How I Became a College Teacher
Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.
A reader recently asked why I decided to become a teacher, and it kind of opened a can of worms. Let’s get the positive stuff out of the way first. Teaching, more than any other profession besides maybe medicine, gives people an opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of others every day. The psychic rewards for that are tremendous. It is also true that I have a passion for my subject, and I really enjoy sharing that passion with students.
To really explain why I decided to become a teacher, I have to go back to my college education and explain how the events of my life led me to choose teaching. That’s what this is going to be — a narrative about what led me to try to make a living teaching college English. In part 2, next week, I’ll reflect on how I feel about teaching now and why I continue to teach.
I have already written about some of my history as a student here, so you may want to read that before you proceed. It’s not pretty. I was a terrible student.
I went straight into college after four years of active duty in the U.S. Army. I thought I wanted to be a poet. I wrote poetry because I admired the poetry I read and I thought I ought to try to emulate it.
I thought the best way to learn how to write poetry would be to study poetry in college, so that’s what I did. It almost completely killed my will to write. Studying poetry as literature sapped a lot of the joy I took from it, and most of the creative writing classes I took were dominated by jokers, posers, and interlopers who weren’t really interested in developing their craft.
In the process of realizing that I didn’t love to study poetry, at least not the way it was conventionally taught, I discovered I had an affinity for Shakespeare. I got my Bachelor’s degree in English, and then I did what I thought I was supposed to do — I got a job.
My first job out of college was a leadership development program with a government contractor in northern Virginia. My first rotation was in marketing and communication, which I took to well. I rotated into software version control and validation, and things went downhill fast. I went from being valued and respected to being undervalued and…