Being a college instructor isn’t something I thought I would be doing. But here I am, just recently completing my fifth semester as an adjunct.
At first, the job was a bit overwhelming. You need to keep young people’s attention for about an hour and a half about writing … at 8 a.m. You also need to read many, many (sometimes really bad, sometimes surprisingly good) articles from students who, in some cases, don’t follow news or don’t read news online or in a newspaper. So their understanding of what makes a story interesting, informative, and well-written is lacking. Sometimes you really just have fresh blocks of clay.
You also need to provide feedback on ways to improve that writing, or to best tell that story. You also have to do it in a way that isn’t insulting, that is understanding, and most importantly, I feel, that is mostly encouraging for the student. You need to have students that are interested and engaged. Students that can see the benefit of what you’re looking for if you are a reader and an instructor. If you’re first trying it, like I was, you’re in for a total shock.
Basically, I view the job as part coach, part instructor, part mentor. I wasn’t really sure about how well I did that job until the end of this past semester.
In previous semesters, my course usually ends with a thud. There is no intricate final. There isn’t a massive, caffeine-fueled final assignment to dominate my students’ time. My final is a multiple-choice test that requires the minimal amount of note taking and attention throughout the semester to pass. After about 20 minutes, students sheepishly turn in their exams and head out the door to cram for their next final. It’s the best I can offer for those who stick it out through the entire semester for an 8 a.m. class.
This past semester was different though.
When students turned in their exams to me, several of them said, “Thank you.” Some shook my hand and told me how much fun they had in class and how much they learned about writing, about media, about absurd things that I would sometimes bring up in class. It made me feel … appreciated. It was weird. It was an odd feeling to have, because I didn’t expect it.
I had made an impact in their lives. What I did was important. I hope I inspired them to write interesting things, that makes people happy, makes them sad, makes them want to learn more, makes their reader understand something they didn’t understand before, or makes them want to help other people.
Sometimes, that pat on the back is a good thing and is just some much needed affirmation that you’re doing those students a great deal of good by giving them your full effort.