Love of Literature, Fear of Failure

I have been reading forever, and writing since I knew how to form letters. Books have been my best friends, and sometimes my worst enemies. Writing essays and stories became my escape, and represented a climb to glory that only a few could achieve. Some of my fondest memories of childhood come from my own words–when the school published a poem I wrote, or a teacher read a story I wrote to the class. I relished reports written by me and then presented orally. I still remember doing the research on Basenjis because my dog, Tammy, was part Basenji.

Tammy had the coloring, the face, and the size, but she had a lab chest.

This love of reading and writing lasted throughout school, as I blasted ahead of fellow classmates absorbing literature like food. At Smith, I skipped the Introductory Course in English and went straight into the Sophomore Level. (That only became an issue years later when I started to teach Freshman Comp, and realized I didn’t know how).  I believe I declared a major in English Language and Literature as soon as I was allowed to declare my major.

But wait, you are thinking, isn’t your field theater?

Well, at the time English Language and Literature was one of the HARDEST majors at Smith College. What used to be an easy A for me, became a hard-earned B (with the occasional A). The lowest grade I ever got in college was from my Chaucer class (although I have to say that was not completely a fair grade–but that’s another story).  I tended to excel in the dramatic literature classes more than in the classes about novels or poetry. As much as I loved reading and writing, I started to doubt myself. I had one professor who truly supported me, and allowed me to do a special studies project during my senior year (“The Roles of Women in Shakespeare”). I had one professor who chose favorites, and he happened to be the one who taught Short Story writing. When I graduated, I only had a B+ average in my major.

I grew doubts.

Meanwhile, I had always intended to do a minor in theater. I participated in everything I could, and took more classes than the minor required. (On a side note, I always made sure to take at least one class a semester outside of English or Theater to broaden my horizons–Smith didn’t have any core requirements). So, when senior year rolled around and I met with my minor advisor, she and I realized that I was only three credits shy of the theater major, and that I had an A- (?) average in all those courses. Three production credits. I had done numerous productions for no credit. So, we traipsed over to the chairs office and asked if there was any way I could still be a major, without those credits. He waived them.

So I graduated from Smith College with a double major in English Language and Literature and Theatre.

Little did I know how intricate a role each would come to play in my life.

The theater part is pretty obvious if you have been reading my blog for any length of time. Sorry if this is a little repetitive. I did an internship in electrics and stage management, eventually went back to school for an MFA in directing, and then continued my masochistic pursuit of education to get my PhD in Theatre for Youth. So now I am technically, a theater director/educator with an expertise in theatre for and with children as well as theatre for social change.

Now to English. Between my internship and my MFA I taught English conversation classes in Japan for three years. And of course, I kept reading and writing.

After I got my PhD and moved to Vermont where my husband taught at Castleton State College, I felt like I needed more than teaching adjunct courses for the theater department in the college and directing  one show a year.

So yes, crazy me, signed up for a distance learning class with the Institute for Children’s Literature. That one class led to three, and the book that is gathering dust without a home.

We then moved onto Fort Lewis College where, due to circumstances which I choose not to discuss here, my opportunities to teach in the theatre department were limited and then ultimately disappeared (although I did teach Non Western Theater that was part of the General Education program, as well as Children’s Theater for the Education Department). I got to direct one show (eventually) and had lots of projects in the community, as well as some children’s classes. But again, that wasn’t enough, especially financially. So, the first classes I taught at the college were 1 credit Library Research classes, introducing appropriate use of resources. It was a horrible class  because it was being phased out, but still a requirement. But, it was a foot in the door, and I got to do it because I had a PhD. After that, the Writing Program advertised for a full-time faculty position. I knew I wasn’t qualified, but I applied anyway. I didn’t get that job, but late in the summer (about two weeks before the semester started)  I got a call from the Head of the Writing Program saying “Would you like to pick up a couple of classes? We really need someone.” So I found myself teaching a 100 level and a 200 level course in Composition–without having a clue.

You know what I learned? Give me a challenge and I live up to it. Both those classes were successful, and I learned from my mistakes. I eventually picked up more classes, got on a part-time contract (that included benefits) and taught courses throughout the school in Honors, Comp, Gen Ed, Writing, and the occasional theater class.

Move forward to now. I am at a community college (another long story). I teach Theater Appreciation and Stage Makeup, which are basically the only Theater classes available to me at the moment. It’s a small program. I direct. This past semester, the person in charge of adjuncts asked if I would be willing to teach a Comp I class. No problem, I’m experienced now (although this one was very different).  He asked me if I’d teach one on-line as well. Slight problem, but I was up for the challenge (and that class was better than the live one).

I didn’t expect any classes over the summer, but I said I was willing to teach some on-line courses. (Live ones would be too complicated for the summer). At first nothing, and then I was offered two classes. Slight problem, instead of Comp I he wanted me to do Comp II. Okay, I’ve done that before as well, just a matter of figuring the technology again.

However, the second class leads me to here and now. To this present moment. I am teaching an Introduction to Literature Class. American Literature. (Did I mention that my degree at Smith mostly focused on Brit Lit).

I’M FREAKING OUT!

There, vent over. Luckily I have a wonderful blogging buddy who has sent me a gracious gift.  So, here’s a shout out to Amanda at A.Hab’s View who is a goddess in disguise.

Now, I must stop procrastinating and face the beast.