[Your Pedagogy Here]

 

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I get my height from my mother and grandmother. B.A. in English, 2007. UTPA

I began my college career as a computer science major. What I had envisioned (initially at least) was that I would learn how to code and develop programs for some software company anywhere. I probably got the idea from years of reading gaming magazines and thinking, “hey, these people that made Metal Gear Solid were programmers. I could learn to do that.” When I was a little boy, I once took apart my family’s apple computer and put it back together–I’d later try it with an Apple IIe and get into a LOT of trouble for being unsuccessful at the latter part. I had a portable 8-inch television that my grandmother gave me that I would disassemble on a semi-regular basis, staring at the CRT and wires, enthralled at all of the connections and plastic and metal. I think a lot of this got me to that point.

But a series of mishaps, fumbles, transfers and changes in later years resulted in me becoming an English major. When I transferred to the University of North Texas, I thought I wanted to be a music major (side note: I was on a music scholarship my freshman year in college. I was a CS major who auditioned and got a music scholarship due to years of classically trained singing). But I knew UNT had a very rigorous jazz program so I thought to myself, “I’ll apply as an English major cause I know I can bullshit my way through an essay, get in, brush up on my sight reading, then audition so I can change majors.”

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My sister and I doing what we do best: being assholes

That didn’t happen. I took one HUGE English lit class where I was one of at least 100 students (it was where I first learned what a Teaching Assistant was) and was weirded out by it…BUT I also was in another lit course that was much smaller. The professor was a really nice dude by the name of Robert Upchurch, and I just enjoyed being in his class. He was a delightful man who would talk about books in between stories about his family and I just thought, “this dude is alright”.

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Probably looking at some dumb shit my sister was doing. MA in English, 2011. Purdue.

Cut to a year later, I’m back in the valley living with my mom and sister and transferring back to Panam. I had failed out of UNT and felt like I had wasted all of that academic potential everyone in my family had talked about. I was demoralized. I was 5 years into a 4 year degree, in debt, and felt subhuman. But then I ended up taking a senior level class with a new faculty member by the name of Colin Charlton, a dude who would radically change the trajectory of my life. At that time I was a heavy smoker (both in weight and packs-a-day) and it was one of those long evening courses. I believe it was his first semester teaching there and after a couple days of class, we had a smoke break (he smoked at the time too). I remember talking to him about how fascinated I was about how he was structuring the class, asking him about his pedagogical style. He paused, looked around, and said, “honestly dude, I have no idea what I’m fucking doing right now.” I was instantaneously loyal to him. I’d never had a teacher admit that they were winging it before. That same semester in a “Rhetoric of Power” course, my professor, Danika Brown, suggested I look into the idea of graduate school. Those two people placed that idea in my head that I could actually do that thing after graduating.

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My wife is one of those “have it together” teachers. PhD in English, 2016. Purdue

I never saw UTPA (or UTRGV as it’s now known) as “well known” outside of the valley. Growing up there, it was the university you knew and, most of the time, went to after high school. I never fathomed that it could be a stepping stone to a larger world–one that would send me clear across the country and into a field where, after 7 years of graduate school, I’m that teacher now.

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Pictured here: technical writing

I also never thought of myself as a good teacher. I have ideas about stuff, but I always felt like my other colleagues had more of their crap together than I did. But now I’m in my second year as a faculty member. Most of my students are working class, many from farming communities, who work multiple jobs while juggling school and their personal lives. Exactly like I was. A student came up to me not too long ago after a campus event and said, “Ricky I’m sorry I was such a terrible student in your class,” to which I responded, “you can’t possibly be worse than I was as an undergrad.”

I got home pretty late tonight. My Tuesdays tend to be like that, since I’m the faculty advisor to the student newspaper, and it can be time consuming. But then I get to sit in as these students talk about their lives, their future plans, arguments over which member of One Direction is best (so far it seems the consensus is “Liam”, but that changes with their mood). Most of all, they really want the paper to survive. They take pride in it. So, yeah, I’ll give up my Monday and Tuesday afternoons (and sometimes Fridays) to look over stuff with them. I’ve got colleagues here who value my opinion and trust my input when we talk about new courses and the future development of our program. And for some unknown reason, they seem to think I know what I’m doing.

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Me and the soulless mascot who will one day end my life

 

This isn’t an invitation for people to say, ” no you’re a great teacher, Ricky”. That’s not the point of this post: I’m mostly thinking aloud about what it is I do and how I do it. Like my desk it’s messy, disorganized, with some cool stuff interspersed in all of the messy texts and printouts. I hope to figure out a better system someday. At least to pay homage to those people like Professors Upchurch, Brown and Charlton who were the first who gave me permission to fail upwards. Lord knows the world has been paying for it ever since.

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Not pictured: random pages on the floor and a whiteboard my students constantly vandalize

Bro and I: A Play

It can be for you
It can be for you

Scene: A table outside of a nondescript coffee shop. To the left we have 20 year-old Ricky (“Cakes” we’ll call him) sipping on an iced coffee. To the right is 30 year-old Ricky (“Tacious”), going to work on a breakfast sandwich and a large coffee.

Cakes:…so let me get this straight–you’re telling me that I’m gonna still be in school?

Tacious: Yup.

Cakes: But I’m gonna be teaching too.

Tacious: That’s right. And getting paid for it (though not much).

C: But, fucking Indiana?

T: Weird, I know.

C: Can’t I just go somewhere else?

T: That’s not how it works dude. You go where the school is, then go where the job is.

C: And the goal is to be…a professor?

T: Hopefully.

C: You’re out of your mind.

T: Probably. It’s not bad. A bit of advice though: watch your debt dude. You don’t know how much that can come back and bite you in the ass.

C: Ok. Makes sense.

T: But really do it. Don’t just make it another one of your half-assed commitments.

C: I will.

T: I’m serious.

C: FUCKING LET IT GO ALREADY!

T: Ok.

C: So what else is gonna happen?

T: Honestly? A lot and a little. It’s hard for me to explain, but some things you’re gonna have to experience for yourself. [lights up a cigarette] Oh, and don’t do this. It’ll make things easier for the both of us.

C [waving smoke away from his face]: No problem.

T: I will say that video games and guitars are still there. So you’ll have that going for you.

C: Fucking sweet dude!

T: Also, beer. You’re gonna be a late bloomer when it comes, but you’ll enjoy it.

C: I’ll take your word for it. Musical question though–does the “Lost in Translation” soundtrack still kick ass?

T: Oh yes. The movie will hold up well, but your affinity for the characters will change.

C: How? I mean sure the characters commit some fuck-ups, but I think Bob and Charlotte are still great.

T: What’s great about Charlotte (besides Scarlett Johannson)?

C: She seems pretty sharp. A bit of a smartass, but I like it.

T: Maybe, but think about her as a person–Harvard educated, a fucking philosophy major, married to a rock photographer and is able to just drop everything and travel with him to Japan. And what does she do? Fucking bitch and moan in the beginning of the movie. Yeah, her life’s real hard.

C: But it’s an existential crisis, dude. Those are the ones that endure. No matter how hard you try, it hangs over you like a fart in a closet.

T: Bullshit. An existential crisis is just a way for privileged people to invent their own problems. Tell Charlotte to try teaching to a bunch of raving, lunatic junior high kids and let’s see how quickly she changes her tune.

C: …no. I don’t really…

T: Dude, you don’t wanna know. In any case, sure the movie is still very good but it’s hard to get past that sense of fucking entitlement. “Boo-hoo. My husband can’t spend time with me because he’s out doing his fucking job that is paying for this fucking vacation of mine.” I don’t even want to get into the gender politics at play.

C: Oh great.

T: What?

C: Can’t I just watch a movie and enjoy it? Not have to fucking find things that are fucked about it? Am I an asshole or just bored?

T: Sometimes. A little of column A, a little of column B.

(C looks towards the parking lot at an older man in his forties walking towards them)

T: What? (Turns around) Oh, shit.

C: Who is that?

T: (whispering) 40 year-old you.

Mr. 40 throws a DVD copy of “Tombstone” onto the table.

40: Fuck you both and fuck your movies. (Turns and walks to his car)

C:…what the fuck?

T: I fucking hate that guy.