Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Life Update 2013 (Part Three): Goodbye massage therapist; hello professor of English.

(So it's been a painfully long time since I've updated my blog, but as a consolation prize I have an unusually news-packed series of updates for you. This is part three.)

Less of this.
And what would a major transition from one graduate school to another be without an equally major change in my working life? I've held off announcing this publicly until I had a chance to handle the professional end of things, but right here, right now, I'm announcing my retirement from massage therapy and from the medical field entirely, as of Saturday, August 17th. I've accepted a position as adjunct professor of English at Wilbur Wright College, and I was offered two sections of English 100 and 101 to teach in the Fall, which I suspect will take up most or all of my time not otherwise spoken for by studying for my own coursework at UWM. I've loved my time as a massage therapist. I've met many terrific people and I feel like over the last eighteen and a half years in various healthcare jobs I've done a lot of good for a lot of people in pain, but it's time to move on, and even the one day per week that I've held onto this year will be too much for me to handle when UWM and Wright College are both back in session.

More of this.
Now with that out of the way, I'd love to share with you a little bit about my new department. Wilbur Wright College is one of (some say the best of, but I couldn't tell you from personal experience as I haven't visited them all) the City Colleges of Chicago. If you're not familiar with the CCC, think the community college CUNY schools in NYC: compact urban commuter schools offering some Bachelor but mostly Associate degrees, populated by people reaching beyond themselves in one way or another. First generation college students, career-changers, newly retired veterans, first-generation immigrants or their children, students trying to figure out if college is for them or trying to dodge the high price tags of four-year schools. They're a scrappy bunch, ready for a challenge and ready to work for their grades, and for themselves. They hand in papers representative of a wide variety of pre-existing skills and preparedness, but uniformly drenched in the sweat of hard work. They are engaged and very teachable. Some of them have been told they can't write, or have had a variety of bad experiences with school in the past that have soured their opinion of academic writing, but this ironically makes them more fun and rewarding to teach. They frequently surprise themselves at how well they can write when given assignments that matter and make sense. They have few bad habits to unlearn, and the new skills they discover in ENG 101 are the basic tools they need to complete the rest of whatever degree they choose.

I completed an internship at Wright College in May with a terrific mentor named Tim Doherty, and I found that I thoroughly enjoyed working with this student population. The English faculty at Wright are friendly, easygoing, pragmatic, professional, and fun, and they take themselves as seriously, on par, as good seasoned doctors do, which made me feel right at home. Plenty of DePaul graduates have taught or are currently teaching there, and the college itself is quite well appointed and seems very sensibly administrated in its resources, layout, mission, and the general tone of its day-to-day life. It's in a nice, quiet neighborhood called Dunning on the far northwest side of the city, and the college manages to have a very campus-like feel despite being located in a huge sprawling city. A lot about it appealed to me, in other words, and I'm excited to see where this opportunity leads, and how I can make the most of it while I finish my PhD. 

Oh, and I don't have the syllabus for ENG100 complete yet, but my ENG101 section will be reading early 20th century American adventure stories and examining how the history of American literature in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was tied intimately to the emerging voices of modernist writers who frequently chose various forms of adventure as their themes and plots and topical matter. Jack London, Ernest Hemingway, Flannery O'Connor, Shirley Jackson, Robert E. Howard, Ambrose Bierce, Ralph Ellison, and more. Sound fun? Take my class! Wilbur Wright College is a great school.

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