Sunday, January 21, 2018

Teaching Grammar!

This post is going to be a bit of a tangent.

I started teaching in 2006 at Martin University.  If anyone knows about Martin and about me, you probably understand that this experience impacted my life in strange ways.  Let me explain briefly.

I am a white woman.  About as white as they come.  Martin University is a traditionally African American university in the Martindale-Brightwood community, a rough neighborhood in Indianapolis.  The students and faculty taught me about facing the world from a different perspective.

I adjuncted there for two and half years, and then went to Busan, South Korea to teach English for a year.  I taught kindergarten classes in the morning, third grade for an hour after lunch, and high school classes for the rest of the afternoon.

When I returned from Korea, I started teaching full-time for Martin University.  I was full-time faculty and was working on my second master's degree.  This was an exciting time.

This only lasted a year and a half.

Politics in academia can get really messy.

I quit Martin in 2010, and started adjuncting for Ivy Tech Community College.  One of my co-workers from Martin recommended me as an ESOL teacher--a teacher to work with English speakers of other languages.

Again, this time was wonderful.  My ESOL students were always incredible, and I was finishing my MFA degree.  Grammar and writing classes were my favorites.

After I completed my degree in 2011, I took on more and more classes, composition classes and academic advancement classes, trying to make enough money to pay bills.  Most semesters I taught 6 or 7 classes, exhausted.  Even during the brief breaks between classes, I was preparing for the next classes, never quite caught up or getting enough done--and never making enough money.

A funny thing happened.

I think it was Spring 2013 that the rumors started at Ivy Tech.  The adjuncts started talking about how administration was going to stop us from teaching more than three classes a semester.

The rumors ended up true--in a way.  With Obamacare in effect, a strange side effect to the program was that anyone working more than 32 hours a week needed health care from their employers.  Many adjuncts--at Ivy Tech and many other colleges--do not get healthcare.  At the time of Obamacare, instead of offering the adjuncts the same healthcare they offered their full-time faculty, Ivy Tech made the business decision to prohibit adjuncts from working more than 32 hours.

This is supposed to break down to 3 classes.

I don't wish to get on a soapbox here.  I could barely pay my student loans and other limited expenses (living in my parents' basement) teaching 6 classes a semester.  Many of the other adjunct teachers I knew were scraping by on these wages that broke down to well below minimum wage with no options for healthcare.

I needed another option.

I took on a demanding, physical full-time job and taught 3 classes on the side.  Then, the next few semesters, I only taught one.  Then, I stopped teaching altogether when additional politics came into play.

That was three years ago.

I haven't taught in 3 years.

Until today.

Ivy Tech contacted me about teaching a grammar class on Saturdays--a class that focuses on verbs, nouns, and pronouns.  I have taught this class a half dozen times before.

I talked too much in class today--getting through the syllabus and expectations and assignments and everything.  But I got to meet with 7 (maybe more next week?) fascinating, eager, intelligent students today.

I am so blessed with this opportunity.  In the coming months, I look forward to getting to know them more.

I taught a doctor from South America, struggling to learn better English in Indiana and wanting to gain the respect and dignity she had gained in her country.  I have met a pilot from the Middle East whose experience is not recognized here, but works two jobs to try to provide for his family.

One of the hardest times was working with a student from Senegal.  He was shot and killed after I had him in class.  Several students from all over the world and many teachers worked together to donate money to send his body back to his family in Africa.

Looking back on my teaching experiences, I have learned much more than I have taught.  With my syllabus in hand, I show up on the first day, knowing I will be humbled by the amazing people I will meet.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Heather. What a journey! You are not only an amazing teacher, but you are a beautifully dependable source of light. And as far as the whole academic politics is concerned:
    “We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.” Thomas Fuller