The Spring Semester started on Monday, and I don’t have my first graduate class until Wednesday night. So what have I been doing these first few days? Well, as a graduate student in the Creative Writing program, I also get to teach a Writing&Rhetoric course to undergraduates here at Columbia. This semester, I teach on Mondays and Wednesdays at 10:30, so that’s what I’ve been doing: meeting my new students and planning lessons.
In emails from prospective students, I get asked about teaching opportunities almost as often as I get asked about funding opportunities. Columbia is great because it kind of helps you out with both in one swoop. Most Creative Writing (all three genres) graduates are offered a Graduate Student Instructor position, which is what I’m doing. This is complete control of a course of either the first or second section of Writing & Rhetoric. You get to make the lesson plans, construct the syllabus, teach the class twice a week, and grade all assignments. Not only is it great experience should you want to continue teaching after grad school, but it’s also a paying job.
It was never my intention to become a teacher. In fact, when people asked me what I wanted to do with my English degree in undergrad, their first assumption was always teaching. But writing has always been the end goal for me. Still, when Columbia offered me the position, I couldn’t turn it down. I’ll admit, at first it was for the steady paycheck, but after a while, I realized I was learning a lot from my students, too.
The way we teach the writing courses here at Columbia College coincides with the changing society. Technology is impossible to ignore – indeed, you might find yourself disadvantaged if you don’t participate in various technological advancements in every aspect of life, from work to social activities. Even this blog is a new way of communication – instead of getting pamphlets and weekly newsletters, you can check an online blog to find information about programs and experiences. And that’s what we teach our students – writing and communication is in constant flux, and we have to embrace that even in writing.
One of the things I love about getting 18 new students each semester is their unique and younger viewpoint to the class. I think they’re all surprised to find so many multimedia aspects to the class, and they engage with that really well. Similarly, they seem to be so much more involved with the political climate around them than I remember ever being at their age. They bring a lot of passion and personal experiences into the classroom, and even only two days into this semester, we’ve had some great conversations. It’s really amazing to see them connect things like Ethos and Circulation (key concepts we teach) to the real world, and then bring it back to assignments and writing instances.
Creative Writing classes are, of course, my favorite, but I feel a satisfaction after each 80-minute class session ends and my students leave, a few even saying “thanks” on their way out. I never pictured myself as a teacher, and I’ll be honest, I still don’t see myself pursuing it after Columbia, but I’m finding myself appreciating the few years I will be doing it. Surrounding yourself with kids – even kids only 5 or 6 years younger than you – really keeps you feeling informed and energized. I’m looking forward to this Spring Semester with this new bunch.