I’m building ice sculptures……community college English professor

I’m 27 and I’ve been teaching in community colleges for almost three years. Right now I am teaching developmental (remedial) writing at a CC in an urban area. You don’t need an M.A. in English (although I have one) to do this job…just assloads and assloads of patience. My students often lack not only writing and reading skills, but organizational skills, study skills, and interpersonal skills…Some of them don’t seem to realize that what is acceptable behavior in the ‘hood is not acceptable behavior in the classroom. It’s not punk ass teenagers I’m talking about; I am talking about grown men and women in their twenties and thirties.

It is so frustrating when I give them a handout on Tuesday and then on Thursday, ask them to take it out, and half the class says, “You didn’t give me one.” Or when I give a homework assignment and no one does it. Or when I fail a student who has missed ten classes and get called a “dumb broad.” Or when I have a student argue with me for 5 minutes over whether or not she had turned a paper in (we both knew she hadn’t).
Sometimes I feel like no matter what, some of them are going to argue with me because I’m a white person in a position of authority.

They have the most incredible life stories. Drugs and abuse and prison left, right, and center. I’ve had ex-cons and pimps and drug dealers in my classes. Some of my sweetest students have been in trouble with the law. I’ll never forget one of them saying to me, “My baby’s six years old and he’s already been in four drug raids.”

I love it that they’re attempting to pull their lives back together, but I know the chances of them succeeding are pretty low. My school has a very high attrition rate. I love these goofy bastards, but I know that a lot of them are going to go right back to the street.

You know, every semester I spend sixteen weeks building ice sculptures…I work very hard and put my heart and soul into something that is, ultimately, just going to melt away. If I measured my success as a teacher by how many students of mine who ultimately get college degrees, I would be very disappointed. Instead, I try to enjoy each class one class at a time. Teach them something one class at a time. The ice sculpture won’t last but I will have had fun building it.

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