Posted in Prelude, 🎨 Art

Belly of the Whale

I fell in love with teaching at graduate school—and I also fell in love with barely making a living as an adjunct professor (at last, I could write novels on weekends!)—which meant that, even though I missed blogging, since I found a new way to live meaningfully, artfully, and autonomously…

🌍 Life was good. 🌎

But whenever I hinted at the injustices of adjunct pay—exposed an inkling of my issues with living below the poverty line—my aunt, mother, grandmother, and every other x-chromosome relative would vulture-swoop, slipping in the advice of wise women, ideas from before a time before this time:

  • “You ought to teach high school, like your family does;” or
  • “You ought to teach junior high!—you would be good with the kids;”
  • “Please, if you could just make a real career out of it,” Sweetheart, Baby, frail English-majored autistic child, “we wouldn’t have to worry about you falling on your face anymore.”

So I did that.

I drifted even further away from my love of writing, far off the edge of the known world,—where I liked to preach the love of writing to wide, I-work-two-jobs-at-once eyes,—and I entered institutionalized K-12 classrooms;

and when I entered into a high school special education department, my Vice Principal placed me in a math classroom, no less.

Listening to Now 🏳‍ “Alexa, play smooth jazz.” 🏳‍

Teaching Philosophy 👩‍🏫 “I ♥ autonomy.” 👨‍🏫

The world has a shortage of teachers. This is because the demand is higher than the supply.

And the supply of teachers has dropped because teachers don’t get paid enough,—regardless of level, credentials, industry—because, the way our culture sees it, “the pay is in the love for the job.”

In addition to living below poverty line, if a teacher is in K-12 public schools, they don’t keep their autonomy. They’re more like managers than community-respected intellectuals, trained in tactics (and trained on the weekends, when your family is having a barbecue) to make students a) put their technology away, b) pay attention, and c) produce normalized products for a typical, obedient life.

Given the above dynamics, it takes a particular kind of brain to still want to teach.

Enter my Aspergian brain. Social norms drive me batty. I’m a mad scientist brain. I want explanation, progression, intention. As much as I love to teach, I navigate standardization and normalization like a bat slapping into the mosh pit of a rock concert. I channel my inner two-year-old, screaming over the din, “Why? Why!?

In the name of my passion for teaching, I accept that some sacrifices must be made.

I understand that making a difference in the community is often associated with low pay.

I know our culture does not currently value making differences; our leaders choose sameness, normalization, separation.

But for the love of learning, for the sake of our wondrous neural power, let teachers teach the way they ought to teach; let them have their autonomy, their liberty to nurture children without one administrative choice leading to another micro-management solution, all the way down the rabbit hole, until the joy has been sucked from the classroom, the love of learning left blanched and dry.

As a K-12 teacher, I felt more like a drone than a creative mind channeling innovations into other minds, more like a body meant to fill a hole in a meeting filled, a meeting filled with  disgruntled academics groaning, writhing, and doodling in their overfilled planners until everything was on overflow and the men in charge said, “We’re done.”

There are enough teaching opportunities in this shortage to choose a grade level, industry, site, and academic community that respects its members more than this; eventually the supply and demand will become so dire—if it hasn’t already—that quality teachers won’t be available to these desperate students anymore.

So let’s help each other. Yes, let’s be a team. And let’s also advocate to be individuals. Let’s model what a single force is capable of, because, real talk:

What better way to illustrate the wondrous potential that lies within the human mind then to give students a real-life demonstration, to show them your potential, your single power?

Don’t students have the right to know where creativity can take us?


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Author:

Kourtnie McKenzie holds an MFA (Fiction) from Fresno State and a BA in English (Literature Studies) from Cal State Fullerton. When she isn't writing novellas, she's moonlighting as a professor at Fresno City College and College of the Sequoias. To read more of her writing, visit en.gravatar.com/kourtnie.

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