In case you missed the memo, I got accepted to graduate school at the best university of all the one universities I've ever attended. Now I would like to add that a couple days after I accepted their acceptance, they offered me a graduate instructor position, which was part of my hope and intention all along but not guaranteed. If I accept this offer I will be teaching introductory English courses to freshman for a salary that covers the graduate degree. And I intend to accept it, but I haven't yet because I have until April 15 and I don't want to look desperate. Maybe this is a test. Maybe if I respond too quickly they'll be like "Sorry, we don't want desperate people on our faculty. Actually, we don't want them as students either. Try your luck at BYU-Idaho next time." That's not a risk I'm willing to take.
Not long ago there was no way in hell I'd seriously consider becoming a teacher of all things. Public speaking meets grossly underpaid babysitting gig? No thanks. But God has basically told me to become a teacher. My father has said more than once that he thinks I would be a good teacher, specifically at relating to the students who don't fit in. Charles Waugh, the professor who urged me to consider graduate school, also specifically mentioned the graduate instructor thing and that he thought I would be a good fit. Okay, so I'm a phenomenal writer, but communicating these things verbally to a roomful of people is a different skill set altogether and I have no clue what any of these people see in me that makes them think I have it. In theory I'll find out.
All I've taught so far in my life are a handful of Sunday school lessons and, more recently, a couple of Come Follow Me discussion groups. And my first attempt at a Sunday school lesson was so abysmal that I hate myself every time I think about it, but I do much better now because I don't do much at all. With the Come Follow Me lessons I basically spend half an hour jotting down questions and discussion prompts, and then use them to make everyone else do most of the talking, which creates an enjoyable experience for all but mostly me. On the rare occasion that nobody responds immediately, I'm not afraid to wait them out. Awkward shmawkward. As Alanis Morrissette once queried,
Why are you so petrified of silence?
English classes at USU are also very discussion-based, so much so that many of them are limited to twenty students and very difficult to get into. But nonetheless I'll have to do a lot more preparing and a lot more talking. There's a specific amount of material I'll have to cover and there are actual curricular criteria I'll have to prepare these kids for. And despite my best efforts to be a fun, laid-back teacher that everyone loves, I'll have to grade them honestly and give them Ds and Fs if that's what they've earned, and then they'll hate me and try to get me fired. And at the end of the semester all of them will anonymously fill out evaluations of information including but not limited to all the ways in which I suck. Also, it will probably take me at least a month to memorize all their names and preferred pronouns. I forget so many names sometimes I could swear I have dementia.
I can't say no to this opportunity, yet it terrifies me. I try to comfort myself by thinking of all the times I moved past my fears and it was totally worth it. But then I can't think of any and I remember that actually most of the times I moved past my fears, terrible things happened to me. It's almost as if fear is a normal healthy instinct programmed to protect me or something. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ So I remind myself that I worked at a call center for nearly four months so I can definitely do this. I mean, yeah, I got progressively worse at the call center job as my sleep and will to live decreased every week, and I would let everyone I love starve to death before I'd do it again, but I did it. Yay me. I'm so strong. (You know it's time for a career change when you catch yourself thinking If I jump in front of that truck, I won't have to go to work today.) Don't get me wrong, I have no doubt that this will be better than working at a call center. Clearing an elephant's bowel blockage with my tongue would also be better than working at a call center.
Probably the first couple weeks will be stressful and awful and full of no sleep whatsoever, but then they'll get better and my silly little worries will evaporate and I'll be so good they'll beg me to stay on and I'll get job offers from all over the country. Who can say? One way or another it will be an adventure. With any luck it will be an incredible opportunity to indoctrinate young, plastic minds with my worldview, instill them with a passion for the written word, and become too absorbed in a fulfilling and rewarding career path to ever be bored or fall in love again. It's not going to make me rich, but that's what my books are for. In theory. (Memo to future tenured self: assign your students to read your books so at least somebody will.)
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.