Can you believe it is week ten? This term has flown by for me; I wonder if it has for you too. Terms didn’t fly by like this in my previous graduate degree. We were on semesters! Sixteen weeks to delve deep into subject matter or get tired of subject matter that no longer interested you. In my last Career Changer post, I started my graduate program at Colorado State University in Creative Writing. My first year, I spent tutoring in a writing center, but I really wanted to get a teaching assistantship, so that I could teach and try out my chosen career path. So, I worked really hard my first year and applied for my second year. And I got one! A graduate teaching assistantship meant that I would teach one or two sections of college composition (similar to OSU’s Writing 121 Course) each term, and I would receive a tuition remission and a monthly stipend.
At the beginning of my second year, I went through an intense training course for two weeks to prepare for my first class. We were given a syllabus, readings, and lesson plans to follow. We gave practice lessons to each other and wrote personal teaching philosophies. This experience, I decided, was going to be great fun. And it was fun. Looking back on my first semester teaching college composition, I truly enjoyed the interaction I got to have with my students, learning their stories, and working with them on their writing. Each day I was teaching, I geared up to seem confident and act like I knew what I was talking about. That is the crazy thing: a lot of the information I was teaching to my students was information I was learning along with them. Not to say that I wasn’t a good writer, I was. But I hadn’t learned the rhetorical strategies, the structures, the genres, the ways to learn how to write. I just knew writing was something I was good at, but I didn’t always know the best way to teach it to others.
This fact became especially difficult in dealing with one particular student in my first semester. I had one older than average student in my class. He was in his mid-50s, and for most of his life, he ran a successful photography shop. He could see the direction that the industry was moving, however, with more digital and online media, so he retired and closed the store. Now, he wanted to begin again in a new career. But sometimes it was difficult for him to take direction from a teacher more than 30 years younger than he, and sometimes it was difficult for me to have the confidence to teach someone with so much more life experience than me. It was also tricky for him to have patience with some of the traditionally aged students in the class, who sometimes came to class late or fell asleep in the back row or didn’t turn their work in on time or didn’t come prepared for a peer review day. I learned a lot from this student, and this learning is why I most enjoy teaching and working with college students. I end up learning more than I end up teaching, about myself and about other people.
Happy Week 10, Everyone! I’ll be back in the spring term with more episodes about my wavy career path. Have a great finals week and spring break!
Jessica Baron is currently a Graduate Assistant in Career Services at OSU and a full time student in the College Student Services Administration Program. Before making her way to Oregon State, Jessica worked as an actor, waiter, online tutor, receptionist, college composition instructor, creative writer, gas station attendant, nonprofit program director, writing workshop leader, high school drama coach, Hallmark card straightener, substitute teacher, real estate office manager, and SAT tutor, not necessarily in that order. Her “Confessions of a Career Changer” will focus on her wavy career path and the challenges and joys of wanting to do everything.