This is the second in a series of posts by Angie Reid. You can read her first post here.
William Shakespeare famously penned, “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players” in his famous poem, “The Seven Ages of Man.” So what happens to a woman on the cusp of middle age who wants to abandon her acclaimed role as English teacher but still wishes to remain on the grand stage of academia? This was the question that was on my mind as I wholeheartedly packed up my high school classroom and exited stage left in hopes of a less stressful, simpler life.
If you were to ask William Shakespeare, or at least read the poem, you might reflect on the subsequent line, “One man in his time plays many parts.” What was to be my part now? I had just said goodbye to my high school classroom, but I was unsure what to do next. It seems that as the years go by there are many teachers who leave the profession either because of burn-out or because they seek a career change, but many of them find that there are few employment positions for education majors outside teaching.
I began to weigh my options. I still wanted to play a role in education, but I was confused as to what that would be. It was in my soul-searching and contemplation that I decided to pursue my MA in English at Central Michigan University. I had always wanted to earn my masters, but I had been unwilling to take on additional student loan debt. A graduate assistantship seemed to be a good solution. In the English Department at CMU, graduate assistants play quite a few roles in the department, including teaching English 101 and working in the writing center. In return, the university pays the GA a small stipend and waives tuition. It was a perfect fit for me, and when I got my letter of hire in early spring of my final year of teaching high school, I felt as if I’d been cast in the role of a lifetime. I would teach English 101 in the mornings on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and I would be free in the afternoon to pursue my degree.Continue reading New Role New Audience: My Experience of Moving from the High School to the College Classroom→
After a tumultuous semester battling pneumonia and the recurrence of my mother’s cancerous tumor, I packed up my Hope College memorabilia and returned to my hometown, parental rules, and the familiar pink shag carpet my eleven-year-old self had loved. I wasn’t really bitter about my homecoming, as one might think. I was plagued with confusion: about life, myself, and the future–and not necessarily in that order. After a semester internship back at a middle school near Hope College, I had doubts on whether teaching was the right career path for me. During my observation days in the classroom, I barely stayed awake. I couldn’t imagine doing this every day, let alone the rest of my life. To complicate matters, my mother was not getting any better. The latest oncology report detailed something about metastasized cells and radiation with chemotherapy. I was uncertain what it all meant, but the fragile lines on my dad’s face told me it was as serious as the words sounded. By the time the snow fell in December, the beautiful Hope College campus with its lakeshore view no longer held any allure. I came home at the semester end with a big sigh, hoping to exhale the deeper emotions of uncertainty and ambivalence. Home felt like a reprieve from the disorder of my life.
Aquinas College is located in my hometown, so it made sense to resume my junior year there. My first course was taught by a middle-aged woman with bleach blonde hair, a love for the Cardinals (the baseball team–not the bird), and a fake bake that would have shamed any native Floridian. Her name was Merri Warren, and she was a past president of the Michigan Reading Association (MRA). Because of her MRA association, I was recruited during the semester to work at the annual conference as a student volunteer. Even now, I can recall the impressive scope and scale of the conference with flocks of teachers converging around the registration area. I was electrified by their chatter of books and speakers and ideas and possibilities. Their anticipation was intoxicating as I eavesdropped on folks waiting for badges and bags. Never before had I been among so many whose love for books paralleled my own. As the throngs dispersed to their speakers and sessions, I felt a stirring toward the classroom once again. There was a kindred exhilaration in the air, and I felt inspired that these people might just be my people too. For the first time, I felt the “calling” that many describe when becoming a teacher. I had found my way amidst the crowded concourse of conferees, and I was excited about all the possibilities–all thanks to Merri Warren and the Michigan Reading Association.Continue reading Passions Are Powerful Conductors of the Future→
This blog is the first in a series of writings that will chronicle Angela Reid’s decision and subsequent experience of leaving the high school classroom to become a graduate teaching assistant in the English Department at Central Michigan University, only to unexpectedly return to the very same high school classroom one year later.
When I turned my keys in to my former principal on that warm summer morning of 2013, I had no intention of ever teaching high school English again. I felt it in my bones. My soul was exhausted, my body defeated. I felt a bit like Bilbo Baggins when he remarked to Gandalf, “I am old, Gandalf. I don’t look it, but I am beginning to feel it in my heart of hearts. Well-preserved indeed! Why, I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread. That can’t be right. I need a change, or something.” Yes, in my “heart of hearts,” I felt exhausted, unproductive, and uninspired.
In addition, I felt something else even more damning and downright terrifying. I began to feel what teachers fear the most, that perhaps my teaching was becoming ineffective. The characters of my beloved novels, such as Catcher in the Rye and O Pioneers, who had once leapt off the pages, heartily introduced themselves to my students, and pirouetted and pranced around my room now suddenly felt cold and flat. I felt like a fraud, and I could not in good conscience stand before a class of students and feel as if I wasn’t giving them the education they deserved. Continue reading Reigniting the Fire: Why Teacher Burnout Doesn’t Have to Be Forever→
My Writing Project colleague, Sharon Murchie, wrote about taking a risk in sharing her writing with her students on the CRWP Teachers as Writers Blog. Her post got me thinking about how I do the same in my own classroom.
I am feeling nervous, insecure, and uncertain as my ninth graders start to file into class today. We just started the new trimester a week ago, and about half of my students are still new to me — having come from a different English teacher first term. I remind myself that I am the adult; I am the teacher. Nothing to worry about, right? What’s the worst that can happen?
You see, I am about to give a book talk and admit to my students that I have no clue what the book I am reading is about. Truly. I just don’t get it. The book is a title I was eager to read — The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro — but I am 30 pages from the end of the novel and I don’t know what the real story is. In fact, all I really know is that an elderly couple, Axl and Beatrice, have undertaken a journey to reunite with their son. As Axl and Beatrice travel across the countryside, they meet knights, Saxons, river boatmen, and frightened citizens, but all have one thing in common: they cannot seem to remember much. Axl and Beatrice worry that the loss of their memories will be their undoing: “But then again I wonder if what we feel in our hearts today isn’t like these raindrops still falling on us from the soaked leaves above, even though the sky itself long stopped raining. I’m wondering if, without our memories, there’s nothing for it but our love to fade and die.” The mist of this memory loss has the effect on me as a reader of clouding the truth in the story. In short, I find myself uncertain about what is real for the characters and what is fantasy.
I am about to reveal to these students that I don’t understand this book.
I don’t have the answers.
I don’t have a profound interpretation.
I am lost.
How will they respond?
The room settles in as I grab the book from my desk and turn to face them.
I shared my writing with my students and it was really powerful.
I know what you’re thinking:
Of course it was.
We all know this.
We know that we should write with our students, model for our students, share with our students.
But, I know that we don’t. Or, at least, I know that I don’t.
I have 5 preps. I have 150+ students. I am so far behind in grading, I would lose credit in my own class if I was one of my students.
When my students write, I am circling the room like a trapped bat, trying to simultaneously rescue introductory paragraphs from rhetorical question soft starts, shut down copied theses from Sparknotes, encourage students to find the balance between looking for their playlist and taking the entire class period to create their playlist, squelch the Snapchat selfie parade, and answer “how long does this have to be?” 14,535 times. When my students write, I am too busy desperately trying to do my job to write with them.