Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Five Naked Women and the Teacher

It was 2:00 a.m. I sat in my office, reading a book, when one of my son's friends walked in to talk. You see, my house was always 'that house' where all the kids knew they were welcome. I was 'that mom', that was usually available to talk about anything. On this particular night, Steven wanted to know about one of the prints on my wall.
The specific print is  Picasso's Les Demoiselles D'Avignon, and to a fifteen year old teenage boy, it was just a painting of naked women. I explained to him the historical content of the painting and some of the political, social and cultural interpretations. I pulled out a copy of Conrad's Heart of Darkness and convinced him to read it. A few days later, he said to me, "Why don't we learn this stuff in high school?"

Good question.

I've always wanted to teach. Even though I've been a nurse for almost thirty years, I've always taken a certain pleasure in not necessarily sharing my knowledge, but getting someone interested in something that they normally would have ignored. A fifteen year old reading Conrad and looking at a Picasso as a political statement is a fine example.

Steven then pushed the right button. "Why aren't you teaching?"

Another good question.

The next semester of school, I found myself in an alternative teaching program for people with a Bachelors degree to become licensed as high school teachers. In six months, I had a certificate to teach history in the state of Texas (long story) and started looking for a job. In the meantime, I enrolled in a Master of Arts program, focusing on literature this time, thinking that the Masters would only increase my chances of getting hired.

One Masters degree later, I still hadn't secured a teaching job. So I went back to school, again. This time for a terminal degree, a Master of Fine Arts. I completed that degree a year ago, and sent out over one hundred resumes/applications to teach.


A month ago, I got a call from a college in Las Vegas. I interviewed and was hired to teach World Literature for the Spring semester. Then I was given a second class, English Composition. I immediately started reading the class material and working on my syllabi.

Today is my first day of class and I'm sure I'm more excited than my students will be. Seven years in the making, today I become a teacher. Never give up, fight the good fight, pick your cliche.

This morning, I walked in to my office and the first thing that caught my eye was the Picasso print: a reminder that I can do this. I don't expect that everyone will have the enthusiasm for the subjects that I do, however, if I can just make them see things in a different way...

And I have no doubt I can do just that.