Monday, July 18, 2016

Teacher, Teach Thyself

I am coming to the end of teaching my first term in an online graduate English program. Teaching creative writing at the college level was one of the big goals I had after completing my MFA in June of 2015. I was thrilled when I was offered the position and have mostly been thrilled with the work. It's a ten week course and the satisfaction I get from seeing students really take their writing to new levels surpasses what I expected by a lot.

There's been a pretty steep learning curve for me this first term. Grading. Oh, my God, the grading! If you've ever heard a teacher complain about grading, please know everything they're saying is true. It's awful. Terrible. Horrendous. I enjoy reading the short stories my students are working on and giving them feedback, but having to quantify it is crazy hard! We have rubrics and forms and all kinds of things to help us, but it's still hard.

Then there's the balancing the teaching and my own writing. I'm still trying to figure out the right way to balance things out. I like to write every week day. It keeps the wheels turning more smoothly for me. But if I have what we academics refer to as a sh*t ton of grading to do, it can take several solid days. Do I break it up into bits and go back and forth? Do all of one then all of the other? Then there's the transition thing, moving from one set of tasks to the other. I've never been great at that and I don't seem to be getting better with age.

Also there's the too much time in my own head thing. Between writing and teaching online, days and days would go by when I'd only talk to the cat. He's nearly 18 years old and cranky and even less of a conversationalist than he was as a kitten unless the topic has to do with his food or his litter box. By the end of the week, I'd be a little wifty. I've learned to set up a coffee date or two for each week to keep me from wearing aluminum foil hats or making the cat attend tea parties with my sons' old action figures.

I sort of expected all those things, though. I knew I'd have to figure out new schedules and learn new skills. I didn't expect how differently it would make me look at my own writing. Taking what I do and breaking it down into component parts and explaining how to put it all back together again has been fascinating. As I work on my current WIP, I can feel how much it's changing how I approach the page. By the end of this term, I think I will have all my students punctuating dialogue correctly and they will at least all know the basic components of what makes a good story. I will, however, have learned much more.

No comments: