Y could be for a lot of things. I considered writing about the actual word why, and sharing my favorite song by the fabulous Will Smith – most especially his song “Why“, which is one of my favorites and very powerful. But, I’m trying to end this blog on an upbeat note (pun intended), and that song is kinda sad. It starts by talking about the morning of 9/11, and goes from there…
I also had a couple other ideas that actually start with the letter Y, only I’ve managed to forget them all…
And then it hit me (not too hard, thankfully), the perfect topic:
Y is for Year End
As I’ve mentioned, I’m a Visiting Instructor at the local university. (“Visiting” just means I’m full time, temporary, with a one-year contract that could be renewed for another year.)
I teach graphic design to students majoring in communication – students studying anything from journalism to film to public relations, and in a couple cases, marketing. Four sections, same class. (Good and bad… by the fourth class meeting on the same topic I’m sometimes not sure what I’ve said and what I’ve not said.)
I personally think this class is super-important. Although I trained to be a journalist, I spent my 20-year career working in marketing and PR and marketing communications. Basically, anything that wasn’t hard marketing research, I’ve done it. Events. Grand openings. Brochures. Writing. Copyediting. Graphic design. Websites. Photography. Branding. Public relations. Managing marketing staffs. Managing budgets. Advertising. On-camera work. Strategizing. The list goes on.
But the two skills that have been the most important in my career – other than learning to deal with a variety of people and personality types – and used doing all of the above, are writing and graphic design.
So, in my classes, I’ve tried to teach my students not only how to use the design software (and the important shortcut keys), but why they should use the software. And what branding is. And why it’s important, and how to brand themselves to help them get a job, or go out on their own and sell themselves. And how knowing these skills will help them, no matter what field they go in to.
So, what does this have to do with year-end? Well, today, Tuesday, April 29, 2014, is the last day of class. Those students who have not yet turned in their Final Project - a compilation of the items they’ve created all semester, finalized and tweaked – will do so today.
And this also means that today, Tuesday, April 29, is near to the last day of my job as a Visiting Instructor. And it’s the last day I’ll be on campus. (I’m not technically done til I grade all those Final Projects and the other projects I didn’t manage to get graded after Cindy’s death and the removal of wind from my sails, and not until I turn in final grades, which are due May 8. But it’s all done via the internet, so I could grade on the Moon if it had wifi and a shuttle to get there.)
So, it’s year-end for me. The end of my first year of teaching full time. The end of my first year of a Visiting Instructor.
Now, I taught college before….. I taught classes in the Business Department at the local college in Arkansas, but it was different. Different subjects, different types of students, different needs. At most I had two classes at a time. Maybe 30-40 students. Now I have four classes, 60-80 students.
And what have I learned?
I’ve learned teaching is exhausting. (Those “long” breaks we get? Needed so our brains don’t implode and we don’t melt into little puddles of goo.) I teach Monday – Thursday, and those days I can essentially do nothing but get dressed, make sure I’ve got all my things, and go to school and teach and answer questions. Then come home and collapse. (Have I mentioned that when I do something, I give it my very all?)
I’ve learned that it’s hard to be a teacher and be anything else. (Hence, my absence from blogging for six months. I’ve no idea how I’ve managed to do this challenge.) (And I haven’t made any art, and my studio is a mess, and I’ve not done any other writing…. and the to-do list I made to complete over Christmas break is still mostly undone… and I have fur bunnies everywhere…)
I’ve also learned I’m actually pretty good at this. The praise from students has been a balm for my weary heart. Things like “You’re my favorite professor” and “This is my favorite class” and “I’ll miss you” and “I’m really excited about creating this” and “I just wanted to let you know that I learned a lot in your class and I’m very glad to have had you as a professor”. Last semester I even got thank-you notes from students! Thank-you notes! I don’t think I *ever* sent a thank-you note to a professor, except maybe my thesis advisor in grad school, and possibly my undergraduate advisor.
And I’m really proud of my students and honored I got to touch their lives in some small way. A student last semester was editor-in-chief of the college newspaper, as was the paper’s head of graphic design. Another student now works at The Weather Channel. A student this semester already has a job working for a non-profit, and her Final Project has been creating materials that the organization desperately needs. Yet another student – one with quite the knack for graphic design – plans to launch her own stationery line.
I could ramble on, but I think this says it best:
Tomorrow is the last day of the #AtoZchallenge2014. Wonder what I’ll write about for Z? And if you haven’t been reading my partner in patter’s stories about monsters – yes, there are monsters named with every letter of the alphabet – go visit Chad Clark’s site. (Today’s monster is called “Yokai“.) Tell him I sent you.