I am not James Franco

What’s in a name? Confusion.


I teach college classes in Southern California. James Franco also taught some college classes in Southern California – UCLA, USC and CalArts to be exact.

A friend once mentioned to me that he had heard about a student who signed up for a class taught by a “J. Franco.” According to my friend, that student thought it was James Franco, the actor turned college professor. She was confident. She was so sure of it, my friend said, because she had heard that he teaches classes at local colleges. (Acting and film classes, I teach journalism classes, but whatever.)

On day 1 of class, she surely showed up to the classroom at 8 a.m. and it wasn’t the Academy Award-nominated Franco, but rather, the highly-rated and well-respected, Jose Franco (me) instead.

I don’t know who that student might have been, whether or not she remained in the class, or how disappointed she might have been. Such is life.


I just needed to write this out

Hello again. This is a brief update on what I’ve been doing. On what I’ve been thinking.

There are so many things going on in my life. So many things I need to manage and push through — some personal, some professional. So many plans and ideas I want to work on and see through to the very end (again, some personal, some professional).

There have been many times where I feel like there are barriers to every thing I want to accomplish. Some are, to be sure, real. Others are ones that I’ve built for myself. I feel like I’m inching closer to finally getting past them. I can tell I’m closer than I’ve ever been before. It is right in front of me.

I celebrated a birthday recently. I turned 32.

I didn’t expect – or want to be – where I’m “at” at this point in my still very young life. But at the same time, I really have accomplished things. It’s hard for me to see them. They’re not always obvious. These aren’t ones that make themselves clear until you see them in a larger scope. Others do see them, and it’s time to for me to recognize them, to accept them.

Up to now, I’ve helped people grow and succeed, given so many people worthwhile advice and ideas; it’s time I take my own advice and do something with the things I know to be true. It’s about time I get to where I need to be and to become the person I know I can be.


I thought about parenting and how bad I might be at it

Reading this again before I post it reads like a very rough comedy act.

Parenting doesn’t have an “entrance exam,” but if it did, it should have a few challenges or thresholds you need to clear for basic parenting. There should be a challenge that asks things like “Can you cut fruit with a knife?” Or, “How long does it take you to go to the market, buy a specific thing, and back?” A child’s life could be at stake.

I tried cutting apples with a knife today and it took about 20 minutes to wash and slice them. These weren’t pretty pieces either like you would see any other competent person doing the slicing. I ended up with weird, rhombus-shaped looking things. Some were big, some were small pieces. I would fear a child choking on the them.

When I go to the market, I don’t always find things I need. My brain doesn’t think like grocers do. I just don’t have that sense. I also panic when there are more than 15 people in a grocery store. I once walked in, saw three people by the produce section, panicked, then paced around a few aisles and left without anything. Security could have thought I was canvassing the place for a future crime or something. I get very self-conscious there. It’s as though I fear someone will look at me thinking to themselves, “This idiot must not have children. Thank God. He’s been looking at those apples for five minutes. Just pick some and go.”

There are other times when you tell yourself, “I just need orange juice … and some milk. Rubber gloves. I really liked that one cereal I tried last time … Some napkins. … Oh and I need a new, one of those, um, that thing on the drain in the sink. Yeah! What aisle would that be in?” But if you have a kid, you need to find that one thing: formula, diapers, or something else and come back in about 20 minutes or your child will never forgive you. And you’ll feel terrible when you come back with ingredients for a new vinaigrette recipe your sister gave you.

OK, thanks guys! You’ve been great!



A pat on the back is a good thing

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.