Friday, October 20, 2006


My first week as an English professor was fun, enlightening, and tiring. It looks like I'll have six students altogether. They're all adult students and they're all trying to better themselves, so I have received good reactions to assignments, class participation, etc.

The fun part, though, is the teaching! Tuesday night, I introduced the course and did a little writing exercise with the students. I asked each of them to write a sentence that described their favorite food. Afterward, I took up the sentences and we all had fun suggesting ways to make the sentences better. Then, I gave them a writing assignment and sent them home. The assignment was based on a Langston Hughes essay titled Salvation. It was about him going tot a revival meeting with his aunt when he was 12 years old. It was something of a rite of passage. So, I told my students to read the essay then write a 5-7 sentence paragraph about a change that had occurred in their lives for good or bad.

I got the responses back last night. I skimmed them briefly. One was from a young man whose mother had made him a ward of the state of Hawaii. Another was from a woman who had been through an awful divorce. They were stories they needed to tell.

Last night, I started the class by reading a narrative essay titled Brothers. It was about a man and his brother, how they grew up, grew together, apart, away, etc. We looked for changes that happened as the story progressed then talked about how to make transitions in our own writing. It was tough getting them to see the transitions and changes, but we all learned something.

The last half of class, we looked at writing as a process: prewriting, drafting, revision, editing/proofreading, and publication.

I taught and watched as they finally understood that writing was more thatn putting words to paper. It was cool.

Then, I gave them an assignment to write 3 paragraphs based on a reading about a woman finding her Cherokee heritage.

I told them to write the introduction about their family (member(s) or whole). The body was to be written as an explanation of how their family introduced their heritage. The conclusion is for them,so they can talk about how they plan to carry on that heritage.

I wonder what they young man who was given to Hawaii will write about. I wonder if they know their heritage. Perhaps they'll discover it if they don't. Watching grown people grow is miraculous.


Brewster said...

That sounds fun sip. Students who are interested in the subject. Wow, my wife would be impressed. She constantly complains about her dumb students and their lack of interest in anything.

bigsip said...

I'm trying my best to make this important to them.

I have them write personal things so that they can tell their stories. If it has meaning to them, they're more likely to try harder.

I hope they'll keep their drive. So far, they've been paying attention, asking questions, answering questions, doing the assignment, etc.

If we can all stick together, I think we'll make it through okay.

Jamison said...

Are you now a professor professing to profess all that which should be professed?

Sorry, been wanting to say that all day...

mullinz8 said...

Sipper, it sounds as if you’re hitting a good stride. I think you’re right that if you can keep the subject matter about each of them you’re going to have a very together class.

With such an intimate setting you can really connect these guys through not only their new writing styles but through their stories and their growth as learning students.

Good Luck, not that you’ll need it.

bigsip said...

Actually, Jamison, my father-in-law said we aren't really professors, but instructors. Either way, I teach college and get paid for it. So, I guess I profess or something :)

Thanks for the back-up, Mullins. I'm enjoying the heck out of this. The class is fun. However, I did find myself pretty exhausted this weekend from the build-up of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual strain. Working extra at work, teaching, family, church, etc. is tiring.

Jamison said...

are you then an instructor instructing to instruct all those who need instruction?

Instruction sounds wierd if you say it enough times.

bigsip said...

Yeah, but I like Profesor better. It has a nice ring to it.

By the way, I've been asking around at Faulkner about how I might finish my education degree for certification. Dr. Lucas, my prof in the dept, is looking into it for me.

Jamison said...

ironically, i sat on the couch a few nights ago and told my wife "Maybe i should go back to school, be a doctor or something" and (of course) she said "Go for it, ill support you!"

so, guys... any ideas on what I should be? Not that Ill ever do it though...

bigsip said...

You should be a pimp.

Actually, I think you should go into broadcast journalism. Whether you did radio, TV, or even online reporting, you'd be great.

I've been increasingly impressed with your ability to deliver and articulate information through various media.

I'm behind you, too. Except, I won't pay anything toward it, help you with homework, or otherwise make such an undertaking possible.

But, go for it, dude!

Brewster said...

I too have been thinking about graduate school again. But have no idea what for.

Communications sounds good for you Jamison, or business management, or art, or pimpology.

bigsip said...

I'd say straight Journalism for you, Brew.

You already have the writing chops and background. You could catch a paid internship along the way and use it to launch yourself into writing/editing for entertainment mags.

I could see you writing for Entertainment Weekly or any number of music mags.

Only thing about grad school is it costs a bundle. I couldn't have afforded it had I not had my GI Bill from the Air Force.

Grad school was FREE for me!

mullinz8 said...

I love you guys but until you figure out what you want to do why would you waste your money?
Try your hand at the given jobs you would be considering after grad school and then decide. Spend a year writing at a news paper or get a job doing videography and working news and then decide.

Decide how you want to try and spend the next few decades and then hit the books. I think you guys are doing this out of boredom because you’re not thrilled with where you are and what you’re doing.

Than being said, I think you both could fine great happiness in the respective worlds of journalism and broadcasting. I could see Jamison going into a technical and graphic design direction because of his enjoyment and knowledge of computers and Brew, like Sipper said, already has his writing-for-other-people chops down pretty good.

You both should join the national guard, you’re both young enough and have a good skill set to utilize and degrees. They would pay you and you would only have to “play Army” once a month, unless, of course, some nut job started another war someplace.

Why is Grad school the magical fall back? When you would get out now you’d still be fighting against younger people for the exact same jobs. I guess there is something I don’t understand about the whole thing. Higher education is wonderful if you are able to make it work for you.

Brew, I don’t want to pick on your lovely wife but after years of schooling she’s so close to getting everything tied up and what’s she doing? Again I don’t know all of the ins and outs so I can’t speak with any authority at all, it’s still a bit thought provoking.

Still, I’m obviously missing something. Sipper is at least trying his hand at teaching and considering finishing a degree in the same subject, he’s on the path already, by the end of the semester he’ll have a good idea of what he could be getting into before he commits anymore time to study.

Then again I have no idea what I’m talking about…

Brewster said...

Notice we both said we were thinking about it, not that we have already signed up and put our money down.

I wouldn't sign up for grad school unless I knew exactly what I wanted from it.

But to answer your question, I think you are missing something. Graduate school, or even undergraduate school isn't all about getting a great job when you are finnished, but about the education.

I think about taking film classes and enrolling into a graduate degree of film study once in awhile. Not so I can be the next Spielberg or even Roger Ebert, but because I love film, and am interested in all of the processes that go into it.

I'd love to take a class on Igmar Bergman. Not just to watch his movies, but to truly study his films in depth.

Yes I could do that to some degree without taking a bonefied class, but film school is an easier way and sometimes a better way to do it.

But yes, getting a degree does help in the job market too. For every guy who pulled himself by the bootstraps and is now running a company without any college there is a whole line of folks doing the same with big degrees.

I've landed at least two jobs based at least in part on the fact that Ihave a college degree.

Grad school isn't magic. It doesn't guarantee high paying jobs. But it can certainly help and can be a way to enrich your life as well.

Sure Sipper has a job teaching with a masters degree. But honestly if he tried it at a larger, more prestigious place he'd get laughed at. They might let him teach an undergraduate 100 level course if he was enrolled in the doctoral program and had the right grades/references/experience.

Tis true my wife is working at the BBB, but this in part was planned. When I had a comfortable job we made a decision to give her the year off to work on her dissertation and better prepare herself for her chosen career path. She was always going to work some schlub job to earn a little extra cash.

She's now begining to apply to bigger jobs in her field. Jobs she'd never have a chance to get without her degrees.

You make some valid points. And definitely graduate school isn't magic nor a cure all. If I go, and I'm certainly just in the thinking process, it won't be because it will make me rich.

bigsip said...

I'm definitely not looking at becoming a full-time prof.

If anything, I'll teach High School or just keep working my job and do the college adjunct for fun once a year.

Fact is, if I try to get hired at a university, the only one that would really work for me is FU and they don't pay squat.

Of course, most colleges don't pay enough to really pay for a Ph.D. in English or anything else for that matter.

But, it's about the learning and the academia. It isn't the end-all, but it's a great experience and always good for the old resume.

Brewster said...

that wasn't a slight at you at all sip. I think it is awesome that you are teaching at FU.

It's just that to really get somewhere in academia you've got to have the PhD.

Keep enjoying your class!

bigsip said...

Oh, I didn't feel slighted at all, man.

I was simply agreeing. You're absolutely right.

The plain and simple fact is that if I were to sepnd the time and money on that level of academic accomplishment at this point, I wouldn't be able to make it cost-effective for myself or my family.

I love teaching and I plan to keep doing it. But, it would be hard to take the paycut to do it full-time.

mullinz8 said...

I see both your points completely.

Couldn’t you take film classes without committing to a graduate program though? This question is out of purely out of ignorance. I’ve thought a few times about taking some production classes or html classes for kicks and because my work will pay for it but there is no way that I currently want to head back to school. Then again you guys don’t have the same commitments I do.

I know the UTK puts out a fall and spring catalog of community classes, film, art, hunting, physics, architecture, all sorts of stuff that are just for fun or for accreditation of certification.

I’m impressed with all of your desires towards going back to school; a class every now and again would be great but that’s very different, in my little bitty brain, than going to grad school.

Also, I’m glad that Amy is starting to pursue work in her field, I’m sure it must be disheartening to come so far and be doing something else.

Brewster said...

IU has a whole adult class taking type deal where you can take a single class in basket weaving or photography or whatever, but generally for their regular academic classes (which would include film) they expect you to be enrolled into some sort of program.

Although I hear some of the film classes do let outsiders come in and watch the movies. At least the Fellini class they had a few semesters back did.

bigsip said...

I think you can "audit" any class, but you have to pay a fee and you don't get any credit for it.

If you just want to learn, it's cool, but you can't use it for a resume or otherwise since you don't take tests or receive credit.

If it's just for fun and to learn, though, go for it!