That's me, on the left, when I was teaching 2-way for the Warsaw Center (this is Kettler) back in 2006.
Return to Graduate School
Going back to graduate school at age 54 was a big event for me. I had been to grad school, J-School at Ball State, immediately after I got out of the Army, but that didn’t work out so well. As a Vietnam-era vet who had served in Europe for nearly three years, I was a little out of step with the fifth-year seniors I was thrown in with. Soon I dropped out of the program to fill a sudden opening on a small-town paper in northern Indiana. So 30 years later, after a career in Journalism that had left me proud but weary, I was ready to pick up where I had left off. This time though, my goal was to get a job as a college professor teaching writing. My immediate challenge, of course, was to survive the transition.
I still remember the elation I felt driving over from North Manchester to my first evening class at the IPFW campus. I had been accepted to the summer program that would introduce me to college-level teaching, and once fall started I would teach two sections of W131 while I took English courses at the same time. Piece of cake, I thought.
The good news was that I immediately found that IPFW was an ideal place for returning students. Profs were accepting of my experience, and the other students seemed already to be adults, with many responsibilities no matter their age, so I wasn’t entirely outside the mainstream of their experiences. The less than good news was that I was startled by the amount of reading and writing, and I was also a bit surprised at the high caliber of my fellow classmates. I would not excel simply by showing up, that much was clear the first night.
To compensate for my surprise, I immediately adjusted my short term goals from simply studying hard and that kind of thing to finding a special niche where I could fit in and rise above the maddening crowd so to speak. Early on I got involved with the Writing Center, which seemed to attract a specialized kind of teaching, and not long after that I discovered technology. Always a computer nerd – my wife and I owned a Commodore Vic 20 when they first came out and then purchased the first 512K Macs – I scoured the course descriptions and took any English or Comp class that mentioned technology. Soon I had a working knowledge of discussion boards, listservs, and an early version of Blackboard. I also bugged ITS until they gave me my own ipfw.edu/users web space.
It wasn’t long until this approach paid off in my teaching, with my students seeming to respond very well to my class web pages where I presented their assignments along with PowerPoint lectures and the like. Even though my early teaching experiences were not over the Internet, the technology worked well in face to face classrooms, and I was inspired to push this approach as hard as possible, including writing my Master’s Thesis about technology in the classroom.
Because I had set my goals high and focused them well, three years after I entered grad school I was rewarded for my efforts with a full time teaching position on the faculty of the English and Linguistics Department at IPFW. Short-term goal accomplished.
College teaching of course is more than just about the job: it is about you guys. It is about working on your behalf to ensure that you succeed in meeting your own goals. So my long-term goal, to be the best teacher possible, is still unfulfilled and hopefully never will be. As they say, “There’s always room to grow.”