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Unexpected proposal

February 22, 2010

Finally back to school today.  Wow, it’s hard to get back into the swing after so many snow days.  There’s no indication we’ll be missing any more soon.  But never say never.

I managed to do a little boasting about my big WotF win, even to my principal.  She’s a former English teacher and was interested in my progress.  Remember, I’m a math teacher with no formal writing or literature training outside basic high school and college curricula.  So I was more than slightly surprised when she suggested I take the two English teacher certification exams to get certified to teach a creative writing class.

Yeah, a math teacher just up and taking an English teacher’s test –nay, two English teacher tests.  And then given a writing class?    Who was she kidding?

Let’s go through my reactions by the numbers: (1) English test?  Are you insane?  (2) Man, it would be awesome to teach a creative writing class.  (3) Ooh, isn’t that a slap in the face to full-time English teachers that might want to teach creative writing? (4) Could I pass a test for high school English teachers?  (5) How much literature would be on it?  (6) I bet I could kick grammar’s booty.  (7) Is she serious?

I cycled through these feelings over the course of about four seconds.  I immediately set out to clear up some of the questions.  First came #7: The principal insisted I do it this spring so she could get it into next year’s schedule.  So I think she is serious.  Next #5: A quick trip to the test maker’s website suggests lit is half the pedagogy (how-to-teach test) and combines with “understanding language” to constitute half the knowledge test.  *gulp*  Finally #4: I answered 24 sample questions on the same website; I got 23 correct.  Sweet!  Sure, one was a lucky guess and one at least one other was a reasonably educated but still lucky guess, but I still rocked it.  The real test will be 120 questions, not 24, but it suggests I can do it, especially considering I could have gotten the one I missed with somewhat more careful reading.  So yeah, with some studying, it could happen.

Still unresolved is question 3.  I doubt anyone at my school is more qualified than I am to instruct students in writing, but they may be more qualified to teach it.  What’s the difference?  Grading.  I’ve had to learn every lesson on my own, the hard way.  What kind of position does that put me in to grade students?  I learned in a pass/fail environment.  I’m not sure how to give a B.  I can figure it out, but I’m not so sure now.  And what about the people that dedicated their lives to teaching language arts?  A (presumably) senior level writing course could be the crown jewel of English classes.  How would I feel if an English teacher swooped in and started teaching a brand new discrete math class?  But could I complain if they had placed in an international discrete math competition (whatever that is)?  If I can pass their test, I guess it’s enough to get me in their club.

There’s risk here.  For instance, I could catch a tenth grade English class instead of (or as well as) the creative writing class.  Or I could waste my time prepping for this test only to have the class cut for budget purposes.  And what if I hate teaching writing to high schoolers?  Or, worst case, what if the class becomes a dumping ground for aimless students?  But if the class if filled with kids that truly want to write and write better than they do now, I can help them.  I can teach them to critique each others’ work, how to accept and apply criticism, how to analyze their favorite stories for techniques that work, how to build characters and make a story.  Am I great?  I think I’m pretty good, but I’m not “there” yet.  If I go to Clarion, that’s that much more I can bring home with me.  I wonder if it would have helped me if this kind of class was available when I was in school?

So I’ve decided to pursue it.  It may pan out, it may not.  It’s an interesting twist to my world.  It might even qualify me to get reimbursed for part of Clarion’s cost!  Cool.

We’ll see.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 22, 2010 11:56 pm

    Scott:

    I think you have an obligation to do it. Imagine if you did have that opportunity as a kid. You probably would have started writing sooner, and be further along by now. Maybe you would have forgone your current career altogether? You can’t tell, but you certainly can say that you would point a lot of unsure, new talent in the right direction.

    As far as if you’re qualified, I’d rather have someone with some creative writing credentials. Grammar, etc. helps but it won’t teach you how to write a story. Most english teachers probably know nothing about what makes a good story. You can get people set on the right track, man. Help people realize their dreams! I wish more schools would follow suite. If I had a creative writing class in high school, I probably would have taken it and gotten direction. Maybe I wouldn’t have wasted so much time on my current career or stupid video games. Video games alone are probably 3 years in hours of my 25 year life, and i enjoy writing more. Too bad I didn’t know it was even a possibility back then.

    For one, the kids will believe/respect/listen to someone with some creative writing work under their belt. You’ll get across to them better. You’ll probably have some more creative ideas on how to teach them also.

    Oh, and by the way, teaching them how to give/accept criticism is HUUUUUUUGE. Also, if you can teach them to make character driven stories, give them the right formats, give them ideas how to get their work out there, and teach them to create deep plots, they’re above like what, 90 percent of other newbies?

    I say, you have an obligation sir. Congrats and bravo, you have a chance to make huge differences in people’s lives. How exciting! To further the industry, even.

    Clint-

  2. February 23, 2010 9:47 am

    As a writing instructor (though not a creative writing teacher), I can say with certainty that you are asking the right questions.

    I disagree that you should feel obligated to do this.

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