On Teaching

I recently finished year three at my university, and I feel excitement as summer is now before me. For most of my life, with a few exceptions, I have marked time on an academic calendar. And having been in a university setting for the last 19 years, I have had the luxury of summer being earlier.

Growing up in Minnesota, I savored the changing of the seasons and the build-up to summer. It’s not that I’m that much into being outside in the summer: it’s more the freedom, the rhythm of the seasons. That said, it’s been a joy to live in a climate that possesses summer-like weather more of the year around.

I find that the summer is time for me not only to accomplish much writing and reading but also to reflect and slow down. It also serves as a time for me to recharge my teaching batteries since the academic year races by. I’m grateful for a vocation that allows for that space, a space that then serves to generate anticipation for the upcoming school year.

When I began college as freshman 20 years ago this fall, I didn’t set out to be a university English professor, much less a teacher of any kind. I wanted to be a professional touring musician, playing in a successful rock/metal band. (But that backstory is a post for another time, although you can read part of the story here.)

Why do I find such satisfaction in teaching? (Please accept my apologies for a list that does not maintain parallelism.)

  • the way in which what I teach feeds and nurtures my writing life (teaching creative writing, literature, and composition)
  • writing is a solitary pursuit and teaching is a way in which I can share my experience (successes and failures) and background with others
  • I’m not sure what else I could do that would fill me with such satisfaction
  • I’m forced to adapt continually (to new students, to different courses, to different schedules)
  • there’s variety
  • I’m never bored
  • my students push me (to be a better writer, a better teacher)
  • seeing students succeed and be transformed

Then there’s the academic life itself and what I love about that:

  • working with colleagues who love literature, language, and who enjoy talking about big (and small) ideas
  • attending and presenting at academic conferences
  • a work space to have away from home
  • editing a journal
  • directing a writing festival

There’s more that I might say about either of these lists, but I’ll leave them alone (for now). Right now, it’s back to my season of recharging.

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