A lot has happened since I walked away from a well-paying but mind-numbing career, and started working the only job I’ve ever wanted to do — writing. But aside from posting links to articles I’ve written, I haven’t said much about my new occupation. And since I’ve enjoyed reading insights into this profession, I’ve decided to provide my own limited perspective
Soon after making my leap into uncertainty, I revisited one of my former occupations — teaching composition as an adjunct instructor at a community college. I knew the pay wasn’t going to be great and I’d have to re-learn how to teach after almost two decades away from the classroom… but I remembered feeling satisfied in the last couple classes I had taught, and it was the quickest way for me to make a steady if unspectacular income. This was going to be a challenge, but it wasn’t like I was starting from scratch.
The semester began in late August, and by Halloween I had come to three key realizations:
- Re-learning how to teach wasn’t going to work, because I had never really learned how to teach in the first place. My pedagogical strategy back in the day had been based entirely on improvisation, and that’s not a healthy approach for someone who’d been away from the classroom for so long.
- Students respond well to teachers who address their needs. But as I had completely misjudged those needs at the start of the semester, I was not getting the response I was looking for.
- I wasn’t writing. Preparing for classes and grading papers was taking too much time and mental energy. A part-time job had become a full-time occupation.
By Thanksgiving, as the English Department at my school asked for my teaching preferences in the coming semester, I knew there was only one good decision. I had to stop teaching. I had embarked on this journey in order to write, and after a few months of failing to write much of anything, I knew changes needed to be made.
And yet, I don’t see my teaching last fall as a mistake, but more like an experiment that didn’t work. There will be plenty more experiments as I continue on this path, and some have yielded more positive results lately — I’m writing, lots, which has always been the priority. But in the coming months and years, there will be many more projects which will blow up, and I’ll by wiping soot off my face plenty of times. Sometimes the only way to figure out what works, is to discover what doesn’t.