A: How long have you been teaching English?
Q: I taught different writing and literature courses for about 12 years.
A: When did you decide to become a teacher and why?
Q: It’s interesting. I don’t know that there was one moment where I decided . After I finished college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I went on to graduate school. I said to myself “just go to more school”. When I was in grad school, I had to teach as part of earning my degree. I came to find that I enjoyed it, so I continued.
A: How many years of education are needed to be a college English teacher?
Q: Full time faculties here have Ph D. I am a full time faculty. Different people take different amount of time to complete their degrees. Usually, It takes another 6 or 7 years after graduating from college. It took me 7 years to get my Ph D. It took more than to become a doctor.
A: Do you have other functions or duties for the school?
Q: Teaching is just one part of the job here. I also do writing and publishing. Another part of the job is called ‘service’, such as serving on committees in the college, organizing events or working with student clubs.
A: Do you work on admissions? (admitting or recruiting students)
Q: No, we do not because we have “open admissions” here. We do student advising when they get here..
A: Can you tell me about a typical day or week as a college English teacher?
Q: Sure. I usually teach 3 classes per semester. I spend Sundays preparing for the week to come: prepare lessons and finish grading. Monday through Thursday, I’ll be teaching, at meetings or talking to students and other people. That takes a whole day and I do a little more grading and preparing at home. Usually, Friday is my day off. Today is an exception because I am meeting our students for a field trip. Usually I like to cook in my apartment and shopping on Fridays. I prepare for the next week on Saturdays and Sundays. As part of my job, I do writing during the summer because I normally don’t have time during the semester while teaching.
A: Can you tell me more about your day-to-day workload, whether you have enough time to help every student in your class?
Q:That’s a great question. What do you think the answer is?
I don’t think you have enough time for every student. But when I work on the online blog, you always respond very fast.
Q: It’s true, I like the online blog too because it’s a little easier sometime than having to meet with our students. Students are very busy too, a lot of time they don’t have time to come in to get help. So online is easier sometimes because you can do it in the middle of the night. But I would like to meet and help my students more. Sometimes, it can be frustrating when a student wants to come to see me but I have to go to a meeting. I would rather work with the students but I’ll get in trouble if I don’t go to the meeting. So, it can be hard to balance. We have a lot of students. So if I have a class that start with 28 students, sometimes you see some drop out and don’t make it all the way. I have three classes, around 80 students at the start of the semester, that’s kind of a lot.
A: How are you evaluated and rewarded for good work from the school.
Q: Every year we write up a report that talks about everything that we did over the course of the year. We also get observed once a semester. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen sometimes when someone comes in, that another professor watches your professor? because they are writing evaluations. And you, as student write your evaluation on your professor at the end of the semester. We get evaluated on these and to see if we get rehired next year. We don’t get extra money unless we are doing extra projects.
A: Why do you have a passion for teaching English?
Q: Lots of different reasons. It’s in the culture and people’s everyday interactions. People don’t get a lot of opportunities to share their ideas and get to know each other through reading and writing. Partly every English professor become English professor because we think “wow, it’s amazing that we get paid to read and write”, but also to have the opportunity to get to know people in a different setting. It’s not work that you have to produce something. It’s about ideas. I think teaching at a place like Laguardia, you really work with a lot of students who wouldn’t have the opportunity if we didn’t have community colleges. I am passionate about everybody having opportunity for education, and to write and to be creative, and not just have job training but also thinking. Because I think, a lot of time in this country and in many different cultures, education is just for the elite. Only the elite can go to the college. It just become a place where education reinforces the inequality. I have a passion for Laguardia Community College because it’s different. It’s about having opportunity for everybody.
A: What kind of students Have you taught?
Q: We have every kind of students, different ages, different backgrounds, different interests. Especially when you teach a course like English 101, every major requires it.
A: Sometimes you couldn’t understand everyone’s speaking, right? Or you just guess?
Q: Usually, I am pretty good and I can understand pretty well. Sometimes it’s harder to understand people’s writing. Sometimes I can guess what they mean, but their writing doesn’t yet reflect what they mean. So my job is to help you say what you’re trying to say. Sometimes I can’t understand the writing because the person who wrote it doesn’t yet understand it and they are still trying to figure out.
A: Have you seen a lot of success stories among your students?
Q: Yeah, we have a lot of students here who we find out a little bit what they’re doing a year or two down the road. We just started an English major here at Laguardia, we are very excited about the success of those students. We just have a student admitted to Bard College and another to St. Lawrence University which are really great colleges in the area. It’s exciting to see where they’re transferring and what they are going to do.
A: Do you still keep in touch with your former students?
Q: Sometimes. I’ve only been here for there years, so a lot my students are still here. A lot of times, I see them while they’re still here. Every once a while you hear from someone you haven’t heard from in a little while and it’s good to see what they are doing. Sometimes they put me on Facebook, so I see what they’re doing and they see what I’m doing on Facebook.
A: Can you tell me about your philosophy of teaching?
Q: Because students here work so hard and they rush to get here from work, even though they have to work hard in my class, I also want my class to be different from a job. Instead of being just about producing something and getting a grade, we want to have a conversation. The students talk and their voices get heard as much as mine. I like to use topics and readings that people can relate to but also are challenging. It’s not just something somebody in the book said it was important but to tell your own story, thinking about your own life but relating to what’s going on in the world. It’s very important for students to realize that they want to get great jobs but they also have to be perusing in the world. You have to make decisions like who you’re going to vote for or where you want to live, how you want to make decisions. Helping people figure out who they are and what they want, not just for their jobs but for their lives. It’s tough to do it in 12 weeks, but at least I’ll try a little bit.
A: Do you think the way you are teaching your students help them a great deal for their future careers? Can you give me your thoughts on this?
Q: I hope so. I think It’s challenging. I think probably some students always will get more out of a class than others. Student and teacher is a relationship like friendship. Sometimes there’s a better match. Sometimes a student have a hard time with me can do well with another teacher and sometimes they have really hard time with other teacher but can do well with me because it’s a better match. So, it’s more successful for some than others. I think students here have a lot of challenges, if they are able to be successful here then they will be very successful in their careers.