Year Two: Two Weeks In

And so it begins – Year Two of my MFA – with homework piled sky-high.

I’ve been describing it to people like this: Year One was like learning how to plan a fabulous, fun-filled, memorable vacation. Year Two appears to be more like learning how to build your own airplane. From scratch. With your bare hands.

As I write this (and yes, procrastinate on homework for a while) I am thinking about all of the assignments due before my next class meetings. The list looks something like this:

Reading:
12 student chapters from my cohort, including a reread of my own.
7 short stories, one of which I am asked to annotate for structure.
2 chapters of a textbook on how to teach English Composition.

Writing:
1 chapter of a book length project, ideally new pages, but, at a minimum, edited existing pages.

Other Assignments:
Develop a teaching assignment and grading rubric for said assignment and evaluate the student exercises conducted in class by three of my peers.
Draft a teaching pedagogy statement.
Draft a course description with objectives for an Intro to Creative Writing class.
Begin researching possible textbooks I might use to teach creative writing.
2 units in a workbook on diagramming sentences.

All of this is due next week…in four days. In case you’re worried, yes, I have already started but I still have much to do.

I think about this long list of assignments and reflect back on the fact that I did at one time, not so very long ago, hold a highly demanding job with far-reaching responsibilities. That job fully consumed my time, my brain and my life. It was not easy, but I managed. The major difference, however, is that I knew what I was doing (at least mostly) and that is why they’d hired me.

Now, as I take on these challenges of schoolwork, I don’t actually know what I’m doing. Which, of course, is why I am studying. But I’m realizing how stretched my brain is right now, how tired my eyes are, and how uncertain I am of being able to succeed this semester if every week is going to be like these first two.

When working full-time, there were often moments when I did not want to do a task, but I never doubted that I could accomplish it. The didn’t want to part is largely why I’m not there any more. I became burnt out because, indeed, I had done the same tasks so many times that they were no longer a challenge. I left that job and, for the most part, that career entirely behind me. I still do the occasional consultancy, but I no longer have my mind in that world full-time. I craved something new, something more creative.

As they say, be careful what you ask for. It’s cliché, but it’s true. I wanted challenge and boy howdy am I gettin’ it. For many of the assignments I find that I am doing a tremendous amount of research. Often the first piece of research is with a dictionary because I don’t even know the meaning of the word that titles the assignment. That is how much I have to learn.

My education on grammar and structure of the English language, for example, occurred mostly from the 2nd to 6th grades. After that, I either didn’t have great teachers or, aside from one or two college English courses, I simply wasn’t interested.

The 2nd grade was a very, very long time ago, and I often do not even recognize the words as I begin to relearn this topic. Somewhere deep inside those ideas are likely lying dormant, perhaps buried under a pile of old phone numbers and birthdays of former acquaintances I do uselessly remember, but predicate nominatives or appositives…where is the dictionary?

I’ve done a lot of things in my 50-plus years and, somehow I have managed to succeed in staying alive, paying my bills and securing housing and food so I guess I am not a total disaster. But this semester may prove that theory wrong.

I’m waiting for the night when I toss and turn as a nightmare plays out in my brain, the one where I am suddenly asked to teach a class of freshmen college students – probably from a major where writing is laughed at – and I must teach them how to reverse outline a memoir and identify all of the interrogative adverbs and adjectives and their grade will determine both if they can stay in school and whether or not I can continue to teach. And I’ll have to do all of this in heels and wearing false eyelashes too thick to see through properly.

Okay, I’m exaggerating just a tiny bit. The eyelashes wouldn’t be that thick, but you get the picture. This semester is a whole different kind of yowza and shutting my mind down to sleep these days, or rather these nights, is no simple task.

The good news – and getting back to where I started – is that I love to travel and flying fascinates me. So with luck my first analogy of learning to build an airplane may well prove to be a good one and, I hope, at the end of this semester – or at least at the end of my MFA – I’ll find my wings.

Categories 2015, Archives, September 2015, The MFA Years

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close