Tuesday, October 9, 2012

blip journal; the progress of a NYC writer WORK and LIFE

Odilia Rivera-Santos

Mulling over the work of us writers and the various gigs we do in order to keep afloat, I began to think about my teaching experience. I am a high-energy enthusiastic person by nature and found myself wondering whether to dampen my enthusiasm to match that of many of my students.

Some writers are satisfied with the full-time university position; holed-up in an office, watching seasons change through the window facing the campus of the bubble.
There is a lot of sitting at that gig. A professional holding-in of opinions and questions and lots of tiptoeing. Connections are tenuous and promotions much coveted.
Improvised lessons become standardized ones with graphs, charts,modules, and grading is a special kind of negotiation. As an adjunct, I enjoyed working with the motivated students regardless of their knowledge base and became very bored with the student who expected the teaching professional to convince him or her of the necessity of a college degree.

Does college matter?
I will always believe it is important to read seminal texts, which have influenced public policy, thought,notions of love, duty to the culture in which one lives, human potential and motivation, human progress, humanism, etc.
College isn't necessary to learn these things -- you could go online, print out the syllabi of liberal arts courses at a great college and start a discussion group at a coffee shop. However, for most people, this is not feasible because most lack the discipline to read the WHOLE book, organize a group of busy people and stick to a schedule.

Maybe, you need college to not need college. College does offer a rigid structure, unless you go to a hippy-discover-your-desk-when-you're-ready college. Deadlines, lists of questions, a focus so you follow the thread of a thought within a text to see where it leads your own mind as well as where it might lead those whose opinions and ethnic/socioeconomic backgrounds differ from one's own.

Studying is something to do for a lifetime because a brain must labor in order to function properly. For me, there is a great profound spiritual joy in problem solving and discovery.
The only way I am willing to teach adults is in a workshop setting in which everyone is certain of wanting to be there. Unmotivated people need therapy, not college.
A lack of excitement about life and its possibilities is a spiritual problem, not an academic one. While working with college students, I discovered their lack of drive was due to untended wounds -- some of my students had come out of the Foster Care system as a prisoner leaves prison: without a home to go to or money or emotional support and a small bag of belongings to constitute one's existence.
A semester of positive psychology infused writing courses might help.

For those who enjoy being teacher, cheerleader, advocate, negotiator and counselor, public universities offer endless opportunities. For those who would love to focus on a text and conversations relating to the text, it might be little bit tougher.

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