My Favorite Moments from the 2012-2013 School Year
Posted on May 9, 2013
I am a ridiculously lucky person.
Less than three months after I finished my MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of New Hampshire, I was hired as a full-time composition and creative writing instructor by my current employer.
I proctored my last final of the semester today, which means that I am officially done with my second year as a full-time college instructor. I get to go by the title “Professor Ranfeld,” and I have an office with a computer and shelves of books. Because I volunteered, the university is sending me to India this month to co-lead a group of seven awesome students. I have the option of taking the summer off and spending it with my daughter Ruthie.
It’s not an easy job. I spend a ridiculous amount of time grading papers and figuring out how best to help my students improve. I have up to four courses to prep during a semester, and I’m often scrambling to put together the finishing touches on a presentation or assignment. I stay up late grading papers night after night. I live in the frightening tension of being far more progressive than most of my students. I struggle with how best to teach them to be critical thinkers and move beyond what they’ve been taught up until now without doing anything that could be construed as indoctrination or manipulation–I want them to think for themselves, not think like me. I doubt my abilities and question whether or not I’m doing anything right. I have to figure out how to deal with students who have terrible attitudes, and those who don’t show up to class, and those who cheat, and those who beg for extra credit, and those whose depression is preventing them from being able to make it out of bed in the mornings let alone into the classroom, and those who have lost a friend or family member during the semester, and those whose high school education was pitiful, and those who don’t want to listen to me because I’m a woman, and those who cry at the slightest criticism, and those who think they are special snowflakes who deserve unique treatment at every turn, and those who hate everything about learning to write papers, and the list just keeps going.
I love this job, despite its challenges. I hope I never tire of it.
Today I want to celebrate some of my favorite moments of the 2012-2013 school year, because it has definitely been a great year.
- I served as a faculty mentor for a group of freshmen during the first semester. Having them over to my house for dinner during their orientation weekend was a blast. They were shocked to see a Mos Def channel among my Pandora settings, and perhaps that was the start of our good rapport.
- I centered my basic composition course (which is, in oversimplified terms, a course for struggling writers) on the superhero movie genre. We watched The X-Men and The Avengers in class, and my students wrote rhetorical analyses of the films. By the time they had to explore the way the genre represented a specific social issue of their choosing, I was thrilled to see complex and insightful thesis statements. One student explored the way that the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy mocks and maligns the mentally ill. Several wrote about the problems of whitewashing in superhero movies, or about the problematic positions women superheroes are put into.
- Last week, a student came to my office to ask me for advice about breaking into travel writing. She told me that the creative writing courses she took from me this semester were challenging and engaging, and that she was so glad to have ended her time at the university with my courses. Then she told me that after I left the room to allow the students to fill out their evaluations in private, they began to discuss what a great class it was and how glad they were to have me as their instructor.
- I had several extremely talented students in my creative writing classes this Spring. One of them went far beyond the scope of our assignments and created an entire book of memoir, poetry, and visual art. I hope to see her publish her work someday, because her grasp of nonfiction voice is extraordinary.
So, like I said–I’m lucky to have such a great job! I am hopeful that 2013-2014 will be just as great.