My Maniacal Rant, Chapter One, Part Two

[Author’s Note: This writing project, The Maniacal Rant of a Community College “Professor,” started about two years ago, in the fall of 2012. I began writing a book that was intended to be a collection of memoirs. These memoirs were intended to testify about my experience as an instructor at Ivy Tech Community College in Northwest Indiana. My goal was to highlight the indignities I experienced, campaign for change in an unjust education system, draw attention to problems in our greater society, and share details of my incredible life story. I finished two chapters of the book, formed the majority of a third chapter, and planned fourteen more chapters. When I started this blog two months ago, I’ve found my goal as a writer has not changed much. I’ve decided it’s time to share the text from my memoirs. I intend to transcribe the text of my book periodically in this blog under the title My Maniacal Rant. Chapter One, titled “Profession as Confession, or the Professor Confessor” will be told in approximately eight parts. Enjoy.—SG]

I often feel like an actor on the stage of a classroom, pretending to be an odd amalgamation of the English professors I attended during my long period of study. I doubt my validity and knowledge of rhetoric, political alignment, literary device, and linguistic acumen.

I shouldn’t. I earned one of the highest GPAs of my graduating class, with highest distinction. I love my discipline, and I enjoy sharing its nuance with the greater community. I’ve read enough. I can handle the mechanics of the classroom with some skill and acumen. I’ve had enough experience by now.

But I can’t shake it. I feel fraudulent at the beginning of every semester.

This is because I see the faces of a fresh sample of new students, and they are unified in their skepticism.

They share an obvious question that is easily read on most of the fresh faces.

How is this immature-looking, hairy Neanderthal of a hippie going to teach me anything?

There is a resentment involved with this shared countenance, especially for English classes. English teachers’ jobs are to correct spelling and grammar…not to be the thought police, but to be the grammar police.

Students know that the only chance for redemption in this modern life is a college degree. A job must be acquired, but first an arduous climb up this academic mountain must begin. A battle with projectors of math and grammar must commence. These deluded knights of the classroom nobly insist upon the minutiae of theory and formula, while everybody knows inherently that it’s useless and a waste of time.

Why do we need to pass this stupid English class anyways? I’m not going to need this in real life. Who cares about this stuff? Nobody needs to know this. This is a waste of my time. How am I going to earn any money by reading Shakespeare? Who uses the Pythagorean Theorem or Newton’s mathematical principles in their job? The Nicomachean Ethics?!? Who cares?!

My dad said all teachers are puffy potheads, and I’m a good son who listens to his pappy. My uncle preaches Hannity-from-the-radio’s opinion about college instructors. My pastor told me never to trust my English teachers because they distort the true Word of God.

Many thoughts pass through my students’ heads, and it’s transparent as they look upon me that first time, in that first class.

I know this look. I recognize the contorting grimace and furrowed forehead and slumped boredom, because it’s a pretty fair photograph of my doubting self from when I was first a college student.

When I was in the student’s desk, I doubted the person at the front of the classroom because of the social picture that is painted around the philosopher and literary aficionado. I disrespected the professor, but I expected him or her to live up to his or her title…the “professor” had to live up to my personal ideal, my customer-mentality of proof, that the class is not a colossal waste of time.

I did learn, much later in life than my first encounter with the college classroom, that the best professors are ones that shatter that customer mentality. They are the ones that learn to act professionally by immersing themselves within the nuance of the researched discipline and sharing that with students in a manner that communicates better understanding, relates to the world-at-large, and maintains the interest of the collective group. A professor is the professional who regards their student as a viable client rather than a demanding customer.

I always get this irrational fear, on the first day of class when I see new faces—of students that I will grow to love, as they tolerate my eccentricities and genuinely learn important nuance…that I’m not going to live up to my own standard of a good college professor, which involves handling students, like myself, who were raised under a false set of norms about college…that I will be thought of as a fraud.

After sixty-three college courses taught, I would like to dismiss and ignore this fear of teaching…but there it is, at the beginning of every semester.

{If you appreciated this writing and want to help support the continuation of this blog, please consider sending a donation to:

Scott C. Guffey
P.O. Box 53
Michigan City, IN 46360

For a full explanation of author impetus, blog mission statement, and donations appeal, click About.}

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