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What Do I Want to Teach?

July 6, 2010

Have you ever asked the Universe a question and then been hit in the face with the answer? Like, while you’re at the grocery store looking for sausage to put in your home-made breakfast burritos? No, just me?

Well, as some of my devoted followers know, I have decided that I want to be a college professor. I also want to get an MFA in creative writing. But, I realize those two things might not fit together. I don’t know if I want to teach creative writing. I don’t even know if an MFA is enough to be qualified to teach it at the collegiate level. Plus, I don’t know if I want to go to school long enough to be qualified to teach writing at the collegiate level.

Well, last year I was trying to be practical about all of this and get a degree that I could “use.” Obviously, I mean use for money. Because, of course any degree a person gets will be used in some respect. Well, I was looking into advertising at that time. It was something I could easily justify to anyone who gave me that look when I mentioned going to graduate school.

Do you know the look? The why-would-you-do-that-? look. Or even the that’s-a-stupid-idea look. Oh, and, especially the but-you’ll-be-in-debt-until-you’re-dead look that my mother gave me. (I think she also imagined me waiting tables or checking groceries while she gave me that look. Yeah, she’s a worry muti-tasker.)

Well, something about the advertising masters didn’t fit. It wasn’t heart-shaped. I thought, if I’m going to teach something it should be something great. Something I want to pass on to the next generation. Something I love and something I can encourage them to do without felling like I’m sending them off to their death (like if I taught journalism for example). Maybe something noble. Yeah, not advertising.

And maybe not creative writing.

I mean how many kids would be able to actually make a living after I taught them that. That’s the point of higher education, right? Making money — a return on the investment of college. So, I’ve been asking the Universe (and myself), “What should I teach?”

I hadn’t heard much of a response until Sunday at the Safeway. I was looking for sausage to put into my home-made breakfast burritos (which turned out beautiful, by the way) and I saw Mr. Robinson standing by the bacon. I didn’t have the nerve at that moment to say hello, but it struck me as strange that he was there.

I’ve been thinking about him lately. He was one of the greats. One of my great teachers. A history teacher. I could never believe how passionate he was about the past. I’m not really a huge history fan. But I did actually minor in it in college. Sort of because of my dad…and, come to think of it, sort of because of Mr. Robinson. Wow. What a revelation. I wish I had told him that.

Well, I got another chance. Just as I was leaving, so was he. Right there by the automatic doors I said hi to him. Told him a little bit about what I’ve been doing since AP History and Government class, including the fact that i was thinking about going to graduate school for creative writing. It was so great to see him. I could actually feel that he was proud of me and that he approved of my path. I was beaming when I got to the car.

And then, I was crying. It was as if the Universe had said, “See, it doesn’t matter what you teach. You’re supposed to be a teacher — just like Mr. Robinson was supposed to be a teacher.” Even a student like me — who didn’t really care about history, and took it just because I had to to get into college  — was impacted by a great man who chose to teach. So, even if all I ever teach is freshman comp. I know, I just have to teach. Touch those lives and maybe inspire them.

Wow, cheesy.

Well, the Universe must have decided I needed this cheesy lesson hammered home for good measure. Because yesterday I ran into Mr. Houska. This time because I had to get myself a piece of Black Tie Mousse cake from the Olive Garden. (Humm, both times because of food too — I wonder if that means something?) He was standing outside with his family waiting to be seated.

It was amazing. He’s so boisterous and kind. He is such a GREAT teacher. And, again, teaching something that I never “used” — sociology and psychology. Not to make any money anyway. But he’s part of why I’m me, no matter what topic we covered in his class.

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