideas, my thesis mentor created an environment that was both nurturing to my ideas as well as accepting of my growth as a writer; growth that included several different drafts and at times irrelevant and erroneous ideas.  What my thesis mentor, and my Recent American Fiction professor for that matter, did not do: make me feel like my ideas were inadequate.

When I graduated from college, I entered into the Education field where I was taught by a different type of instructor: students.  Working with students, I was reminded of my college experiences as a student writer.  Students might not want to talk in the classroom, but they do want to be listened to.  As a student writer, I wanted my teachers to hear what I was interested in; I was lucky enough to have professors who did just that and were able to steer me in a direction where I took those interests and elevated them to an academic level.  As a teacher, I want my students to share what they’re interested in; to do so, it is always my goal to get to know my students.  More importantly, I want to foster an environment in my classroom where students are comfortable expressing their ideas and consequently become more critical thinkers.

What do you think?  Would you say I completed the assignment? (I said the anxiety about being graded had abated, not disappeared)




Refusing to be a Benchwarmer

I refuse to be a benchwarmer.

I refuse to engage in bench warming behavior as it pertains to my career, my relationships, and my personal life.

In other words, I refuse to hold myself back.

A benchwarmer is someone who holds a spot for someone while that someone is off somewhere.  A benchwarmer agrees to be said benchwarmer through a verbal agreement between the benchwarmer and other, second person whereby the other person asks/tells the benchwarmer to “Watch/Hold my seat” while they go off for an indeterminate amount of time, only to return at their convenience.

I used to be a benchwarmer.  I didn’t move forward with my career because I thought what would come by moving forward from where I was at in my career would make me lose my seat, make me lose any opportunity whatsoever to have a career or that any move from where I was at in my career wouldn’t end up being a move forward; rather, it would just be a different spot in the same row.  I was also a benchwarmer when it came to relationships.  I’d meet someone, we’d date, but then they would tell me, either directly or indirectly, that “It’s just not a good time right now (fill in the blank with any number of “reasons” aka excuses).”  So, I would enter in a benchwarmer relationship where I would allow myself to hold a spot for this person in my life, believing that they would eventually come back to take their seat next to me.  Finally, I would be a benchwarmer when it came to my personal life because I would allow things to remain as they were when it came to my family, my friends, my habits, my hobbies, etc.

Do you know what kind of a life a benchwarmer has?  A stagnant one.  Just like stagnant water, a benchwarmer can only attract one thing: mosquitoes.

Nothing good comes out of being a benchwarmer.  Because when you’re a benchwarmer, all you do is wait, and you end up missing a lot of the action.


New Habits – Project Thankful: Reason #220

Today, I signed into my email accounts to check my mail. Judging from the numbers of new emails I saw in my inboxes, I would say I haven’t checked my email in a few days.

This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed I haven’t checked my mail in a while. Every week, I seem to be disconnecting from email earlier and earlier. At first, it was on Saturdays; I would not check my email the following day (Sundays), but I would resume my checking emails again on Mondays. Then Saturdays became Fridays. And now, Fridays are bordering on Thursdays.

Don’t get me wrong. I have the “Mail” app on my phone synced to the primary email address I give for my work and school, and I check that quite a bit. The other accounts, however, I do not check as much. And I’m good with that.

When did this new habit of checking email less often, of being less concerned if the world is going to end if I do not sign into this account or that account to see if *gasp* someone sent me a coupon for 15% this weekend only?  I was looking over past “Project Thankful” postings, and I think my more relaxed attitude about email might just have something to do with this writing project.  Because the people and things I am most thankful for, the things that inspire me to write these posts, aren’t found in emails or inboxes or on the Internet.  They are found in a time and space know as Life, something that has existed before computers and Internet and even cell phones.  And Life?  Well, it will continue no matter how many emails I get.

Project Thankful: Reason #219

As much as I’m going to miss my family, I’m thankful to be moving out. It’s time. Crazy, chaotic, and at times overwhelming, moving out feels right. It feels like I’m where Life wants me to be.

Usually when I have these moments of “I’m at one with the Universe,” it means change is coming. Which in this case, seems pretty obvious. I’m about to start graduate school as well as teach, not to mention moving to a different state. But the change that usually comes with these very meditative moments is the type of change that causes me a have giant light bulbs go on over my head.

These are the moments when inspiration hits.

Project Thankful: Reason #218

Today, I realized something: I am an emotional hoarder.

I’m in the process of boxing up my room in preparation for moving out. One of the areas I tackled was the storage under my bed, or what I would call where things go to slowly fade into dust. I came across shoes, office supplies, old college papers, really old stories I started and never finished, and the birthday reminders. Homemade birthday signs and birthday cards from previous years I collected because the sentiment behind them was too overwhelming to prevent me from throwing them away.

Yet, here I was, faced with a trash bag and the knowledge that I need to empty my bedroom. I needed to let go.

I guess my holding onto the birthday mementos was my way of holding onto people. I was afraid that if I threw the birthday articles away, then I would be throwing away the sentiments and gestures behind them. I was afraid of symbolically throwing away my relationships with loved ones, of not having anything to remind me of them.

Fear is a heavy burden to carry and an even heavier burden to put down. But it’s only when fear is released, when one lets go of the thing they fear, that fear is no longer fear; rather, it becomes a blip in the past, a point the story the individual moved past.

Project Thankful: Reason #217

When life steers you in a direction you didn’t want, your first instinct is probably something similar to shaking your fist at the sky, demanding why life can really suck sometimes. I know that’s what happened to me with graduate school and the particular program I ended up accepting. It’s a wonderful program, and I’m grateful for the opportunity. Just at the time, I wasn’t quite so happy that I would be entering into a MA program and not a PhD program.

I was adamant the PhD was the program for me. I felt I knew without a doubt that I wanted to get my PhD, and so the PhD would be the logical program of choice. The PhD was the path I wanted to take.

In the end, I chose to enroll in a MA program. The particular school I chose offered me the best deal for my graduate education. Now, I look at the decision, and I’m glad life has steered me in the direction of a MA program because I’m not actually certain that I want a PhD. I don’t know if the PhD is right for me or if that’s the path I even want to take.

The MA is a two year program. A lot can happen in two years.