Thursday, December 13, 2012

thank you, teacher

I wanted to share this excerpt from Migrant Intellectual with all of my teaching friends:

First, thank you.
Thank you for your work.
Thank you for staying in the game.
You are so important; your work is so important; your voice is so important.
You are a blessing to your students, to your friends and family, to yourself.
In the language of my mentor Avital Ronell, you are a dear one, my friend.


In these words, Dr. Baum is comforting an adjunct who reports from the teaching front on her own anxieties and second-hand clothing. It reminds me of how my father wandered back into the world of higher education in the mid-90s, having not taught a college class since the early 1970s but in need of an income years after losing what he had in the white collar world of computers and technology.

Anyway, in Florida, he was scheduled to teach calculus at a community college, and with some passion he planned his lessons and gave it go. But he walked in on the first day, saw twice as many students as he was told he'd be instructing, felt he was lied to, and resigned on the spot. His pay would have been $1,400 for one class over 15 weeks, and although he needed work, he wasn't willing to work for that sum. He is just one of many folks I know who couldn't or wouldn't teach for such paltry wages, or was apprehensive to terrified about teaching at all.

So, teachers, when you get there, enjoy your break. You deserve it.

As they say, you're making a difference.

Back to my father, a beautiful moment for me this fall was when I discovered a note in my facebook "other messages" that was from one of his math students from 1973 or so. The gentleman, just finishing up an engineering career, from another country and living in a state far from Philadelphia, wrote to ask if I was Joe Kudera's son, and then told me my father taught him in a math class at Temple University (yes, adjunct work), and that my father would see him in University City and offer to give him a lift to Temple's North Philly campus. It was good to hear that my father extending himself to this young man 40 years ago was a memory the older version cherished enough to seek out news of his driver-teacher.

This also reminded me of all the positive things you hear about adjuncts, all the different ways they are extending themselves to help within their communities, and it also reminded me of the positive side of my father. I'm sure this kind of memory is bouncing around my brain because I recently finished Townie, Andre Dubus III's look at his own present-absent, giving-taking, learning-teaching father.

Last night, when I should have been grading still, I was also editing a short piece, another excerpt from The Book of Jay, about my father's poverty of the late 1970s, between tech gigs, when he successfully negotiated with the Christmas tree guy and wound up with all he could afford, the top two feet of a tree, a serviceable amount for any giving season. Maybe I can finish this grading and get rough draft of that excerpt online before the end of Channukah.

Best wishes, Dr. Baum, as you navigate the waters of Fox News and more.



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