Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Yea or Nay

For the past month and a half I've been sporting a beard.
At first it was just a lark. I was working with a roofing crew the last two weeks of the summer and it seemed the natural course of things to try to blend in, especially after they found out I had no criminal record. Plus, I was lazy. Not shaving meant I had an extra ten minutes in the morning, precious time when you're waking at 4:30 a.m.

But the beard-growing became more deliberate when I contemplated the maturing effect it has on my baby face, which belies my 28 years. I was about to start teaching English to college freshman and I didn't want to look like a student. When people guess my age it's usually in the 23-25 range, which is roughly the same age as some of the freshmen at Montgomery and NOVA. So I've kept it a few weeks into the semester to establish myself as an authority figure. All fear me.

People say I look good with a beard, that it "works." Someone even said, "As a rule I don't like beards, but yours isn't bad."

But I'm still not sure bearded is really me. I look in the mirror and continue to surprise myself with my appearance. What's more, sometimes it itches, especially on humid days. And you know that comforting feeling that washes over you when you turn your pillow over and it's cool on the other side. I don't feel it anymore, just bristles.

So, it's time to cast your vote. Beard or no. Plenty of pros and cons, which balances the scales and makes me indecisive. Your vote could tip the balance.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Since I've started teaching I always conclude e-mails to my students like this:



(I can't very well put "Love, Adam," can I!) To be honest, I copied this complimentary closing from my grad school professors. My thesis advisor always ended his e-mails this way, as did a lot of other faculty at Georgetown. But here's my question: What does it mean? It must be an abbreviated way of saying, "Best of luck," or "Best Wishes." But I've also thought it might mean, "I'm the best," "Who's the best?" or maybe even "I like you best." (I think I've ruled out "Bestially.") Can anyone help me on this one? How did this start? Or, if you want to play a different game, make up your own interpretation.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Yes, I speak Teacher

Guess what! I love teaching college. There, I've admitted it.

And, to be honest, it's not what I thought it was. I heard horror stories. You've probably heard them too. Students described as non-participatory and remedial who write substandard prose. They are shockingly nasty words to come from educators.

My students, young as they are, are brilliant and driven. Don't believe me? Cases in point: Mere minutes after the first day of class a student takes an online quiz that isn't due till mid-October and receives an A-. Another student anticipates an assignment days before I tell the class about it and hands it in (typed!) just moments after I assign it. Another student already knows what his final paper topic will be and it's amazing (1960's Brazilian musicians' influence in national politics). Students talk about literature with insight and opinion. I ask a question and several hands shoot up. They argue persuasively, with minimal prompting, on the social ills of corporate greed, discrimination, apathy, and substance abuse.

The irregularities turn out to be my own. I've noticed that I pace in front of the classroom, almost from one end of the whiteboard to the other. Why? Am I a wild animal in a cage? It's not nerves, because I simply don't feel nervous. I thought I would, but...nope. I started to sit behind my desk to correct the problem, but after my mom told me that that's probably distancing to my students I now sit on my desk. And I think about my classes all the time, even when I'm not preparing for the next lecture. Furthermore, I feel like ideas come to me through the Spirit all the time. Sometimes I'm teaching in class and the students teach me and I get chills. It's incredible.

In short, I can now say that, for the first time in my life, I am a satisfied employee. Now if only it paid better....