Critical Watching

It’s amazing sometimes how a tableau vivant can withhold its meaning. Snapshot: there’s a classroom with students, and without critical observation you miss the one who’s short of sleep, who’s confused, lost, bored, mentally far away. Why are books missing, assignments missing; why are there good readers and hesitant readers; what words trip them up; how do you tell when the whole class has missed the meaning of a word you or a student has read, but no one asks?

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I’m an adjunct English professor, an “associate faculty” if you want a slightly snottier label, with a masters degree. I am in a state that forbids a real union (otherwise I’d be in it) for all faculty, and I’ve taught so far five semesters X one class per semester. I’m at a regional campus of a state university that awards masters degrees as the highest level. I have other pursuits (¿jobs?) both on and off of campus. I can afford to do this because I’m on Social Security retirement pension and “own” my home. I have very little savings so there are many events that would wipe me out. So far I’m “paying the rent,” and I live alone.

I love my students. I love them when they fall asleep in class because they worked too many hours yesterday, or even that they “partied” too hearty. I love the courageous ones–the first in their families to try for a college degree. They are on the top of my hero list. I love the ones who are trying out critical thinking for the first time. I love them because they TRY.

I’m gravitating toward the ones who are having the hardest time. In the spirit of Eugene V. Debs, where there are students who needs the most uplift, who are the furthest behind, I want to be teaching them. Also on the top of my heroes list are people like Mike Rose, who are doing this well, and whom I strive to emulate. I’m shocked that in my state the teaching of these “behind” folks falls to professors/lecturers/whatever like me, who are perhaps the least qualified from the beginning to help them.

But I’m working on it, and need your help, thoughts, observations. I’m staying as anonymous as I can, because I might lose my job if I’m too forthright under my own name, and I’ll try to do the same for your postings. Let me hear from you.

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