So a decision has been made. I spent a good week going back and forth about the job at St Martin's .... but I have decided NOT to apply for the job. It really came down to my friends and former life in Washington vs. the wonderful life that I have here in St Louis (and isn't it sort of a coincidence that both places have a "saint" in them?!). Partly the decision was about money but there was a big part of me dedicated to the community college system and even though I would have loved teaching at St Martin's (a dream I have held for most of my adult life), I think my life has been taken over by the fabulous community college students who have impacted my life in such life-changing ways. Though I never saw myself as "settling" in the mid-west, I think it might be a little too late for that. I have a great job here, along with great friends and colleagues. And I love the history of St Louis, as well as the downtown center of the city (where I live!).
So after struggling with this decision for over a week, was all this energy for nothing? Well, as many folks might say, I learned something from this minor dilemma (apply or not?). First, I know now that I want to actively seek opportunities to be more active in any department that I would ever teach in (as well as in my current position). I have tried so hard to be the best FYC teacher that I can be but I don't think until recently that I recognized a desire to go beyond that -- I know now that I want to help in building an effective first year composition program. I am not sure if this means necessarily being a "leader" in the traditional sense but I want to do something outside of the classroom. And that is really the only quality of my present job that I struggle with (being located outside the "main" campus where I have to make a huge physical effort to get more involved -- and we know that gas prices are getting crazy!). But the actual job itself -- teaching FYC and literature -- that part I love, love, love. I keep wondering now if pursuing a PhD in Educational Leadership wouldn't have been a better idea but I love my work in Rhetoric/ Composition and I know for a fact that I wouldn't be the teacher I am today without my work at SIU (and my idol Dr McClure!).
So here's a plan -- keep working 250% at my job and seek opportunities within the college to play a more active role in shaping the way writing is taught. I have no idea how that will happen. I have often said that I want to be "Howard Tinberg in a dress" so as I finish my own PhD, I need to step up to the plate. (Tinberg is "the most awesomest" composition scholar ever! Here is a link to an article about him: http://mccc-union.org/FACTS/Tinberg/howard_tinberg.html) Somehow I need to devise new strategies to help our students graduate so we can improve the statistic that nearly 2/3 of community college students won't graduate (as discussed in the recent PBS film, Discounted Dreams -- see video below).
If I were to take a position at a four year school -- even an absolutely fabulous one like St Martin's -- I would not be working toward this goal which has ever so slowly become my, I guess you could say, my new dream.
But so I miss home? Absolutely. The seemingly never-ending humidity and the crazy St Louis weather (hot one day, freezing the next) always make me think longingly of our mild Washington weather. Food-wise, I can't seem to embrace the toasted ravioli and the Gooey Butter Cake -- two specialties of St Louis -- but I love St Louis style doughnuts and there is small chocolate shop down the block that makes homemade Hot Chocolate that a person would kill for. I love our neighborhood and the fact that I can walk to yummy restaurants and services like the post office, my doctor, the cleaners, or even Macy's. My students are some of the most wonderful souls that you would ever meet -- genuine academics who seek more knowledge and more life opportunities. And I have some kick ass friends here.
And a bunch back home too. Which is why I need to come "home" more often! I don't know if cancer has made me look at life differently (that seems like the biggest cliche ever!) but I know that I want to make a difference in whatever time I have left on this planet and I think I will be making that difference here in the St Louis area. Part of this plan also means not taking my friends for granted. I love you all and want to see everyone as much as possible. So I suspect that I will be out to Aberdeen in 2012 (Eleanor and Diane -- we have a lot of catching up to do!) and I need to get my full of Greg and Martha/ Tanya/ my second mother Mary and my little sister Amy/ Cheryl and her family/ and everyone else who I miss and admire!
Thanks to anyone reading this. I guess I truly needed this space to figure out what I was thinking ......