10 December 2008

In Another Year

Tonight I met with one of my classes for the last time. Some of them might remember the class, or remember me, in another year.

In another year they will mourn you...The poet Thomas McGrath wrote that about a soldier killed in Korea. Well, I don't think that anyone in that class has anything to mourn. For some, they're one step closer to graduating or attaining what other goals they had. Maybe if someone gets a grade that brings down his or her GPA...Then again, that person wouldn't be mourning. He or she would be too pissed for that.

In another year they will grieve. You don't pass a certain age without grieving something. And what am I grieving? That at work, I'm being pulled in a direction I never wanted to go.

Today I talked briefly with my department chair about the course on hip-hop and poetry I'm scheduled to teach next semester. She mentioned, among other things, the possibility of writing an article or even a book from that course.

Just what I need: Something else to take me away from my own writing. And away from friends, bike riding, reading for pleasure and almost anything that has mattered for me.

And so I can do what? Well, for all the work that book or article would take, it's not going to get me tenure. Then again, I'm not thrilled about the idea of becoming a professor. I'm full-time this year, and I'm supposed to introduce myself and sign my communications as "Professor Valinotti." I still don't like being called "Professor." I much prefer having a name.

So I'm being called "professor" and I might actually become one. Up to now, I've been--at least for a few students--a guide, teacher, and on occaI'sion, something like a role model. Or so I'm told. Students sometimes tell me I'm "different" from their other instructors. I'm not quite sure of what they mean by that.

One way I know I'm different: I'm not a scholar. Yes, I've studied a few things, but I could never study to the exclusion of everything else. Or focus in on some arcane area, like the role of duels in 19th Century literature (Yes, I knew of someone who was writing his dissertation on that!). My reading follows my inclination and whims; I have never done it in a systematic way so I could grind an axe. And I can't talk--or hear someone else talking--nonstop about something really arcane. The most boring thing I ever did was to attend an academic conference.

I'm a writer, an artist, who makes her living in the classroom. I don't want to be pulled into being a critic/scholar, who by definition is a failure. I mean, no one ever chooses to become one; one ends up as one by failing at whatever he or she is talking about.

So why will I miss those students I saw tonight? Well, if nothing else, I had the opportunity to help them become whatever they want to be. Not bad work, really. I just don't want to become one of those profs who destroy whatever creativity they had (if they had any) by picking on writers who did what they couldn't do.

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