The community-college vocation

To be perfectly honest, I’ve not been on a community-college campus since sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s, when I unwisely took a class on architectural drawing at Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland (I got a “C”). Community colleges at the time seemed to be viewed disparagingly – Montgomery College was known among my high-school classmates as “Harvard on the Pike,” with the implicit message that the education was a poor substitute for university.

What Dr. Cristina Marrocco described on February 22, however, sounded to me like something of an educational ideal, minus the five-course semester load for composition teachers. What appealed to me particularly was the emphasis on close work with students – being a “guide by the side,” my preferred pedagogy.

Also attractive in her presentation was mention of the increasing internationalization of student body and programs and the diversity, at least at Elgin Community College (44 percent Latin@). I had not known before that community-college English departments would consider teachers with ELL specializations as composition instructors. Dr. Marrocco noted that Elgin CC viewed experience working with ELLs as a strength.

Early during the presentation I monitored within myself the free-floating anxiety that arises anytime career possibilities come into view. My negative self-evaluations started when she mentioned the high number of applicants for these competitive adjunct positions, which then could shift to full-time work after a few years of service. I remember from her speech the “need to stand out authentically” from other candidates, the perils of humility, and the pressing question as a teacher in training: “What am I doing every day in the classroom to help students learn?”

What I took from the last question is a need to be more vigorous in my reflective praxis. This could include adding nuance and specific examples of classroom challenges to my statement of teaching philosophy. It could also include beginning a teaching journal, which Dr. Marrocco explicitly suggested.

The most motivating advice was the emphasis on developing and sustaining “democratic teaching ideals,” which corresponds with the primacy I have tried to give to justice both in teaching method and as a driving purpose in educational mission.

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